Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Disingenuous (adjective):

lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity.

I like the word "disingenuous." I like it because it is a good description of so much of what goes on in the news, in punditry and in politics. If you notice, being disingenuous does not mean you are not telling the truth, it means you aren't telling all of the truth, or you are telling the truth in a context that makes the truth complicit in a less than truthful statement. Sort of like holding a gun to the truth and forcing it to read a prepared statement.

Below is an example of disingenuous reporting.

This is an article from Campbell Brown, of "No Bias, No Bull" (disingenuous), posted on CNN today.

I want you to hear something President-elect Barack Obama said just about a year ago:"I am running to tell the lobbyists in Washington that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign. They won't work in my White House." Just this weekend The New York times published a list of names -- a rather long list of names of people -- who are working on Obama's transition team or who have accepted jobs in his White House who are either former lobbyists or who have close ties to lobbyists. The Times reports that some of those people were lobbying as recently as this year.

Ummm . . . are they lobbyists now? Because if they aren't lobbyists now, then no lobbyists will be working in the White House with Obama, and his statement is entirely true. Two years ago, I worked as a data entry clerk. Now I am a legal secretary. I don't call myself a data entry clerk, and it would be inaccurate for anyone else to do so. The above is disingenuous. Everything she says is true, these people know, are related to, or used to be lobbyists. BUT, since they aren't currently lobbyists, Obama did not go back on his words. The above doesn't seem to say that, does it? And yet, Ms. Brown didn't lie. She just made the truth dance on the head of a pin.

Moreover, virtually everyone in Washington has worked as, or is related to, a lobbyist. There are thousands of jobs in the field, it's well paying, there are lots of entry level positions, and there is power and prestige to be had. Obama would have to start recruiting people with no useful experience from other states entirely to avoid all ties with former lobbyists and their families. Do you want your government run by people with no experience at all? Well, if you're a Republican, you do. The rest of us would like to be able to sleep at night.

Now, the Obama team is quick to point out that their rules and restrictions on lobbying ties are far stricter than any previous administration.

And now we have the truth twisted into a knot. She makes it sound like the Obama team is being, well . . . disingenuous. What they are saying is simple truth. I have to admire Ms. Brown's ability to make the truth look like a lie.

And the Obama folks concede that eliminating anyone in Washington who had ever lobbied Congress or who has a family member who lobbied Congress would be foolish. They concede? That's what you do when you have been lying and are forced to tell the truth. Perhaps they were pointing out the reality of Washington. Seems a little more truthful put that way, doesn't it?

And it's true, you could argue the reality of Washington and our government is that lobbyists are often the most informed people on a given issue. Yeah, it's true, but unless the truth is dressed up in a dominatrix outfit and whipping Democrats, we don't care about that here.

But we certainly never heard Obama articulate it quite that way when he was candidate Obama. What he said then was:
"That's what happens when lobbyists set the agenda and that's why they won't drown out your voices anymore when I am president of the United States of America."
Still don't see how that is no longer true. Hey, is that the truth? Why is it wearing a William Shatner mask? And what's up with the machete?

And that is a promise that he may already be struggling to keep.

"May be"? Why are we debating what may or may not be going on? Lots of things may be happening right now. How 'bout we try reporting on and commenting on what actually did happen? Oh, that's right, silly me . . . that would require research and . . . stuff.

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