Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Don't Just Pander--Lie!

It's pandering season again, and our brave presidential candidates are out on the trail falling all over themselves to spew tripe about energy issues.

There is no shortage of examples. In Iowa--where it's all corn, all the time--they expressed support for an expansion of the energy-negative, water intensive corn ethanol initiatives that are helping to drive a devastating world-wide food crisis. But at least ethanol will do next to nothing to improve our energy security outlook, thus failing to realize the one goal that was supposed to compensate for all its drawbacks. Hooray!

In coal-producing states, they talk up coal-to-liquids synfuel programs, carbon capture and storage and assorted fairy tales about "clean coal." Apparently, the presidential contenders have been taking in a lot of coal industry PR. Just imagine what might be accomplished if Big Coal put as much effort into improving their energy efficiency and greenhouse gas profile as they do into creating the appearance of such progress.

And everywhere the candidates go, they promise to make gas cheap again. How? By telling the Chinese, sorry, no more for you--we called dibs. Or by threatening OPEC, or else asking them ever so nicely, or--oh look! A shiny penny!

What were we talking about again?

Naughty, naughty politicians. Telling us what we want to hear just so we'll vote for them. It makes us bristle with indignance. All the more so because their assessment of us is as accurate as it is damning.

Truckers begging to be lied to

Yes, our politicians have read us like a book once again. They are what we see when we collectively look into a mirror. While we like to toy with the delusion that they might speak bracing truth to us simply by opening their mouths and forming the requisite vowels and consonants, our electoral system is in fact a self-selecting system designed to insure that those who might say something that upsets us will never get the get to stand at the podium. In other words, our politicians will never be better until we are better.

This leads to an obvious conclusion--what is needed is a program of self-improvement for the American people. Perhaps if we invest in education and imbue the next generation with the kind of critical thinking skills so sorely lacking today, if we elevate the importance of social and political activism to the same level as facility with video games and fashion sense, if we restore respect for values like hard work and sacrifice--maybe then we'll look in the mirror and see the kinds of leaders that can grapple with the challenges we face.

Yeah, right. If you for even one moment find such fantasies credible, you clearly know nothing of America. We have neither the attention span nor the self-discipline necessary to effect such a revolution.

But I have a better idea, one that can succeed because it leverages some of the core American virtues--traits like indifference, disdain for detail, admiration for successful cheats, and the inability to remember what happened five minutes ago.

Rather than vainly hope for politicians too spineless and ethics-bound to promise us the pain-free, no-cost quick fixes we demand, let us look instead to candidates with the courage to transcend mere pandering in favor of full-blown, bald-faced lying.

You see, the problem with pandering is that it is a half measure. It begins when politicians commit to policies they know to be inherently dangerous or impossible to effect. So far so good. Such nonsense will secure their election, and there's no harm in words. But then, suddenly, they find themselves in the Oval Office, holding the levers power that could effect positive change beyond the dreams of ordinary citizens. This is their moment to atone for every instance of hypocrisy, every verbal act of moral cowardice committed between Walla Walla and Williamsburg. All they have to do is something smart.

But instead this is the moment at which--tragically--they develop a conscience.

For months on end they traipsed the country, saying anything--anything!--that would convince America to jump in the sack with them. But there's something about sitting at that desk that makes a new President feel bound to execute the absurd and counterproductive schemes they cynically preached from the stump. It's like some excruciating, Sisyphean dream we're forced to endure over and over again. And all because they merely pandered when they should have lied.

So once you're in office, remember: to hell with your idiotic promises about rolling back gas taxes! Coal-to-liquids? Never met the guy. Obfuscate! Deny! Blame it on a drinking problem! Anything rather than seek to execute the vacuous policies that we elected you to implement.

Please, save us from ourselves. If you don't lie to us now, we will never forgive you.