Hillary's Stellar Debate Moment - Part Two genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions


A number of readers responded to the posting Hillary's Stellar Debate Moment. I truly appreciate hearing the thoughts and observations of my readers and I welcome engaging dialogue. I was going to reply in the comments section of the prior posting but I soon concluded it warranted a second posting.

I do so because I've noticed a trend that troubles me...one that is innately important to me and that highlights one of the overarching motivations behind the creation of Thought Theater. I'll attempt an explanation.

Throughout my life, I have prioritized the pursuit of more truth above all else (that doesn't mean I always lived it). In so doing, I often find I'm unable to permanently attach myself to any particular group, club, party, or affiliation. All too often, such allegiances include the requirement that each member adopt and affirm all of the beliefs (truths) of the organization...even if that arrests the pursuit of the truth...or...heaven forbid...demands the wholesale suspension of the truth.

What this means in practical terms is that I'm often viewed as a contrarian. I've accepted my role, though I prefer to characterize it as a commitment to seeking more truth...even if I find it painful...even if it makes me unpopular. What I've learned is that my pursuit of truth is far more sustaining than any of the perceived spoils that accompany affected affiliations.

Before I proceed to the topic at hand, some background might be beneficial. I attended high school at an all boys Catholic boarding school. We were allied with an all girls Catholic boarding school. Over time, it became vogue to denigrate the girls at our sister school and it became cool to date girls from the local high school. As with most trends in teenagers, the shift was facilitated by a vocal few and followed by the pliable masses.

Ironically, I (the closeted gay guy) came to the defense of the girls at our sister school...writing opinion pieces in the school paper assailing the mob mentality and the thugs who had triggered the entire ordeal. Simply stated, I defended the truth because it was the right thing to do. I took my share of flack from a few students but over time I won the respect of far more. In retrospect, it merely took someone to stand up and state the obvious. Sadly, it reinforced my belief that in the absence of a voice, the truth becomes little more than an amalgam of invented and inflicted animosities heaped upon the helpless and the hapless.

Having been bullied in grade school until I finally stood up for myself and bloodied the nose of the ringleader, I developed a keen sense of injustice and an unyielding commitment to fairness. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't remotely perfect then and I'm still not...but I can recognize a mean spirited assault in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, life isn't black and white or neat and tidy. Yes, when it comes to people, it's much easier to lump and label than it is to dissect and discern...but then who ever said the search for truth should be easy?

Hence, the most important thing I learned was that truth can be found in places and in people one wouldn't expect or predict. I came to realize that even a thug can speak the truth or act with fairness...but that required suspending my own bias in order to be objective...even while knowing I could rationalize doing otherwise. So what was the essential lesson? If I wanted fairness, I had to grant it to others...regardless of my own bias.

As I've followed politics and the upcoming election, I've found myself experiencing many of the same feelings and circumstances...and that includes allowing my own bias to interfere with the pursuit of truth. Fortunately, I'm still committed to fairness. With that in mind, I offer the following observations with regards to last evening's debate and the ongoing need to seek truth.

First, I'm including the content of an email I received in response to the posting. I also encourage readers to take a moment and read the comments in the posting as they provide the context for my remarks.

hi: i think you fell for a bit of theater--have you seen the utube of john edwards "after this is all done, we'll be ok" and its america he's worried about? or the clip of bill yakking about taking"hits." hill's greatest moment was empty gesture. the question was soft ball and hill was prepared with stolen words in an attempt to hit a home run. i thought you were more sophisticated than to buy her performance. or maybe your use of stellar was merely acknowledging the performing aspect. the message was old, the delivery not bad.

First, I love politics and I understand that it often involves emotions and that can lead to pettiness, anger, animosity, and partisanship. Human nature is such that we're all prone to bias...and politics may be the arena where it is most noticeable.

As such, I find myself troubled by the refusal of so many individuals to acknowledge any positive acts on the part of the candidate(s) they don't support. Even worse, I'm amazed that one Democrat is willing to assail another simply because they don't support the same candidate. Truth be told, how can Democrats call Karl Rove and the GOP ruthless when Democrats engage in the same behavior...within their own party's primary?

