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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

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The Road to Hell is Also Paved With Bad Intentions

Posted: 04/13/11 10:27 AM ET

As a young man, Jon Kyl, the Republican junior senator from Arizona, was convicted of selling heroin, and he spent eight months in federal prison.

This remark was not intended to be a factual statement. Rather, it was to illustrate that Jon Kyl, a Republican senator, is from Arizona.

Yes, that was unfair. But just because Jon Kyl wasn't actually convicted of drug crimes doesn't mean he hasn't committed any legal abuses. Make no mistake, in his early days in Arizona state politics, he was reprimanded for 12 ethics violations, though avoided expulsion on a technicality, changing the spelling of his name which originally was "John Kyle."

This remark was not intended to be a factual statement, either, rather it was to illustrate that Jon Kyl doesn't have the letter "H" in his name.

Joking aside, there is something I do admire Sen. Kyl for. It is his deft skill manipulating the English language to avoid responsibility for making a gross smear on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Addressing his senate colleagues, Mr. Kyl had said that abortions accounted for "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" -- though the actual, truthful number is 3 percent. When later confronted over these shamefully inaccurate remarks now in the official Congressional Record, he hid behind his staff, which commented that "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."

Forgetting for a moment that this isn't even an attempt at an apology, there only two options here: either Jon Kyl takes you for an idiot, or himself.

To be fair to Jon Kyl and sympathetic, he has unfortunately been painfully distracted lately, due to a bitter divorce he's going through, brought about by the exposure of a 12-year, secret affair with his secretary.

Just to clarify, this remark is not intended to be a factual statement, rather it was to illustrate that Jon Kyl has a secretary.

A case could be made that Jon Kyl knew his senate statement was a lie when he gave it, or at least that he didn't care whether it was false or not. But even if one chooses to graciously accept that it was just a horrific mistake -- we all know what a proper reply should have been. We all know how we ourselves would have apologized. We would have said --

"I'm sorry. I made a mistake. I relied on information given to me, and I should have checked it myself. I apologize to Planned Parenthood, to my Senate colleagues, and to the American public. I will immediately correct the Congressional Record. And will strive to make sure such a horrible error doesn't occur again."

We wouldn't have had a lackey say for us -- "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement."

Jon Kyl's lie and lying response reminds me of an election several years back for the Writers Guild Board of Directors. An unsigned letter was mailed that smeared each candidate on an opposition slate. Later, one of the non-attacked candidates was asked for his reaction to the anonymous smear of his opponents. Not wanting to defend his opponents, he said with a thoughtful, sad expression, "The fact that it got all the names and some of the ages right is what made the letter so hurtful."

All I could think was, "No! The fact that it got all the names right is what made the letter -- a smear."

It was the same attitude weaving through Jon Kyl's own smearing statement and smarmy, staff reply. It's as if the truth doesn't matter. That anything can be said if it helps you. And if you're forced to address the lie, dismiss it as not being intended to be the truth.

Of course it's not intended to be the truth. It was intended to smear!

This is an attitude that permeates the conservative movement these days. Democrats can lie, too, and when they do, it's just as wrong. But these days, the "say whatever you want," "truth be damned" weight has been falling more heavily on the Republican and conservative side. Perhaps because they're the ones in attack mode. Perhaps because the truth that Social Security, Medicare, universal healthcare, and public education all actually help people causes Republicans political trouble.

Whatever the reason, when the truth hurts you, and you choose to say anything to win, the truth doesn't matter.

To make a point attacking President Obama, Bill O'Reilly describes U.S. troops massacring Germans at Malmedy during WWII -- when the truth is the exact opposite. To prove a rally was popular, Glenn Beck shows a photograph of the crowd -- when the truth is that the photo was taken years before. To terrify the GOP base, Sarah Palin and others lie that Democrats want to kill old people. And on and on the spiral downward goes.

But of course, truth actually does matter. And we should not only expect it of our children, but also our politicians and social voices. Yes, I know that's a lot to expect. So, let's make it easy and start small --

Let's expect it of Jon Kyl.

That remark is intended to be a factual statement.