Archived Opinion

A banquet table of issues, one bite at a time

op frSo much going on locally and around the world that it’s just a tough week to bear down on a subject to write about. So let’s just run through the “column ideas” list and clean things out as we head toward December. It’s the beginning of the holidays and I’ll pretend I’m sitting with my chair pulled up close to the table. The Thanksgiving dinner is laid out banquet style with so much food it’s almost impossible to choose what to eat. I give up, and instead will try a little of everything. Here we go …

Fibbing politicians

At first it seemed like a normal part of the vigorous bluster of the presidential primary season, but it kept happening. So I do a little research and discover the real truth: this crop of GOP candidates is lying more than any group before. The problem, though, is that so many voters take so little time to seek out the facts that the candidates are getting away with it; in fact, in some cases they are being lauded for it because they come off as strong and un-politician like by attacking those — mostly the media — who accuse them of playing loose with the truth.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson are the leading fabricators of facts, but Trump is likely the clear winner. Somehow, he is still leading the field and often touted by supporters for being blunt and talking off the cuff, as if that is an acceptable reason for lying. Here are the Trump falsehoods that come to mind quickly: 

• The latest is that he saw “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey cheering on Sept 11, 2001, and that the United States was accepting 250,000 Syrian refugees. Neither bears any resemblance to the truth.

• Claiming he never called Florida Sen. Marco Rubio the “personal senator” of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He did just that, and flatly denied it during one of the debates.

• Proclaimed that Ford Motor Company was canceling plans for a plant in Mexico due to his “badgering.” Plans moving ahead full steam, according to Ford.

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Then there’s the Ben Carson’s application and acceptance to West Point, which never happened. He also, as he quipped in one debate, did not have a close relationship with a dietary supplement company. Truth is he has been paid handsomely by the company and flat-out lied about it. We won’t go into the questions about his troubled past which, as it turns out, may not have been as troubled has he claims.

Next up for whoppers is Carly Fiorina, who got a bump in the polls after the debate where she said on national television that she watched a Planned Parenthood film that showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’” That video clip simply does not exist. Oh, and as for her business acumen, she cites her job creation skills while at Hewlitt Packard despite the undisputed fact that the company cut 30,000 workers while she was CEO.

I’m not surprised politicians embellish the truth; what’s surprising is that it is becoming OK — no, even seemingly somehow honorable to some constituents — to flat out deny the lie and often do so by blaming the media. 

As the New York Times editorial board said of Trump: “His right to spew nonsense is protected by the Constitution, but the public doesn’t need to swallow it.”

 

Turning the tables

As a career media person, I’m used to criticism and open to listening when someone says we’ve made a mistake or when we’re accused of showing bias. Comes with the territory.

The most oxymoronic jab out there right now, though, is when the leading conservative commentators — namely Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh — characterize the mainstream newspapers and television networks as the “media elite.”

If someone can explain that one to me, please do. I mean, those three guys just mentioned toss this phrase around every day, when the sobering, hard-to-believe reality is they are the embodiment of the media elite: millionaire commentators who control what gets discussed on airwaves, in the pages of this country’s newspapers, and even during presidential debates. If there is some cabal calling the shots in the media, these guys are the leaders, not CNN or the New York Times.

 

Ignorance – and inspiration – of youth

The most disturbing revelation during the protests at the University of Missouri was the utter lack of knowledge — and therefore lack of respect — for the press and the First Amendment.

If you remember, the college students were passionate enough to take to the campus quad to deliver a message that they would not accept the university’s utter lack of response to racial problems. They used their First Amendment right to organize peacefully and protest just as the founders imagined citizens would. 

Just as a reminder, here is the text of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But the students damaged their credibility by trying to prevent reporters and photographers from doing their job. Google “Missouri student protests” if you can’t remember and you can see exactly what I’m talking about. 

These students’ actions led to the resignation of university officials and got national media. But you can’t rally behind the First Amendment unless you embrace its full ramifications, which includes freedom of the press

 

Unlikely bedfellows

Remember the crowd who showed up last year at a Jackson County commissioners meeting to vehemently protest a move to weaken that county’s steep slope ordinance? Talk about strange bedfellows, but they were arguing from the same philosophical stance as those who came to the Haywood commissioners last week asking for a moratorium on incinerators.

One group, though, was made up of almost all liberal, progressive Democrats while the other was led by leaders of the Haywood County Republican Party. 

The irony of this is just too rich to ignore. Here’s an excerpt from SMN Reporter Becky Johnson’s story in last week’s edition about the Haywood citizens from the Beaverdam community seeking a moratorium on incinerators:

“The debate over land use — whether development should have guidelines or be solely up to free enterprise — often shakes out along party lines.

“Democrats are more likely to believe in land-use planning while Republicans are more likely to have a laissez-faire philosophy.

“But the discussion playing out in Haywood has been a party role reversal. West, Davis and King — advocates of a moratorium on incinerators — are leaders of the local Republican Party.

“The commissioners who rejected the idea of a moratorium are mostly Democrats.”

Perhaps the Hawyood GOP and the left-leaning stalwarts of planning in Jackson County can get break bread together at some point during the holidays.

 

The carrot or the stick?

Most people probably didn’t notice, but Waynesville’s smoking ban took effect last week. From now on, it’s illegal to light up on public sidewalks and on town of Waynesville property.

Some argue the ban will deter tourism while others say it will lead to positive publicity for the town and promote healthy habits.

I think it’s bound to be a non-issue. At heart I’m very libertarian on issues like smoking, thinking we don’t need legislation to influence personal habits (good or bad). But I also know plenty of people who simply can’t be around smoke without getting nauseous or just fuming mad. 

The town is taking the right approach, promising not to arrest anyone for lighting up illegally. It’s still a little to “big brother-ish” for me, but at least it’s a warm, cuddly big brother.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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