The statement from NBC News President Deborah Turness was blunt and to the point. Among other things it said this in the announcement the network was suspending NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay:
While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.
In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.
In other words? NBC is saying Brian Williams looked the camera in the eye and lied. Wow. The obvious? What better candidate for president of the United States than Brian Williams?
Just this week former Obama aide David Axelrod is out with a book in which Axelrod reveals his old boss was in fact a longtime supporter of same sex marriage — and deliberately lied about it to get elected. This news, of course, comes after Americans realized President Obama had lied about “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” and “if you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.”
And then there’s Hillary Clinton’s Williamsesque lie about coming under fire on a trip to Bosnia when she was First Lady. Not to mention a trail of fibs that revolve around everything from the location of Rose Law Firm records that vanished during the Whitewater investigation (only to mysteriously turn up on a table in the White House residence) to blaming a “vast right-wing conspiracy” for her husband’s troubles to her Benghazi mantra of “what difference does it make?” who did what when four American diplomats were murdered.
Speaking of presidential husband Bill? Who can forget the wagging finger and the assertion that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky”? Or his assertion that “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
All of which is to say that while Brian Williams may not be qualified to be an NBC News anchor he is more than qualified to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, not to mention perfectly fit to actually sit behind the big desk in the Oval Office.
This being February, America is approaching Presidents’ Day, which actually began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday. The first president was famously celebrated by an early biographer’s fictional tale of young George responding to the charge that he had chopped down a cherry tree by saying “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” February also brings us to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday — today, February 12. Lincoln, of course, has been nicknamed “Honest Abe.” To borrow from the old cigarette commercial, when it comes to presidential honesty “We’ve come a long way, baby.” A long way down.
But if in fact the media and the mass audience of consumers are really upset about Brian Williams’s scuzzing around with the truth, one has to wonder if in fact this newfound attitude abroad in the land will catch up with both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.
The difference in the quality of presidential lies between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is in fact considerable. The reason Clinton survived an impeachment proceeding is that in fact a majority of Americans — fully aware that he had lied — saw a lie about his sex life (even though to a federal judge) as of no importance to them. Obama’s untruths about same-sex marriage were given a pass by the gay community doubtless because they sensed he was telling an untruth and at an appropriate moment he would, as it were, come out of the political closet on their biggest issue.
This is not the case with the Obama’s untruths. “If you like your health insurance you can keep it” has in fact had a direct impact on the lives of millions of Americans. As a result these are distinctly unhappy Americans and they have, this last November, registered their fury at the polls. In fact, to be evenhanded about this, while the repeated liberal mantra that “Bush Lied” over the existence of Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction was in fact a lie itself, the Bush Lied lie was repeated so often many believed it — and voted for the presumably honest Barack Obama as a result. The joke, as it were, turned out to be on the voters as Obama himself is revealed as a teller of tall tales.
Which perhaps speaks directly to the massive amount of social media scorn now being dumped on Brian Williams. The reaction to Williams’s untruths has been unchained fury, in the mainstream media and out of it. Presidential campaigns, not to mention actual presidential terms, frequently are suddenly stormed by some previously unanticipated event or events that change the previously presumed course of the campaign or president’s term. The famous 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race was interrupted with the news that a protesting Dr. Martin Luther King had been arrested and thrown in a Georgia jail, where there was considerable concern for his life. Senator Kennedy picked up the phone and called the judge asking for King’s release. Nixon did not. Thus began the historic shift of the black vote from the party of Lincoln to the party of JFK and later LBJ. And of course, most recently, the sudden appearance of the financial crisis in the middle of the Obama-McCain 2008 campaign upended any semblance of a “normal” race, if such normality can be said to have existed.
Now, could simple honesty make a comeback as a requirement for the White House? All some media consultant out there on the Republican side has to do is splice a tape together of Brian Williams, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama telling their respective lies and the issue of truth-telling could easily subsume issues of foreign and domestic policy.
It is forgotten these days, but the taped proof that President Richard Nixon had in fact lied about his involvement in the Watergate scandal had a striking impact on the 1976 campaign that followed two years after Nixon’s 1974 resignation. President Gerald Ford was repeatedly celebrated as a simple, honest, and good man. So too was his church-going opponent, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Carter’s perceived honesty was seen in the Democratic primaries as a huge advantage over his better-known opponents. In fact, the one tarnish on Ford’s record was his abrupt pardon of Nixon, which suddenly appeared to cast doubt on the new president’s integrity. But the fact that Ford and Carter were at the top of their respective party tickets was a decided result of the feeling in the day that the last president had looked the American people in the eye and lied. The voters wanted a candidate they saw, all other qualifications aside, as an “honest man.” And in electing Jimmy Carter they thought that’s what they were getting.
Will a demand for honesty and truth-telling catch on? Will Republicans take the issue and run with it? Will the GOP have a candidate of their own whose honesty leaps off the television and computer screens? Or will, in the end, voters make the decision that simple honesty is really no big deal in the White House?
If the answer is the first — that honesty matters — then one suspects that Brian Williams career at the helm of the NBC Nightly News is toast. If in fact it turns out that nobody cares about honesty any more? Then the Democrats have a brand new potential candidate for 2016.
Even better? If Brian Williams is off the hook and Hillary is in fact unbeatable for the nomination? One can see the bumper stickers now.
“Clinton-Williams in 2016. Who cares about the truth?”
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