Ryan Slabaugh: The candidates pants are on fire
October 14, 2008
Im voting for Marcus Aurelius. Its just too bad hes been dead for more than 1,800 years.Aurelius, like most politicians, was not a saint, nor was he without failure. He invaded three countries, and brought his empire to ruin after Romes soldiers returned with a horrendous menu of diseases. Yet he was more than happy to admit when he erred, adding, If it is not true, do not say it.Unlike our democracy, Aurelius inherited the throne, serving a 23-year term. With that fact in mind, and after watching the recent candidate debates, I wondered why a Roman emperor would still insist on telling the truth, especially when our candidates, who actually depend on the publics opinion, lie and lie and lie … and lie. So far, both candidate teams fibbed with so much frequency in the debates, theyve crested the Mendoza Line of Mistruths, tallying more than 200, according to a few fact-checking nonprofits.Theres even a partisan lie-off being tallied by both sides. Theyre using the numbers to convince us, the idiots, their candidate is more honest. But we lie less, doesnt go far, and it shouldnt. Each day, the national committees send out their scurrilous findings and pronounce the discoveries with exclamation points, like paleontologists on a big dig, but in this case, the dinosaur bones are everywhere.We found No. 105! said one subject line. The world: We cant hear you; theres a huge lie stuck in our ears.As a side, I do have a solution: I think both candidates should agree to wear one bright orange sticker for each untruth they tell during a debate for the remainder of the campaign. When they are finally covered from head to toe, they have to stop campaigning.Or maybe, just maybe, our presidential hopefuls are not lying. They just dont know what the truth is. Either way, count me in for Aurelius the Stickerless, a thoughtful man who invented stoicism. Using the best political slogan of his time, and perhaps ours, Marcus wanted his constituency not to lie, but to live consistently with reason. Put that through any recent presidents lips.Sigh. Weve come a long way, like after you drive from the mountaintop to the dump. In the past three weeks, Palin promoted McCains health care price tag as budget neutral, while the rest of the free world estimated its cost at $1.3 trillion; Biden said four times that McCain cast 20 votes against funding alternative energy, and it was actually 11; while Obama said his father grew up dirt poor, his father said he grew up quite well; McCain insisted earmarks had increased a ton when they decreased sharply; and meanwhile, Pinocchio suddenly felt much better about his longish nose.A wooden doll, Gipetto, elections and a hungry whale … the creativity of it all should make us wonder if fiction writers are running these campaigns. Authors, after all, are the ones charged with bringing reality out of make believe, and to prove the point, it was Stephen King who sounded like a real pundit when he wrote, Fiction is the truth inside the lie. Meanwhile, I wonder if for the rest of us, its too bad were not in old Rome with a benevolent hand-me-down ruler like Aurelius. After watching the debates and being dizzied from the political spin and were not done yet voting for a stoic, or a fiction writer, is starting to make a lot more sense.
Despite his cynical column this week, Executive Editor Ryan Slabaugh thinks everyone should vote for someone actually on the ballot. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, call him at (530) 550-4260, comment online on his column, or catch up with him at a local election forum.