I understand the desire to win...but I have never sought to win if it involved having to abandon my belief in the pursuit of truth. That means that I accept that "the truth" won't always be on my side...and it won't always vindicate me and vanquish those that I oppose. At the same time, if I'm committed to the truth, it will always lead me towards more of it...sometimes willingly and sometimes kicking and screaming. I cherish that reality even if it has the potential to kick my butt.

I mean no disrespect by the following remark, but it needs to be said. Time and again, people, motivated by their own bias, make statements that make them appear to be "full of shit". It's the equivalent of calling a square a circle and then expecting everyone to agree with you...simply because it supports the reality you're promoting. Sometimes it works...especially if one is skilled at manipulation...but it never circumvents the actual truth...ever.

Sadly, those who choose this approach, often aim their efforts at those who, by and large, share their same basic goals and objectives (e.g. Dems on Dems)...but for any number of reasons they seek to achieve those goals and objectives by virtue of their preferred path. I view such acts as unenlightened episodes of intellectual dishonesty. It's akin to the notion that the end justifies the means. I don't think it's that simple.

Let me explain. Truth is a function of consistency and those who seek to be affiliated with the truth can only remain so if their words and deeds are in fact consistent with it. Truth requires vigilance and commitment. Call it being on the watch for the flip flop effect...call it being willing to call a lie a lie...call it an insistence that deception and deceit must be exposed whenever it rears its head...but that which isn't consistent with the truth can never be called an impartial demonstration of objectivity and rationality. Hence truth can set us free or it can make us prisoners of our refusal to face it.

So let's return to the email and the issue of Senator Clinton's "stellar debate moment". A number of folks have pointed to the hypocrisy found in Hillary Clinton accusing Barack Obama of plagiarism and then proceeding to use the words of others in her closing remarks. So what truth can we discern from this inconsistency? Here's where it gets complicated.

First, I would argue that the definition of plagiarism has been stretched to score political points. We're all guilty of using words, ideas, and expressions that we've heard or read...but that fails to meet the intent of plagiarism. Making such an accusation may be an acceptable political strategy but it isn't consistent with the pursuit of truth.

Second, this means that Hillary's actions were inconsistent with the manipulated truth she had previously sought to create. At the same time, the fact that she demonstrated this inconsistency doesn't nullify the truth of the words (borrowed and original) she spoke last night...just as her accusations directed at Senator Obama didn't negate the truth of the words (borrowed and original) he recently spoke.

The fact that the Obama campaign employed the same manipulation of the truth in accusing Senator Clinton of plagiarism following last evening's debate was also inconsistent with the truth...albeit done as a tit for tat response (a rationalization). You see...this is the danger of deviating from the consistent pursuit of truth. It becomes a never-ending struggle to create truth rather than to find it and to honor it.

So let's look at Senator Clinton's actual remarks. Those intent on assailing the Senator have focused upon a small portion of a statement that was nearly three minutes in duration. I view that as an obfuscation of the truth. Her statement was more than "we're going to be ok but I'm not so sure America will be" and "I've taken some hits in my life". Ignoring the entirety of the statement is an attempt to score political points through manipulation. It's done all of the time...but it isn't consistent with the pursuit of truth.

Further, we've all found ourselves in situations where the words of others best describe our truth as well as larger, far more encompassing "truths". After all, the bulk of our thoughts have been experienced, spoken, or written by others. There just aren't that many original thoughts or wholly unique ways to express them. If there were, we'd all be esteemed authors and poets.

That brings us back to the intended meaning of the word plagiarism. The manner in which it has been utilized in this campaign is absurd...and the more we all embrace its false meaning; the more we convolute its true meaning. Such is the process that accompanies the destruction of language and therefore our ability to communicate effectively and honestly. It's truly an example of the slippery slope effect...and the deconstruction of fundamental truths.

I challenge everyone to go back and look at Senator Obama's face while he listens to Senator Clinton's closing remarks. I'm convinced that what you will see in his face is an acknowledgment and an affirmation of the truth he's hearing...regardless of whether some small portion of it was "lifted" from others. In the end, the truth of the words she spoke resonated with Barack and with the audience. It was a real moment because the listeners grasped the truth of the spoken words...even if it was a "performance"...even if Barack thought it was a performance.

