Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Truth Is Stranger," or "A Stranger to Truth"?

Funny. When I ask acquaintances why they associate themselves with the Republican Party, a frequent "reason" is that they consider Republicans more "moral" than Democrats. Evidently they've never heard of Newt Gingrich, or Karl Rove, or Tom Delay, or Lee Breard.

What, you've never heard of Lee Breard either? Not to worry: probably only a few had until this past week. Breard is the campaign manager for Bruce Whalen, the GOP nominee for South Dakota's sole seat in the US House of Representatives. Whalen is running (uphill) against incumbent Representative Stephanie Herseth, of whom I'm written before.

All well and good. Except that last week Breard seems to have put his foot in it big time. Now it looks to me like he's got both feet in it. And is sunk in about up to his waist.

Here's how I understand the sequence of events.

For some reason, Breard was on Wikipedia looking up Herseth. Don't know why. You'd think that, as campaign manager for Herseth's opponent, he'd already have done his homework. But there you have it. Anyway, some fun-loving scamp had gone into Wikipedia and, ahem, edited the Herseth biography to claim that she had recently converted to pro-lifism having turned up pregnant, and is now engaged to be married to her chief of staff.

I know what you're thinking: Anyone with a clue would know that's a hoax. But the world is full of the clueless. And rapscallions. Lee Breard, upon seeing this bogus bio, does what any member of the "moral" party would do: he starts sending it around to reporters. Later he will claim that he did so to verify the item. Obviously contacting Herseth's office never occurred to him. Even better, his quest for the truth included a comment in his e-mail to the effect that if the claim were true it would be quite a change for a "home-wrecker" such as he claimed Herseth to be. (This based on nasty rumors circulating for some time that Herseth was involved with a married former congressman from Texas. Never mind that she and the gentleman met some time after his divorce was finalized. Details like the truth matter little to the "moral" folk in the GOP.)

The Rapid City (SD) Journal, however, seems to have a more solid acquaintance with the truth, and broke the whole tawdry story last Friday.

Now things get weird. I know, I know: Weirder, then.

First Breard tries out the I-was-only-trying-to-help balderdash, insisting that his spreading scurrilous gossip was in fact his way of getting to the truth. Riiiight.

Then when it's suggested that Whalen owes Herseth an apology, the "explanation" comes that Whalen himself--the candidate, remember?--knew nothing about Breard's actions, so there's no reason to apologize. Now think about that: the candidate doesn't know what his campaign manager is doing. So the candidate hides behind his impenetrable Cloak of Ignorance. Which tends to speak volumes about how he'd serve in the United States Congress. The campaign manager, meanwhile, doesn't have the decency to say, "Well, yes, obviously I was wrong and I'm sorry." Since the words "I was wrong" and "I'm sorry" are also alien to those "moral" GOPers.

Keep in mind that we don't know who was behind the alteration of the Wikipedia bio in the first place. One hates to be suspicious (not really, but it seems polite to say so), but in light of the general seaminess of the whole Breard affair...

I'm sure that the fact that a poll conducted last week shows Herseth with a 60-26 lead over Whalen (14 percent undecided) had nothing at all to do with these shenanigans.

But getting back to my acquaintances who insist they align with the GOP because of its greater "moral" credence: I don't know what to make of them. These are not bad people, not evildoers or ne'er-do-wells. They consider themselves good, decent folks, and most people would agree with them. But what does it say about people who can continue to turn a blind eye and deaf ear toward years and years of lies, lawbreaking, dirty tricks, and other assorted malfeasances and continue to believe that "their" party somehow possesses the moral high ground? And how long can a "good" person continue to ignore the evil going on around him before he loses the right to consider himself "good?"

At the very least, must there not come some point at which you acknowledge that "your" party or "your" candidate stumbled? Doesn't simple decency require that we hold ourselves and our fellows to the same standards, if not higher ones, than we hold "the other guys?" Is not that the basic measure of "morality," the foundation on which it rests? I voted for Bill Clinton twice, and would again if given the chance...but there's no way on the planet I could or can see Monicagate as anything but a horrible moral lapse. No question about it. He was wrong. There--was that so difficult to say?

Why, then, do so many GOPers find it so impossible to admit that "their guy" might be wrong about something? Are their egos really so fragile that the idea that someone they voted for might not be infallible sends them into a thumb-sucking fetal fugue?

We can take some comfort in the fact that it appears virtually impossible for Whalen to win the upcoming congressional election, and that whatever it was that his campaign manager thought he was doing (without the candidate's knowledge, I guess), the effect seems to have been to make the entire campaign a joke and its "manager" a clown at best and a sleaze at worst. But it's not really much comfort.