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September 17th, 2010
11:48 AM ET

Letters to the President: #606 'The trust gap'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: I’ve been fact-checking some political ads for lies and mischaracterizations, which is like checking a henhouse for eggs. You know you’re going to find something; just like the president finds my letter waiting every day.

A friend was talking to me about the fact-checking assignment I have for this midterm election, and she said, “Do you find it interesting?”

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I said, “Yes, in general. I like looking at candidates’ claims about each other, and comparing them to their records, and to the truth as much as it can be ascertained.”

She glazed over. “I don’t know. It seems to me that politicians always spin information in their favor. They are all liars. So where is the revelation?”

It made me think that the biggest problem facing both parties right now is not the opposition so much, as that general sense the public has that none of you can be trusted. So your side can make a perfectly valid point about the other, or vice versa, and those voters who already believe you will continue to do so, and those who already don’t will continue to do that too. Why? Because so many of us assume that political ads are inherently dishonest.

In this day and time when the internet allows such rapid checking of the basic facts, I’m a bit surprised that politicians have not grown a tad more wary of taking liberties with the truth. Deceit will, after all, almost certainly be found out. But then, I suppose that same mechanism has proven to be a great way of spreading false rumors too, so why not level an unwarranted charge on the opposition? By the time the lie is discovered the damage may be done.

Anyway, I can’t imagine how this problem can be brought under control - not as long as there are operatives on both sides (and there are plenty) who will say or do whatever it takes to win, and let the truth be damned. But if our general faith in our government and leaders continues to fall the way it has, is anyone really going to want to be in charge anymore?

I was rather surprised by the rain. We’ve been so dry here so long, I just didn’t expect it. Looking forward to the weekend, I must say, and if this nice autumnal weather holds, maybe I can get in a long bike ride. You’re welcome to come along if you like; just give me a call.

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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