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Barbara's Bi-Weekly Column

The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, June 6, 1998

Bulworth has rap on truth
By Barbara Anderson

Bulworth stole my campaign. Now I can never be a politician.

Of course, mine would have started differently. I would have had to be crazy to even consider running for office in the first place. But in mental moments, I have thought that it might be fun to run on a platform of telling the truth to all people, all of the time.

I read a novel about this years ago. The presidential candidate wasn't crazy; he set out deliberately to tell everyone the opposite of what they expected to hear. He was merely trying to make a point, but in the end he was elected by voters desperate for an honest leader.

Think how much more desperate we are now.

The one part I clearly recall was his telling farmers in Iowa that they shouldn't be getting paid for not growing crops. But he managed to offend, and yet win, business leaders, minorities, senior citizens, college students, unions, conservatives and liberals, by telling them they weren't entitled to anything they hadn't earned.

I'll bet if "Bulworth" catches on, politicians will be huddling with advisers and pollsters to determine how they can get elected by appearing to tell the truth. The problem with this strategy is threefold: 1. Most of today's politicians can't pull it off because they wouldn't know the truth if they found it in their salad, and, 2. Special interest groups who fund campaigns don't want to hear it, and, 3. Most people respond well to the truth until television news tells them the truth isn't nice. Then they join in the media attack on the candidate.

Exhibit A: Barry Goldwater.

Time out for a heartfelt tribute to the first politician who inspired me to get involved. My husband and I signed up as volunteers for Goldwater's presidential campaign. I pushed a baby carriage filled with three-month-old Lance and Goldwater literature around Toms River, N.J., where Jack taught school. One man threatened to throw paint on me, the literature and the baby: Welcome to political activism, Barb.

So Barry told the truth, the whole truth, as first stated by Cicero and lived by America's founding fathers: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." So he lost to Lyndon Johnson, who, while eschewing extremism, sent thousands of American boys to die in a war that demoralized America for generations. Welcome to political outrage, Barb.

What a different country this might have been, had an honest man won in 1964.

However, other honest men might have done better in later campaigns, had it not been for "personal flaws." We are forever indebted to Paul Tsongas and Ross Perot for telling the truth about the deficit and national debt, but the former couldn't raise money from special interest groups and wouldn't take his campaign into the debt he deplored, while the latter wouldn't allow politics to intrude all the way into his personal life and that of his family. The virtues that serve us well as human beings are a big liability in the political arena. Welcome to reality, everyone.

On a more local level, however, there might still be hope. John Silber, like the politician in the book, told the truth as he saw it without regard for whom he might offend, and the voters of Massachusetts loved it. He might have become governor if he'd had a personality. So it might be worth someone else trying again.

Like Bulworth, you gotta rap it, not say it. Let me try out a campaign message.

If you won't sign a petition and you don't have the time to vote, and you think that government is something way out there, remote,

And you hope old Thomas Jefferson was only talking jive, when he said eternal vigilance was needed to survive,

If politicians lie to you and still get re-elected, because their broken promises can only be expected

And you want a balanced budget and a government that's small, as long as your pet services are never cut at all,

If they state "it's for the children" and you call back "tax me more," then they take your hard-earned dollars for their pensions like before,

But still you let them use you while you celebrate their nerve, so don't come crying here to me, you get what you deserve.

Think I'd win?

Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her column appears bi-weekly and is syndicated by the Patriot Ledger News syndicate.

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