A little over a week ago, Washington Post Op-Ed columnist Richard Cohen penned a piece on Fred Thompson entitled “He Just Plays a Straight Shooter”, a reference to the straight-shooting, no-BS character roles Thompson excels at portraying, pitted woefully in contrast to Cohen’s perception of Thompson’s real-life political role, asserting that Fred’s candor and integrity are severely lacking right from the start of his nascent “candidacy”. In fact, Cohen used the word “liar” to describe Fred Thompson’s recent statements with regards to his lobbying on behalf of Planned Parenthood in the early 1990s. Disturbed that Mr. Cohen frivolously and carelessly throws the term “liar” around without any regard as to what it actually means, I shot off the following missive to Mr. Cohen-
In regards to your latest article, “He Just Plays a Straight Shooter”, I would like to ask you the following hypothetical question- Specifically, whom did you speak to on the telephone 16 years ago, and what specifically were you discussing, and what work was it related to? If you cannot recall exactly the correct answer- names, content of conversation, what you were working on- are you intentionally lying, hiding material facts that you are cognizant of with the intent decieve? For example, f your recollections was that you had repeated conversations with Jane about gardening over the course of 14 months, when in fact records showed you had really spoken to Bill about sports during that same time period, would you be guilty of lying? I would say that unless you immediately knew otherwise what your specific actions were, you had not lied. As we know, 99.999 percent of the population cannot remember what their exact actions were 6 days ago, let alone 16 years ago. Thompson’s work at his law firm indiciated he did 19 hours of billable work over 14 months, which translates to roughly about 2 and a half minutes per day. Having worked for law firms, it’s entirely plausible for an attorney when quizzed to not remember every client, particularly the smaller clients that they have billed very little time to-over the course of a year, let alone an entire legal career. To be even more honest, law firm billing records tend to be inflated- 19 hours of billable time usually includes bathroom breaks, lunch, and other distractions that subtract from this already miniscule number of recorded billable hours.Unfortunately, our culture has lost the understanding what the proper definition of the word “Lie”. For the record-
Webster’s Dictionary (1913)- A falsehood uttered or acted for the purpose of deception; an intentional violation of truth; an untruth spoken with the intention to deceive.
Is Thompson intentionally telling us a falsehood, being in immediate possession of knowledge that is contradictory to what he is saying? I think not. It’s like me asking you what you had for breakfast two weeks ago- if you say you had bacon and eggs on July 11th, and records later showed it really was the 12th, are you a liar? Or are you simply mistaken, having erred honestly without the intent to deceive? There is an enormous difference between the two, and unfortunately, you, like too many segments of our broader society, toss around the “liar” moniker far too frivolously, which only serves to obfuscate its true meaning. That, unfortunately, is what you have done in your recent article. Let’s try to restore the proper understanding of the word “liar” so we can better inform the public of what actually constitutes lying, rather than impugn an individuals’ integrity in a game of “gotcha” based on erroneous definitions of words.
I have not yet received any reply from Mr. Cohen to my inquiry (not that I expected him to respond to a mere rank and file member of the hoi-polloi). So as it stands, Mr. Cohen’s due dilligence, fact checking, and knowledge of critical words within the English language, remains MIA to his vast readership.
Following up on his lame hit piece, Cohen now calls Fred Thompson “a threat to us all”, apparently because Fred’s not buying into the Global Warming hysteria or advocating for more restrictive federal gun laws. Cohen’s cynical observation about “Thompson on Horseback” might inadvertently prove to be correct, if Fred manages to articulate a common-sense conservatism which wins him the nomination. One wonders however when Richard Cohen, bloviator-at-large, will cease his spastic ruminations, get back on his own tricycle, and ride off into the sunset.