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The Truthiness Party at Work

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What do you do when it turns out you waged a war predicated on a series of lies, and the war’s going badly to boot? Well, to paraphrase the worst secretary of defense in America’s history, if you’re not happy with the reality you’ve got, you just go and manufacture a new one. And you use Fox News to help invest it with that essential truthiness – as Stephen Colbert calls something that is presented as heart-felt truth, and is presented as fact – not opinion, but is not true. Or as he put it in an interview:

It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty. People love the President because he’s certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don’t seem to exist. It’s the fact that he’s certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?…

Truthiness is ‘What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.

And now Peter Canellos of The Boston Globe takes a penetrating look at the rhetoric of the major GOP presidential candidates and finds truthiness run rampant:

Assertions of connections between bin Laden and terrorists in Iraq have heated up over the last month, as Congress has debated the war funding resolution. Romney, McCain, and Giuliani have endorsed — and expanded on — Bush’s much-debated contention that Al Qaeda is the main cause of instability in Iraq.

Spokespeople for McCain and Romney say the candidates were expressing their deep-seated convictions that terrorists would benefit if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq. The spokesmen say that even if Iraq had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists have infiltrated Iraq as security has deteriorated since the invasion, and now pose a direct threat to the United States.

But critics, including some former CIA officials, said those statements could mislead voters into believing that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are now fighting the United States in Iraq.

Candidates in elections don’t tend to be exactly detached and objective in their political speeches. Still, there is something awfully extreme – and, well, Orwellian, about this. The real fear we should have is this: are these candidates so detached from reality that they actually believe their rhetoric? The good news is probably: no, certainly not the three leading candidates. They fully understand that the realities are quite different from what their vitriolic descriptions. Their dilemma is simple: to come up with a way of justifying the Iraq War and minimizing the damage from a series of grossly inept decisions in its management. No one in the primary phase has opened fire on Bush. And that reflects the inner psyche of the Bush-Rove Republican party and its Caesarian leadership cult. Consequently, what’s left for a good Republican to do other than highlight and personalize the threat. Heighten fear, minimize reasoned analysis.

Brace yourself for much more truthiness. The process has just begun.

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