Watching the 2012 presidential election unfold, Jack Nicholson’s great scene as Colonial Nathan Jessep in the film "A Few Good Men" comes to mind.
“You can’t handle the truth,” Jessep snarls when he’s pressed about the murder of a young cadet.
Something has happened to truth in this election.
Is truth’s troubling absence due to our inability to handle it, or our casual disregard for it? Do facts even matter anymore?
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have toyed with the truth to squeeze out the smallest advantage in an extremely tight race. The problem has been worse with Republicans. Romney’s fictitious riffs about credible tax studies, job creation, and employing women should cause his nose to grow on live TV.
And Obama better have a straightforward answer about what went wrong in Libya before Monday’s debate on foreign policy. Obama hasn’t lied about what led to the death of four Americans. But it was politically inconvenient to have a frank conversation with the American public about how dangerous the Middle East remains, and how our dependence on the region’s oil will always come with an enormous price.
Obama's critics have been quick to fill that void even when some of the victims’ family members have warned against politicizing the event.
The over-reliance on spin and clever phrasing in this election has only bred suspicion, and could have a terrible unintended consequence: nobody believes the results.