Grading Credibility on a CurveCredibility is an essential element in everyone's personality. It's the stuff that allows people to trust you and for you to trust them. Even in a skeptical and cynical world, it's an important component in how others see you and how you see yourself. Without it, relationships get dicey fast.
Today's politicians have near-zero credibility, but there was a time when we held them to slightly higher standard. Sure, they made lofty campaign promises that often did work out, but people expected a certain amount of waffling and obfuscation as long as it wasn't too rampant. In a way, the public graded politicians on a curve. They could overlook the occasional broken promise like hiring more police or not building a post office in their district, but you could generally trust them to stop pussyfooting around when there was a real issue to be dealt with.
We Can't Believe Anything Anymore
Now we've reached a point where it's impossible to believe any politician from any party on any subject at any time. They don't even attempt to make their shredded credibility look good. Remember how laughably sad it was to hear Clinton prevaricating about the meaning of "is"? Making a televised address to deny you're having an affair - shortly before copping to it - is not the way to build trust. Clinton doomed his second term and marched himself down the impeachment highway because no one believed anything he said - and for good reason.
The trend has accelerated since then. It makes you long for the days when politicians lied about a simple BJ. Today, scandals emerge every few days, major policy debates are based almost exclusively on lies and disingenuous debates, and we find ourselves in a war conducted by a President who wouldn't know credibility if it bit him on the ankle.
Making Hay for Fun and Profit
Turd Blossom and the Conundrum-in-Chief made a lot of hay in the last election about Kerry's supposed waffling. They doggedly attacked his often contradictory public statements and built a perception that you couldn't trust him to admit to the sky being blue or that the ocean containing fish. The real and fabricated perception that Kerry had no credibility lost him an election. The fact that his opponent had a similar lack of credibility wasn't noticed by enough and based on their skewed perceptions they returned him to office. Today, Bush's credibility makes Kerry look like a paragon of virtue. El Jefe has lied, wriggled, waffled, flip-flopped, and redefined his actions so often most people wouldn't trust him any farther than they could throw the White House.
Baby Doc's lack of credibility has lost his party an election, doomed any chance of carrying out what remains of his battered policy agenda - and most sadly of all - bogged us down in a war where people are dying. To make matters worse, the politicians who want to be President are already jettisoning their credibility like an ecdysiast in speed-stripping contest.
McCain's Straight Talk Express has a new blowout with each flip flop he makes and many are so distrustful of Hillary you couldn't get them to vote for her if you paid them. The other candidates are schlepping their own baggage on a wobbly cart from which credibility falls off as regularly as a battered portmanteau.
Hopefully, a candidate with a shred of credibility - or the ability to build some - will emerge. We can ill-afford another Leader of the Free World who refuses to level with America or himself because he'd have to admit he may just have been wrong. Wholesale death in exchange for an assuaged ego does not credibility make.
Hornswaggling vs The Truth
We should also hope that voters in the next election will have learned to distinguish between hornswaggling and truth. If they don't, the next President won't be credible, or a credit to the office they hold.
Next time someone asks you to define "is" or says "we've turned another corner", think twice about their credibility.
Oh, and grade them on a less-advantageous curve.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Monday, January 22, 2007