The Politics of Truth and Celebrity
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Whether overseas or in this country, politicians have a reputation for bending the truth every now and then. NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr, has witnessed his share of it. He and others are not impressed.
DANIEL SCHORR: Princeton professor, Sean Wilentz, calls it the delusional style in politics and in media. And he calls an unnamed senior White House official as predicting the downfall of reality-based politics.
The new reality, Wilentz says in a New Republic article, is the reality of touchy, feely(ph) politics in the media, relying heavily on the regard for character and instinct and sometimes taking liberties with the literal truth. Still, vividly remembered in pundit circles is Senator Joseph Biden. In 1987, Biden cribbed from a speech by British labor leader, Neil Kinnock, saying he was the first in his family to go to college. He later called a news conference to acknowledge his mistake.
More recently, there have been several lapses from the truth in this bitterly fought primary campaign. Rudy Giuliani relies heavily on rapid-fire statistics that often turn out to be wrong, like his claim that New York is the only city that reduces crime rate every year since 1994, when he became mayor.
Mitt Romney said incorrectly that he saw his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. Barack Obama said incorrectly that there are more young black males in prison than in college. Newspapers have noted that Obama's autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," includes some events that never happened.
Mike Huckabee tried to link the crises in Pakistan to the issue of illegal immigration in the United States with the assertion that we have more illegal Pakistani immigrants coming across our borders than all other nationalities, except those immediately south of the border. Wrong. And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the Bush administration for cutting funds for the National Institutes of Health. In fact, funding has increased under Mr. Bush.
The (unintelligible) School at the University of Pennsylvania and various other such organizations have established a full-time political fact check to check candidates' misstatements. Does it matter when fast-talking candidates talk questionable facts to burnish their images? As Professor Wilentz suggests, it may be that truth has been overwhelmed by celebrity worship.
This is Daniel Schorr.
BLOCK: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
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