We’re obsessesed with the truth, but we’ve come to accept we’ll never know it.
Richard Clarke says the Bush team was warned about an al Qaeda threat, ignored it, and pushed for a 9/11-Iraq connection later, even when there didn’t seem to be one to be found. Condoleezza Rice says “there was no silver bullet” available to knock out al Qaeda and prevent 9/11, even if they had known it was coming, which she insists they didn’t, even though she admits they knew “something very, very big was going to happen.” If you ask me, she flirted with double-speak when she claimed an August 6, 2001 memo apparently titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States” was “not a warning.” Of course we’d know more if the White House released the text of the memo.
Where’s the truth? We don’t know. Worst of all, we seem content to languish in a gelatinous miasma of interpretation. The story is the debate. Maybe debate makes a better story than a buried or missing truth. It’s hard to report on an empty space. And conspiracy and incompetence are so distasteful (and litigable).
The Bush/Kerry public mud-fest over economic plans is much the same. Is the economy tanking or isn’t it? Has Bush reneged on all his claims about job creation or hasn’t he? Will Kerry spend foolishly or won’t he? I just worry that pretty soon we’ll see headlines like “Bullet-Riddled Suspect Accuses Cops; NYPD Decries ‘Sensational’ Account.”
On The Late Show, David Letterman tried to badger and cajole Janet Jackson into a breast-baring confession. Showing superhuman poise, she stood her ground and maintained that the stripping was intentional, but the flashing was an accident — and she managed to congratulate him for being a dad along the way. Class. I nearly believed her and I think it was her silence and exasperation that convinced me, more than her insistence. But it’s all the audience wanted to know. “I don’t think they want to talk about it,” she pleaded with Dave. The audience replied with an uncharacteristic silence, instead of the usual star-friendly whooping. Did she or didn’t she? We know we’ll never know, but damn do we wanna know.
On the Today show, Matt Lauer asked Jayson Blair if he was a pathological liar. “I hope I’m not,” replied the poster child of truth in the modern age. Even he doesn’t know. As if that’s supposed to be okay. I suppose it is, if you’re endlessly fascinating to yourself and if that fascination has more value to you than clarity, responsibility or remorse. [I know the link above is to Blair’s own site, but check it out – his shamelessness is relevant and instructive.] Oh, and who won the 2000 election exactly?
Sorry if I sound bitter, but sometimes I feel like we’re all blundering around in a blizzard of detached chad and post-9/11 debris, and we’re actually starting to accept it.
ruth: noun