Luminaries admired and debunked
12/7/2023, 6 p.m.
Three towering figures have died in recent days: former first lady Rosalyn Carter, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
All three loomed large.
Mrs. Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, carved out her own niche as an advocate for women’s rights and mental health. Justice O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. And Henry Kissinger was the first Jewish person to be the nation’s top diplomat.
And many of us think to ourselves, how did we go from them to the likes of Donald Trump and George Santos, who have made lying their ticket to political success?
But in some ways, one can draw a direct line through American policy to the unprecedented anti-heroes of today.
President Johnson, who reshaped this country on civil rights and human services, also lied about North Vietnam attacking an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin to involve our troops in the Vietnam War.
Mr. Kissinger, for many, is an unindicted war criminal who unapologetically instituted policies that led to the deaths of 3 to 4 million people in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Chile and other countries.
Rolling Stone magazine lays out the case against Mr. Kissinger as a bungling geopolitical strategist whose policies created tragedy and death for others rather than advancing American interests.
Then there is George W. Bush, who as president, lied us into the invasion of Iraq by falsely claiming and
having his minions claim that country was developing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction that proved nonexistent.
It is not unusual for some of us to long for the good old days.
Sadly, we often find that the people we put on a pedestal often have feet of clay.
Of course, Mr. Trump and Mr. Santos seem to have taken the idea of telling falsehoods far beyond what others have done and hopefully they soon will get their just deserts in court.
Mr. Santos, who was recently booted out of the House of Representatives, of course, is a pale shadow of the supreme fabulist, Mr. Trump.
Despite facing multiple criminal charges and civil suits, he remains the favorite to win the Republican nomination for president.
And that is the most troubling matter. Why are so many people committed to this man in the face of evidence of lying and cheating?
It is the acceptance of his lies or at the very least, the fact that so many people continue to embrace him that makes this time so hard.
That willingness to give Mr. Trump a pass is what is different about today.
We can only hope that this long national nightmare of the Trump era will soon be over and the value of integrity and the agreement that truth telling is better than telling lies will be restored.