Ross Perot, candidate for president in 1992, said, “Life is like a cobweb, not an organization chart.”
A lot of things contribute to popularity and image. Stories are told. Personas are created. Maybe Perot should have added, “In politics, it’s a tangled web that is ever being re-spun.”
Last week Dave Wilson took part in his first board meeting of the year in Texas. He had won a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees in 2013.
Wilson is white. The district is mostly African-American. He had conducted a deceptive direct-mail campaign that led voters to believe he was black.
In one of his fliers, Wilson had proudly said that he’d been endorsed by Ron Wilson. That was true. But he didn’t mention that the Ron Wilson who endorsed him was his cousin who lives in Iowa. It was not the popular black former Texas State Representative with the same name.
After his victory, Dave Wilson defended his shenanigans by saying, ““Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters.” Personally, I don’t think that’s true, and whoppers usually don’t work. But voters should be careful. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” keeps ringing in my ears.
Wendy Davis, the crusading pro-choice activist who is running to become the governor of Texas, recently sent out a fundraising piece that portrayed her as a rags-to-riches Harvard graduate who’d struggled from her teens to work her way through school.
The truth is she had done some “re-spinning” to her story. She actually had a lot of financial help from her former husband, who actually paid for most of her education. He also cared for, and now has custody of, her two daughters. She divorced him, coincidentally, on the day he paid off her student loan.
Just before last Thanksgiving, President Obama gave a long interview for The New Yorker magazine. It’s just been published in the Jan. 27 issue, and some folks are criticizing him for “playing the race card” when talking about his poor job approval rating.
Maybe what he did could be called that, but it’s not a play to shift blame; it’s a play to distract.
Obama said, “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.”
But he also said, “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”
Frankly, that’s a statement of facts that virtually everyone already knows and would agree with.
The statement, though, helps him to sidestep the possibility that the thrust and the results of his policies and beliefs could be big reasons his numbers are dropping. Plus, there’s that nasty business of blatant untruths that have been told and are now common knowledge.
“Morphing the yarn.” “Adjusting the narrative.” ”Spinning the tale.” It’s all as natural in politics as what a bear does in the woods. But even so, voters don’t like deliberate in-your-face fibbing.
I remember when Bush 41’s reneged promise of “No new taxes” launched a third party challenge to his second term. His opponent Ross Perot said, “Should that person be allowed to lie publicly? Let’s promise ourselves we’re never going to have a candidate like that.”
Bill Clinton won the 1992 three-way race and snatched the presidency away from Bush.
Just because flagrant untruthfulness is commonplace doesn’t mean voters will always accept it.
Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.