To discount her statements because one thinks she prepared and practiced speaking them is to suggest that she should be singled out as a candidate who isn't entitled to avail herself of the long-established practices of public speaking and politicking. To suggest that the question was "a softball" ignores the fact that both candidates were given the same opportunity to answer it. It was a level playing field. Negating Senator Clinton's "home run" answer because she was prepared for the question is utterly illogical.

The truth is that most of what we see in a debate is performance. Criticizing a candidate for a stellar performance is akin to shunning a good movie because one of the actors (who you don't particularly like) was superb. Yes, we're all entitled to our subjective conclusions...but passing a biased opinion off as an objective analysis circumvents the discernment of truth.

It happens all the time in politics and all too often in life. It is a virulent virus...one that has the potential to replicate so fast that we're on the verge of untruth becoming a pandemic infection. Even worse, how does one cure a disease that is self-inflicted and self-perpetuating? If the motivation to pass a virus exceeds the desire to defeat it, then sickness has trumped sanity.

Truth is never old and it remains truth whenever and wherever it is delivered. Truth isn't the sole domain of any individual; it is bigger than than...because it must be. One can dislike the messenger while still acknowledging and accepting the message.

Politics is an attempt to get voters to embrace both. Regardless, if we collectively focus on affirming truth whenever and wherever we see it, hear it, read it, or find it, we send our own message of rejection to those who may be engaged in delivering a corrupted version of it. If we consistently send that message, we inoculate ourselves from the ravages of untruth and we single out those who have become its carriers. In so doing, we begin the process of retraining the body politic to reject deceit and deception and we set in motion a system that rewards those who pursue it and perform it...consistently.

The truth is...when the end and the means are one and the same...the truth is.


1 On February 22, 2008 at 10:57 PM, Kenneth E. Tucker wrote —

The truth is...

you are STILL missing/ignoring my point. And, that's ok, it's your blog/party.

But, I KNOW ALL of the dead thousands of US troops, and any of the tens of thousands of dead or millions of displaced Iraqis would GLADLY trade your embrace of Hillary's 'stellar moment' for just one more day in the sun.

She made a calculated decision to support an illegal preemptive war as part of positioning for an anticipated presidential bid - and - then made a conscious decision, again, to use the evocation of the suffering of troops that have served in that illegal immoral war as a backdrop for an all too transparent 'pitch' for our 'understanding' of her 'depth' of concern/pride in their sacrifice.

Everyone, including Hillary, that voted for the AUMF for Bush/Cheney and their Neo-Con pals, has THE BLOOD OF TENS OF THOUSANDS, on their paws.

They should be held in contempt, and/or tired, not adulated.

2 On February 23, 2008 at 12:21 AM, Daniel wrote —


I composed the bulk of the above posting before having read your prior comment. My apologies for failing to note as much.

Your viewpoint warrants discussion...but it was a different take on Senator Clinton that didn't comport with the other comments and I wasn't energetic enough to incorporate an entirely new adjunct into this posting.

I will offer one quick observation tonight. I believe we were likely manipulated into war in Iraq, I believe the war has been horrendously mismanaged, I believe we lost lives we shouldn't have...as did the Iraqi's.

At the same time, in the aftermath of 9/11, I recall that a large majority of Americans supported the resolution and the subsequent invasion. Hence, most Americans have...as you state...blood on their paws.

You're entitled to conclude Senator Clinton's motivations were impure...but that seems to be a retroactive application of intention that I doubt is any more specious than that of the 76 other Senators who joined her. Undoubtedly, they all had "political" motivations.

I don't presume to know what has been in the hearts of every person I encounter...let alone a politician. Nonetheless, I can acknowledge my agreement with sentiments I embrace...even if I disagree with the messenger.

Your demand for black and white needn't invalidate sentiments I support. Consider for a moment your own contribution to the unyielding partisanship that exists and perhaps you'll realize just how unlikely it is that it will help in facilitating a resolution.

Until the leadership and citizenry of this country once again looks for those traits that unite us, we will endlessly toil to attach blame and to seek retribution. If war is bad...and it is...so too is the war being waged here at home.

Peace...wherever it is sought...is a willful decision to find points of agreement...not an act of aggression to impose one's will. Unless and until we all adjust our mindset...this, that, and every other mantra will forever be...meaningless.



P.S. I'll make an effort to respond to your issue in more depth in the near term.

