Editorials

Enough with the Pinocchios for president

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, from left, participate in a Republican presidential debate.
Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, from left, participate in a Republican presidential debate. The Associated Press

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a big concept with the American public. Not so much with this presidential campaign.

Bad enough that the nonpartisan website PolitiFact has found that about half of the assertions made by GOP front-runner Donald Trump are “mostly false,” “false” or outright “pants on fire” falsehoods.

And bad enough that Ben Carson’s “full scholarship” to West Point turns out to have been imaginary, along with claims about the pyramids, the elected offices of the Founding Fathers, his tax plan, pediatricians’ views on vaccines, the founder of Planned Parenthood and whether gun control put the Nazis in power.

There is also Carly Fiorina’s misrepresentation of an anti-abortion video that was aimed at shutting down Planned Parenthood’s funding. And her demonstrably false claim that “92 percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama’s first term belonged to women,” who, sorry Carly, actually gained jobs.

And the baloney she has slung about her performance as CEO of Hewlett Packard. Even a speech she made in 2000 about the creation of HP and its first product was malarkey, according to The New York Times, which cited “an internal transcript, an oral history of HP, a book and a company historian.”

It would be nice to think that Tuesday’s Republican primary debate will give these and other candidates a chance to correct their records. Don’t hold your breath.

If past debates are an indication, the norm will be more like Marco Rubio’s response last time when CNBC’s John Harwood challenged his tax plan, which, according to the Tax Foundation, benefits the wealthiest 1 percent more than middle-class taxpayers.

Something’s wrong when this much irresponsible talk goes this unpunished, and when truth is so little rewarded.

“You’re wrong,” Rubio lied. Then he proceeded to attack Harwood, pretending that the question had been not about the middle class but about rich vs. very poor taxpayers, who also stand to gain from the tax plan.

It’s a cliché to complain about dissembling politicians. And, as President Bill Clinton proved with his famous parsing about Monica Lewinsky, Republicans don’t have the market cornered on false witness.

But something’s wrong when this much irresponsible talk goes this unpunished, and when truth is so little rewarded: Gov. Chris Christie’s candor about addiction at a town hall last week was so moving and true that his remarks went viral. But the GOP base cared so little that Christie ended up in Tuesday’s debate undercard.

It’s early, we know, but voters should send a message, even voters who just want their side to win. Lies eventually get exposed, and regardless of party, Pinocchio doesn’t belong in the Oval Office. The candidates wouldn’t be peddling whoppers if the electorate didn’t seem to be rewarding them.

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