George Orwell would have felt confirmed by the Twenties. Despite all of the power of Siri and Alexi, Google, Firefox, Edge, and Bing, Fact Check and Politifact, Wikipedia, and You Tube, the engaged American citizen lives in a society where history is rewritten and the bulk of the media repeats inaccurate and misleading stories. As more information is available from more sources, and as more of those sources carry an ideological or political bias, the less confidence the public has in the media and the government. A sizeable portion of Donald Trump's attractiveness was his brash willingness to call out "fake news"; reporters regularly recited stories which were demonstrably false, like his failure to condemn right wing rioters in Charlottesville , or claims that he was soft on Putin when he was far tougher than President Obama. He and many reporters had a mutually beneficial relationship, gaining followers as a result of conduct unheard of in a more genteel time. Truth has suffered.
In a broader context, the woke left, inspired by the New York Times, has taken to rewriting history, erasing heroes from Columbus to Lincoln, and ignoring the struggles and victories in bringing the American reality closer to the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence, with the emancipation of slaves, the enfranchisement of women, and a thousand lesser victories. In Orwellian fashion, we are all now racist unless we favor policies based on race. Striving for greater wokeness, women athletes must compete against biological men. Truth has suffered.
But the world moves forward with or without Truth, the coronavirus providing a good example, with Dr. Fauci frequently redefining science to fit what he wanted the public to do, and the Biden administration struggling to show that they are doing a better job than their predecessors. First, masks were not necessary (at a time when there were not enough to go around, and healthcare workers needed priority); then their use became a political choice, with President Trump on the wrong side; then two masks became better than one. As part of Operation Warp Speed, remdesivir was shown to speed recovery and reduce mortality, then dropped from discussi0n. With no scientific data, the Center for Disease Control and Dr. Fauci determined that times between vaccine injections could be greatly expanded. Teachers unions have frequently been able to block on-site instruction and demand vaccine prioritization, despite no evidence of significant risk. In the most political outburst, Vice President Harris claimed that the Trump administration had no plan for vaccinations, and that the Biden administration was starting from scratch - despite the fact that innoculations were occuring at about Biden's target of 1,000,000 per day, and a third vaccine was in the final stages of approval. Truth has suffered.
The primary assault on Truth, the November 2020 elections and their aftermath, have shaken the foundations of our democracy. A year before the election, 72 % of Republicans, 39 % of Democrats and 55 % of independents thought that the election would be fair. Shortly after the election 30 % of Republicans and 90 % of Democrats thought it was fair. Subsequently, fanned by Trump's challenge to the election and the the Electoral College, Republican skepticism boiled over. There is much to understand if we are to heal - what were the impacts of of the coronavirus, mail-in voting, and extended days of in-person voting on the election; where were the points of potential irregularities; what led up to the assault on the capital; what administrative or security procedures should be changed to secure elections and the capital? How to proceed?
- Nancy Pelosi - continuing her four year crusade against Trump - has notified her Democratic colleagues that there will be a 9/11 Commission - type review of the January 6 riot at the capital, finding no need to include Republicans in the discussion. For perspective, the 911 Commission included: Al Queda and the organization of the 9/11 attack; US intelligence collection, analysis, and management; international counter terrorism policy; the inner workings of terrorism financing; the security of American borders; law enforcement inside the United States; commercial aviation and transportation safety; and personal interviews with Presidents Clinton and Bush. It was led by Thomas Keane and Lee H. Hamilton who were retired statesmen; it lasted two years; it resulted in thousands of recommendations, from integrating communications for first responders to restructuring the intelligernce community; it was non-partisan; it was serious.
- With varying motives, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Liz Cheney, and other Republicans looking to explain their behavior after the election have suggested an interest. The scope would need to include the election, events after the election, and events of January 6. It would have to be led by senior statesment from both parties. Politicians, such as Pelosi's usual prosecutors, would be excluded.
- Perhaps Jack Nicholson's Colonel Nathan Jessup in "A Few Brave Men" was right when he screamed in court at Tom Cruise's Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, "You can't handle the truth!" But if he was, and we choose to carry on without understanding how close we came to disaster, we are screwed as a democracy.
A special note on Rush Limbaugh is in order. Over a 30 year career with some 20 million listeners, he preceeded Fox News, and internet sites such as the Drudge Report, Red State, Breitbart, and Townhall in giving voice to the thoughts of a broad swath of conservatives. He is given credit for Republican victories in the House in the 90s, and for legitimizing Donald Trump as a presidential candidate in 2016. He identified and activated Trump's base before there was a Trump. His absence will leave a big hole in the developing battle between the Establishment and Trump's most avid supporters.
bill bowen - 2/18/21