The Edmond Sun


October 19, 2012

President’s words far from plain

EDMOND — As I watched the recent presidential debate, a quote by Thomas Fuller, a 17th century English writer, came to mind. To paraphrase: “Plain speaking is a jewel, but they that wear it are out of fashion.” Things haven’t changed much in the past 400 years, have they? I suppose we might amend Fuller’s statement: Those who wear the jewel of plain speaking aren’t just out of fashion, they’re invisible.

Today, the virtue of plain speaking often gives way to the oily concept of plausible deniability. Most of the doubletalk, hyperbole and hogwash we hear is irritating but harmless. No matter how much hot air any candidate gives out, we know that actions speak louder than words. We’re better off making our choices based on the candidate’s record rather than the promises.

The election ordeal would simplify if plain speech went hand-in-hand with a history of accomplishment. But today we must recognize that “spin” is a distasteful fact of modern political life. Candidates running on sorry records can’t win unless the other guy’s record is sorrier or unless they manufacture some razzle-dazzle and make us believe this mess is a “silk purse.”

But there are situations where we must not tolerate verbal trickery. There are times when our public servants have two options and two options only: Tell us the truth or keep your mouth shut. There are times when the American people have the right to expect and demand plain speaking.

We know, of course, there are situations where it’s OK to withhold facts. We accept this. When someone is injured or killed, we know identities will be withheld until the family can be notified. We understand the good sense and decency of this policy. We know information is sometimes withheld because disclosure would compromise an investigation, national security or some other important interest. Fine. If we’re kept in the dark for good reasons, just tell us.

What we can’t abide — what we should never allow — is a maze of misdirection and word games when someone has a duty to tell us the plain truth. It’s better to tell us nothing than play tricky shell games.

So here’s what I’m leading up to. How hard is it to say: My fellow Americans, I know you have many questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of our ambassador in Libya. We are gathering information and, once we have a clearer picture of what happened, we will answer as many questions as we can. In the meantime, please be patient as we work to get to the bottom of this. Or this: It’s too early to be certain, but preliminary intelligence suggests the attack on our embassy and the death of our ambassador are products of a terrorist attack. We will provide more information as it becomes available and verifiable.

Instead, what we got was a thoroughly misleading series of party-line misdirections about spontaneous out-of-control spinoffs from demonstrations provoked by obscure video. The maddening thing about this is the fact it was known to be poppycock for the bulk of the time it was being handed out.

We might be inclined to put the blame on the president’s subordinates. Maybe the nameless “intelligence community” falsified reports. Maybe they sent confusing reports. Maybe some functionaries at the State Department distorted and falsified the facts for reasons of their own. Maybe the president was taken off guard with the rest of us when the truth came out.

But the president, during the most recent debate, suggested that he told us from the Rose Garden on the day after the attack that it was an act of terrorism. The debate moderator backed him up on this. If that’s what the president meant to say in the Rose Garden, it’s buried in the verbiage of his remarks. If he meant to inform us that the attack on our embassy and the death of our ambassador were the result of a terrorist attack, he left the American people to wonder and guess at his meaning.

If we give the president the benefit of the doubt; if he knew the day after the attack that it was an act of terrorism and if he intended to tell us that, what are we left with? The president is a poor communicator. The administration’s internal lines of communication are pathetic. And the administration’s ability to discern and correct gross errors is ridiculously slow.

We are reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s illustration: “If you call a tail a leg how many legs does a horse have? Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make a leg.” I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.

Text Only
  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • RedBlueAmerica: What should the U.S. do about illegal immigrant children?

    The crisis along the southern U.S. border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.
    President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in borrowed money from taxpayers to cover the growing “care, feeding and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups” when our own veterans are not taken care of. Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

    July 17, 2014

  • VA scandal highlights the need to change Pentagon spending priorities

    The ongoing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal raises an important question: When our veterans are being denied access to basic health care, why is the Pentagon squandering billions of dollars on programs that do not benefit our military forces? Is there a link in organization attitudes?

    July 16, 2014

  • For better politics, it’s time for some raging moderates

    Like more than 20 percent of my fellow Californians, I am now classified as a no-party-preference voter, registered to vote but with no affiliation to any of the state’s political parties.
    I am for lower taxes and for marriage equality. I am tough on crime and I am anti-abortion. I believe that a pathway to citizenship is a necessary part of immigration reform and that student test scores should be a critical component of teacher evaluations.

    July 15, 2014

  • Father on mission to stop gun violence

    Since his son died six weeks ago as collateral damage to a troubled young man’s wish for vengeance, Richard Martinez has been asked whom he holds responsible.
    “I’m responsible,” the California lawyer answers, referring to most Americans’ failure to push harder to change gun laws after earlier mass shootings. “All those kids died and none of us did anything.”

    July 14, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
     View Results