Break out the hair shirts, heat up the tar, and dust off the pillory. D.C. is going through one of its periods of confession and contrition that make Maury’s “Who’s the daddy?” show look like an afternoon of cribbage.
As the center of the news universe, this town has an insatiable appetite for weighing in on matters of public humiliation, so it is buzzing over the scandals involving false … or possibly false … statements by news people and the head of the Veterans Administration.
Never mind that this place has raised misstatement, half-truth, and deception to an art form. Dali’s wrist watch is more straightforward than the “facts” some folks twist out here.
Still, now and then, someone stumbles in such a public way, the town feels the need to purge.
Every press conference is suddenly filled with qualifiers: “When I said I went to see the riot, what I meant is I walked over to the TV.” Each grandiose claim becomes slightly muted, “Of course I saved Hoover dam! In a metaphorical sense.”
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So let me clarify a few things about my own biography.
When I previously said I was shot down during Vietnam, I meant was that the war was underway when I asked Bonnie Fair to the seventh grade dance, and she unceremoniously said no. So I was both shot down, and wounded.
When I listed “presidential advisor” on my resume, I meant that I told the head of my 4-H club to avoid wearing white shoes on barn cleaning day. I thought everyone understood this, but I feel I should now make it plain; just as, at the time, I had to clear up that statement, “Boy, I like mutton!”
And I readily admit I misspoke once to a newspaper reporter. I intended to say, “Will you look at the time?” but instead said, “I invented the polio vaccine.”
I know this airing of old laundry is rather tedious. But relax. It doesn’t last. Give it some weeks and DC will be back to normal. After all, the truth has never been that popular here.
Tom Foreman is a correspondent for CNN.