3 On February 23, 2008 at 6:23 AM, rube cretin wrote —

"It is not given to us to grasp the truth, which is identical with the divine, directly. We perceive it only in reflection, in example and symbol, in singular and related appearances. It meets us as a kind of life which is incomprehensible to us, and yet we cannot free ourselves from the desire to comprehend it.' Goethe

the constant noise in politics makes it extremely difficult to discern the truth. While i agree Hillary's closing the other night was a moment of truth and that Obama and the audience recognized it, ken's comments represent a truth which is at the heart of this nomination battle. i and many of his comrades saw the danger of the AUMF, because as military veterans who had paid dearly for pass untruths we have developed an ability to spot bullshit at a hundred yards.

When lessons and truths are not learned by those in critical decision making positions it is not enough to simply say "I told you so." War is serious stuff. Ken clearly saw the untruth of the Iraq War, i saw it, as did many others. But the MSM (propaganda machine), politicians, and corporate influence rendered our objections unpatriotic. It is a well known theme that has played out many times in world history.

I do believe however, we need to move on. Life is about choices and i have chosen not to vote for Hillary when given the opportunity because of her vote on the war. When this nominee episode is completed i believe it will be recorded that her vote on the war was the primary reason she was defeated. She hasn't yet admitted she exercised bad judgment when supporting the war, but i understand her position politically. if she did , as i stated in an earlier post, she would have to admit she was wrong on the most important vote in the new century.

Personally, i find much to admire in Hillary. But i cannot forgive her for that vote. Will i vote for her against McBoomBoom if she gets the nomination. Damn right i will. But i really don't think i will have to hold my nose on this one because obama has big mo on his side.

Sorry i didn't address all that plagiarism stuff but i agree with and always enjoy your keen insights into human nature. However, I think u will find as you get older its just noise from the beast.


4 On February 23, 2008 at 12:31 PM, Daniel wrote —


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Always good to hear from you.

We could debate the meaning of truth forever...and we likely will. With that said, I must point out that while the insertion of "the divine"...or a deity...is a valid consideration, it is, for many, viewed merely as the means to ignore our individual responsibility to seek the truth...or to alternatively allow established dogma or doctrine to serve as a substitute for that obligation.

I reject the notion that truth is an ethereal domain. What we don't know or understand can simply mean we have more work to do. There is great danger in providing humanity with convenient excuses for its indiscretions. To posit that we can't understand the truths of our humanity and therefore each other is to excuse a lack of empathy and to encourage an abundance of antipathy.

Nay, the noise from the beast is a cry from the core...the innate need of each of us to understand the other in the hopes of finding comprehension and thus the benefits of community.

You see, the goal is the same whether one accepts the premise of God and heaven or not. The Bible begins with two humans living in a perfect world...and then destroying that perfection...by their own free will. All that follows is man's rationalization to continue to fall short...though positing a path to redemption in some after world.

So long as man accepts that the garden of Eden (or heaven) is beyond our earthly grasp, it will be so...but not by divine decree...but by nothing more than a human decision to make it so. The Bible has simply become the means by which men subscribe to justify their judgments of their fellow man...and then excuse that behavior as part and parcel of our innate shortcomings.

In the end, man has defined God in order to assuage our refusal to honor each other's humanity. That which destroys its own has no right to define perfection as an abstraction. That which honors and sanctifies its own knows that the pursuit of perfection (truth) is not an abstraction...it is a willful act...regardless of where one believes that free will originated. If we have it, we can use it. If we value it, we will use it for good. If we don't, we don't deserve heaven...here or elsewhere. Our destiny is, and has always been, in our own hands.



5 On February 23, 2008 at 2:22 PM, rube cretin wrote —

Thanks for the reply. on first reading i think i agree. On second reading and placing in context I'm not sure. But,I am currently in the process of editing a masters thesis for my nephew and leave for a week at the farm tomorrow, therefore i cannot spend time on clarifying my feeble thoughts at this time. Besides, surely you recognize your writings, while clearly written and thought out, stimulates rumination in those struggling to understand the fundamental nature of things.

I must go now but will share one of my favorite quotes with you because it reminds me of your writings.

"When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime come the wolf." Cormac McCarthy.

While i'm sure you have literary fangs, thanks for your nurturing approach.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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