Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hillary - understanding the sniper fire lie

Though the story broke in March, I can't shake the Bosnia sniper fire lie. Why? Because the only way I can understand that lie is to accept that Hillary Clinton has, at least briefly, lost touch with reality.

Humans lie. And politicians, because they are under much more scrutiny than the rest of us, are often forced to lie to preserve their image (not that that makes it morally justified, but at least we can understand it).

Obama's claim that he hadn't heard some of Rev. Wright's more controversial remarks until only a year ago is pretty clearly a lie. Even if he or his wife/kids weren't in church the weekend after 9/11, fellow parishioners surely would have informed him of some of those comments. But when faced with the question of whether he had heard those comments years ago, and continued to attend Rev. Wright's services, Obama was cornered. Tell the truth and torpedo your presidential campaign, and maybe your congressional career. Or lie. Bill Clinton was faced with similar situations regarding his extramarital affairs during his years in Arkansas and Washington, most notably with Monica Lewinsky: tell the truth and be destroy/tarnish your campaign/career/presidential legacy. Or lie. Both Barack and Bill lied, and understandably so, given that they were cornered.

That's one of the things that bothers me about Hillary's Bosnia lie. She didn't do it because she was caught in a compromising position. She did it presumably to enhance her foreign policy experience or perceived courage, or both. It wasn't a "defensive" lie, it was an "offensive" lie.

OK, well politicians routinely embellish their accomplishments to get more credit than they deserve. But this wasn't an exaggeration. There were no shots fired. There was no perception of imminent danger; if there was, they could have held the greeting ceremony indoors instead of out on the tarmac. There were lots of people on the tarmac, including the little girl who was reading her poem, and importantly, Chelsea Clinton. If Hillary perceived any danger, even if she were brave enough to stand around on the tarmac for the ceremony, do you think she would have permitted her teenage daughter to stand next to her? This was no inflated claim. This was a wholesale fabrication.

So if you accept that (1) she wasn't cornered into a "defensive" lie to preserve her career/campaign, and (2) her claim went far beyond the zone of embellishment and into the realm of pure fantasy, then if you want to understand her as a person (which seems rather important given the job she is asking us to give her), you have to ask yourself why she did it.

She says she misspoke. I call bullshit on that. One, unless you were in actual combat, or perhaps a civilian who was actually shot at (like the victims and would-be-victims of the DC snipers), you don't forget if and when you were shot at. And for damn sure you don't forget if and when your child was shot at! Two, she made this sniper fire claim not just on March 17, but on Feb. 29 in Waco, TX and on Dec. 29 in Iowa. But I can understand her lie about misspeaking - she was cornered; if she told the truth, her campaign would be finished instantly.

OK, so maybe it was a lie to improve her credibility along the lines of foreign policy, bravery, toughness, etc., and she is just a cold-blooded, calculating liar. But this would be an enormously risky gambit, given that the odds of getting caught were extremely high: she was accompanied on the trip by a television crew and reporters. Wouldn't at least some of the reporters and military personnel at the scene speak up? And wouldn't somebody hearing/reading the claim wonder: "Why don't I remember reading any articles about the First Lady being shot at back in 1996?" So this explanation for her lie just doesn't add up. She may very well be capable of calculated "offensive" lies to further her agenda, but she is not stupid. If she wanted to make up stories to enhance her candidacy, she could do so about things that are difficult to clearly disprove (e.g., helping bring peace to Northern Ireland). It simply is not rational to lie about an occurrence that is so easy to conclusively disprove.

If, despite the foregoing rationale, you believe she intentionally lied, then you must conclude that she is simply too stupid for the Presidency. I.e., repeatedly making a wholly false claim that she wasn't forced into, and that was highly likely to be proven to be false beyond the shadow of a doubt, isn't exactly the mark of an intelligent person is it? Her supposed gamble on this story makes some of W's gambles seem positively shrewd by comparison.

So, if you agree that her claim wasn't an accidental misstatement, and that she's not an idiot, then there seems to be only one explanation left. She thought she was telling the truth. When initially questioned about the discrepancy between her recollection of the visit and Sinbad's recollection, she dismissed Sinbad as a comedian (another link and another one).

From the WSJ article in the second link [emphasis mine]: She gave reporters more details of the trip. “Part of the reason we were in the C-17 is because part of it is armored,” Clinton said. “I was moved up into the cockpit. Everyone else was told to sit on their bullet proof vests. We came in in an evasive maneuver. Those of you who have been on a C-17 or C-130 know that one of their great characteristics is that they can take off very quickly and they can maneuver agilely to avoid incoming fire. There was no greeting ceremony and we were basically told to run to our cars. Now that is what happened.

If she had told a calculated lie in her earlier speech, then surely, at this point, with reporters presenting Sinbad's version of events, she knew the gig was up, and she would claim she misspoke. After all, although Sinbad is a comedian, the fact that his recollection was materially different was bound to send reporters digging further, and she would have known that this further digging would reveal the truth. So when confronted with Sinbad's version of events, why didn't she abandon ship??? It was only after further evidence corroborated Sinbad's story that she says she misspoke. After all, even a delusional person will snap out of the delusion when they see video footage abundantly demonstrating the falsity of their claim.

So it would appear that she has had a break with reality. Yes, this seems improbable, but we have arrived here by eliminating the explanations that seem even more improbable/borderline impossible. And that is why this particular campaign lie has been bothering me. Even though she is usually composed and "with it", I think she is capable of delusional episodes. For this reason alone, I cannot support her candidacy.

She's asking you to support her for the Presidency. As a citizen, you owe it to your country to understand a candidate before supporting them. If you can understand her sniper fire story in a way that does not question Hillary's connection to reality AND that does not disqualify her candidacy in your mind (e.g., irrational/stupid behavior), I'd love to hear it.

And please don't mistake me for some shill for Obama or McCain. I don't think either of them has the right prescription for what ails this country.

No comments: