The Bush-Clinton Morality Play

A lie is a lie is a lie

By Roberto Rodriguez and Patrisia Gonzalez
Published on LatinoLA: March 6, 2004

The Bush-Clinton Morality Play

A lie is a lie is a lie and is equally deplorable, whether it involves a blue dress or the loss of thousands of lives. As we see the Middle East, Iraq and Haiti burn, it sounds counterintuitive, but this is the moral lesson the previous president's detractors taught us.

Agree with this morality or not, it's indisputable that President Clinton did dishonor his office.

Clinton's supporters rejected that right-wing morality play primarily because his detractors applied it disproportionately, selectively and with a vengeance. They didn't show the same outrage when the Reagan-Bush administration went behind the backs of Congress to conduct its secret and illegal wars in Central America and Africa at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

None of this excuses Clinton's moral lapses. Few of his supporters were willing to concede that his conduct was unbecoming of a president. Instead, they gave him a pass because of that right-wing hounding, as exemplified by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who investigated Clinton endlessly.

During that time, pre-eminent indigenous human rights activist Suzan Harjo was the first person we know of who wasn't an extreme right-winger who was unequivocal in her denunciation of the president's moral transgressions. She was straightforward: The struggle to uplift humanity requires the highest of morals. The lesson here is that morality -- including the view that all life is sacred -- is not the domain of one political party. And just because one supports people politically doesn't mean one has to adopt their morality. Conversely, those who adopt high moral standards have to apply them equally, lest they be perceived as hypocritical.

Translated: A lie is a lie is a lie, regardless of who tells it, and it doesn't become truth simply because one parses or twists the meaning of words.

Enter the current President Bush's stalwart supporters and their "arguments":

* The president never claimed that the Iraqi threat was imminent. (Echoes of "it depends on the meaning of what 'is' is.")

* The president cooperated with and acted on behalf of the United Nations. (No. The allies spied on -- and the president willfully circumvented the will of -- the United Nations.)

* We went to war because Iraq refused entry to the U.N. weapons inspectors. (This argument has been recently advanced by the president himself, as well as his supporters.)

* Iraq was a direct threat to the United States, and even though we found no WMD, it was an even bigger threat than we previously thought. (Mind-boggling logic.)

* The war was part of the president's road map and vision of bringing peace and democracy to the Middle East. (Anyone smell a Nobel Peace Prize?)

* It is necessary to give up our rights and freedoms while we fight to protect our rights and freedoms. (Not yet content, Attorney General John Ashcroft is clamoring for a USA Patriot Act II.)

In all this, Saddam Hussein's extreme brutality (which the Reagan-Bush administration tolerated) has never been in question.

The question before the nation has been one of truth, honesty and credibility. Can the administration's above rationales be considered simply incompetent explanations (or evidence of utter incompetence), as opposed to lies? Perhaps that question was answered recently when several dozen prominent scientists issued a report criticizing the administration's systematic misuse of science to bolster virtually all its policies, including the environment, arms control, public health ... and war.

In regard to Iraq, the evidence suggests that the president was so desirous of war that he exaggerated and manipulated the truth for fear of losing his pre-emptive war initiative.

In his own mind, the president had a great cause; thus, the spilling of thousands of lives would be worth it. Unfortunately, that morality play taught to us by Clinton's detractors is that a lie, regardless of the cause (or how many fear-laced patriotic ads the president hurls at us) is still a lie. Forget the individual words. If the president is reduced to mincing words, then we already know the answer. Despite this, the administration's plan seems to be to continue to treat us all like children.

And now we come to understand the importance of credibility: Haiti's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has charged that the United States kidnapped him and assisted the thug rebels in staging their insurrection. The administration denies this. Who do we believe? Right about now, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cuba's Castro should be concerned.

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