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October 5, 2008

“Truthful Terms” are not The Truth

Category: Editorial,Observations,Political,Rants – Tom Harrison – 3:39 pm

(Note: this post has nothing whatsoever to do with energy or conservation: it’s a political rant)

Fox reports that McCain spokesman, Tucker Bounds responded to an Obama ad.

“We’re going to talk in truthful terms, which they are not in that advertisement,” Bounds said. “We also want to talk in truthful terms about who Barack Obama is. These are important things for voters to know.”

Just curious, is “truthful terms” anything like talking truthfully? Or perhaps even telling the truth? Or does it just means that the terms (i.e. sound bites) will be truthful, but strung together in such a way as to be effective … which is to say, deceptive.

Now this may sound like what Stephen Colbert referred to as truthiness. But it’s not, because truthiness implies that the speaker believes, even if wrongly, that what he or she is saying is true, according to Colbert.

That’s not what the McCain campaign is going for.

This weekend, Governor Palin said not once, but three separate instances

Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country

I think we may find some examples of the use of truthful terms right here.

For example, the term “palling around” was used to describe Senator Obama’s indirect association with a member of the Weathermen. Hmm, “palling around”. How would that be understood by most people? Slapping backs? Having an occasional beer together? Hanging out?

The actual assertion was based on reporting by the New York Times. As I read this, the closest I could get to “palling around” was “in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors”. Other contacts were mostly them being at the same place at the same time.

I have two neighbors I seriously dislike. One reportedly physically and mentally abused his wife and daughters, another, well he’s just a jerk. When I pass them on the road, I acknowledge their presence. My son is friends with the son of one (the son is a great kid), and in several cases they have played together at the jerk’s house. We talk about sports in a group at our block parties. I have a relationship with these men. Neither is my pal.

So “palling around” is colloquial, so hard to pin down in it’s meaning. Perhaps because of this it’s a truthful term.

But I think even worse was the use of the term “terrorists”. The pal in question is William C. Ayers, now a professor at the University of Illinois. Yes, this man was the leader of a group that very likely performed acts of terror in the 60’s as protest against the Vietnam War. Now terrorism is terrorism and the Weathermen were terrorists, and Bill Ayers was a Weatherman, indeed the leader. So the term “terrorists” is a truthful term.

Then again, these days we think of “terrorists” as the kind of person such as the one who, today, killed 11 people today in Iraq with a suicide vest. If you asked any 100 Americans what came to mind when the term “terrorist” is used, I think we know what people would say.

And “who would target” is grammatically correct. Yet in it’s usual usage “would” implies a future tense, not past tense, as in “yes honey, I would go to the market, but the game’s on”. True, the sentence could be read in a sort of historical context, as in “George W. Bush, who would target Iraq after 9/11 became the President with the lowest favorable ratings in history.” So yes, this term is indeed truthful, however it implies a current relationship, as does “palling around”.

What is entirely slanderous and deceitful is to suggest that Obama is, or has been pals with a terrorist, and therefore “is not a man who sees America like you and I.” Yet in a single coherent sentence repeated three times, Palin did exactly that.

And that how to formulate a lie told in “truthful terms”. Synonym: “swift boating”.


  1. Yeah, I have been wondering when Obama’s team was going to remind us of Senator McCain’s past financial issues. The Keating 5 are back.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — October 6, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  2. Tom,

    Here’s a site that responds to Palin in truthful terms:


    Comment by Debra Norvil — October 6, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

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