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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 9.25.08




Stop the Lies

An open letter from a basketball mom to a hockey mom

by Merle H. Weiner

Dear Gov. Palin (or may I call you Sarah): I feel like I know you. We both are women in our mid-40s, we both have lived in Alaska, we both have spent countless hours watching our kids play sports, and we are both trying to balance work and family. These commonalities, and undoubtedly hundreds of others, create a false sense of familiarity that, for better or worse, emboldens me to share my reaction to your recent remarks: Please, please stop the lies.

Perhaps you view the recent lies like the white lies that we middle-aged women sometimes tell to each other (“That outfit looks great on you”), to our kids (“Yes, there is a tooth fairy”), or even to our spouses (“I would love to go with you to the football game”). But your recent misstatements are not of the same genre. Your lies about the issues and your past positions cloud individuals’ judgment about who to vote for in the next election. This isn’t a low-risk situation, akin to whether our best friend feels good about how she looks. This is about the presidency and the future of our country. 

Repeatedly mischaracterizing your opponent’s positions and your own undermines the American public’s ability to make an informed choice about the candidates based on their positions. I, and most other moms, care about the issues that are the subject of the obfuscation: taxes and whose plan will raise them; terrorism and who is behind it; climate change and its causes; the federal budget and whether earmarks have gotten out of control; and the Constitution and whether government will infringe our rights. We need facts, not “white lies” offered as part of an election strategy.

Sarah, it just isn’t true that Obama’s tax plan will raise the tax bill of most Americans, or that Iraq was connected to the terrorist attack on 9/11. Please don’t deny that you once said that humans have had no impact on global warming. You shouldn’t portray yourself as a leader against earmarks when you sought large ones for Wasilla and Alaska, and since you accepted the money that was initially destined for the “bridge to nowhere.” Please don’t portray yourself as patriotic when your actions and statements suggest that you think the U.S. Constitution is expendable, at least when criminals (e.g., terrorists) stand trial for their acts or politicians disapprove of books in libraries.

Your lies also worry me because they say something about your morality and what kind of vice president (and potentially president) you would be. Like Machiavelli, you seem to believe that the ends justify the means. I was hoping that we were over that — that our generation could be transparent, honest and frank with each other in politics. Yet you are playing the same ‘ol games. Frankly, I expected more of an Alaskan hockey mom in her mid-40s, not simply because John McCain touts you as an advocate for change. I understand that you have been thrust on a national stage, with many advisors telling you what to do and say, and that some of the lies might be required of you to carry the campaign’s message. But if I can’t count on you to say to your advisors that such a strategy is wrong and that you are not going to play by their rules, how can I count on you to speak the truth to us when other important decisions are being made?

After the events in this election, I feel pretty hopeful that I will see a woman elected president during my lifetime. Whoever she is, I hope that she is willing to tell the people the truth about her record and positions, her opponent’s record and positions, and the facts on which she bases her decisions. If not, we are in for a sad and scary time, regardless of the politician’s gender.

 

Merle H. Weiner is a professor at the UO School of Law.