September 15, 2009 in Opinion

Half-truths are half-lies, too

Cal Thomas
 

Wouldn’t it be nice, as the Beach Boys sang in another context, if there was such a thing as a liar meter? It would detect when a politician wasn’t telling the truth and alert the public. In the absence of such an invention, we are left to challenge our political leadership based on an objective look at the facts.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., may have been out of order when he shouted, “You lie!” in response to President Obama’s assertion in his congressional address Wednesday night that illegal immigrants would not be covered by his proposed health care plan. What if the administration plans to bar illegal immigrants from purchasing health care coverage, but as the New York Times reported, continues “to require hospitals to provide emergency treatment to illegal immigrants at taxpayer expense”? Would that then absolve Wilson of his rude behavior?

If we believe the president when he promises there will be no “death panels,” does he lose honesty points when instead the government sends doctors who “counsel” the elderly about their “end of life options”? If bureaucrats end up rationing care so that only the “fit” or “near fit” still young enough to keep producing tax revenue receive treatment, does this weaken the president’s credibility?

If the sensibilities of the few who remember what “good etiquette” means were offended by Congressman Wilson’s shouted remark, shouldn’t they be equally offended by Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid who called former President Bush a “loser” and a “liar” and then apologized for saying he was a loser, but did not apologize for saying he was a liar? “Bush lied, people died,” said the bumper sticker. No one apologized (much less repented) for that sentiment.

Is it a lie to say, as the president did, that his plan will be paid for and that the money will come largely from Medicare and Medicaid funds that are currently being wasted and/or fraudulently spent? According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the House Democrats’ bill (the only one whose details we’ve seen) would increase the deficit by “$239 billion over the 2010-2019 period. A recent study by the Lewin Group, a health care policy research and management-consulting firm owned by United Healthcare Group, one of the nation’s largest insurers, found that “(in) the second 10 years … the proposal would add an estimated $1 trillion to the federal deficit.” Is saying otherwise a lie? Lewin also projects that two out of three Americans will lose their current health coverage and “the cost of private health coverage will skyrocket.” Is it an untruth to say otherwise, as the president has?

The president says federal dollars won’t pay for abortions, but in none of the bills under consideration is there a specific prohibition – as in the Hyde Amendment – against such spending.

The Senate confirmation last Thursday of Cass Sunstein as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget means Sunstein will have the power to decide what Congress means by the laws it passes. Sunstein has written books and given lectures in which he says that animals deserve lawyers to argue for their “rights” and that the Second Amendment does not grant an absolute right to keep and bear arms. He also has said he wants to ban hunting. Sunstein’s defenders say those statements were simply academic exercises and would not be implemented as policy in his new position. Tell that to Bob McDonnell, candidate for governor of Virginia, who has been smeared by Democrats for a thesis he wrote more than 20 years ago in which he took “academic” positions his detractors say were anti-women’s rights.

The president and his defenders can’t have it both ways. They can’t be offended when they are called liars and think nothing of labeling as liars those they don’t agree with. President Obama regularly uses the “L” word, most recently in his Labor Day and congressional speeches in which he accused his critics of spreading “lies.” Are we to believe that he is the only one virtuous enough to tell the truth and anyone who disagrees with him is lying?

Someone please invent that political lie detector. We need it now more than ever.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.

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