Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus.

One of the lessons of childhood is that when you lie and get caught, it is better to fess up. Parents, after all, have much more practice at lying. Eventually, with grace and guidance, children learn to not lie at all. But that is not universally learned. Some adults continue to lie.

In this vein, when I spent time over the past couple of years changing careers from practicing law (a trained, professional liar) to teaching it, I read a lot of guidance on preparing resumes. I was appalled at the amount of information devoted to exaggerating and lying on resumes. Reading between the lines, I was being taught how to expand my experience in ways that could not be disproved – don’t expand degrees (records can be released with your authorization), know what your previous employers say when employment is being verified (a lot give dates and titles only because of litigation fear). I was curious as to why I just couldn’t tell the truth.

When children lie about, for example, having gone to the movies instead of the arcade next door, it takes about three minutes of focused questioning about the plot to make the story unravel. The same applies to job applicants - experiences without detailed war stories co-exist rarely.

That brings us to the accomplished liar. He always has a second line of defense when the front line is breached. It is the second line, he hopes, that absorbs the shock in both parties of initial failure. The second line reinvigorates the troops and provides optimism: "I don’t know what happened next. The soda and popcorn made me go to the bathroom. I was gone so long that I was lost the rest of the movie. I know the guy dies at the end." "Well, the guy I actually worked for was let go. Something about his expense reports and the IRS. They don’t even like to talk about him. I did his job while he goofed off."

A good questioner knows a lie is afoot before the liar knows he’s caught. It is at that moment that the Q&A transforms into a sport. A good questioner silently says, "Fish on!" Always remember, "falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus — false in one thing, false in all things." Whenever you begin to believe him, whenever you feel sympathetic: falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus. Repeat it like a mantra. We don’t need no stinkin’ liars in our midst.

That brings us to Kerry and his Christmas in Cambodia. His challenge is that the questioner has been alternatively silent and incompetent for years. This has fostered an arrogance in him, regardless how redundant that trait may be within him. But now, oh my, the questioner is very well-trained indeed. The Blogosphere has a hot lamp in one hand and papers full of quotes in the other. Among those working it: Hugh Hewlit (linked below), Nikita, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, and Kerry Haters for starters.

Among the quotes, and btw the seeds of Kerry's destruction:

From a round-up on "I remember spending Christmas Eve five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas." "The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real." Kerry said in a 2003 interview that after the Christmas Eve 1968 engagement, he asked his crew to write a caustic telegram to the chief of naval forces in Vietnam, Elmo Zumwalt Jr., to wish him "Merry Christmas from the troops that weren't in Cambodia, which was us. We were."

From Hugh Hewlitt comes a USN&WR article from 2000: "Sen. John Kerry made his first forays into Cambodia during the Vietnam War as a Navy lieutenant on clandestine missions to deliver weapons to anticommunist forces."

The Seattle Times shares: A June 2003 article in The Washington Post quotes Kerry talking about a mildewy and faded-green camouflage hat he carries in his black attaché. "My good-luck hat," Kerry told the Post. "Given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia."

The NY Daily News brings us the Senate floor classic: "I remember Christmas of 1968, sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia.” "I have that memory, which is seared - seared - in me."

The second line of defense:

The Seattle Times: The Kerry campaign has since said that the presidential candidate's recollection was imprecise — that his runs into Cambodia came in the early months of 1969.

Falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus.

The Washington Times quotes his campaign spokesman on Fox & Friends: "John Kerry has said on the record that he had a mistaken recollection earlier. He talked about a combat situation on Christmas Eve 1968 which at one point he said occurred in Cambodia. He has since corrected the record to say it was some place on a river near Cambodia and he is certain that at some point subsequent to that he was in Cambodia. My understanding is that he is not certain about that date."

Falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus. "During John Kerry's service in Vietnam, many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group operating out of Ha Tien," Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said in a statement. "On December 24, 1968, Lieutenant John Kerry and his crew were on patrol in the watery borders between Vietnam and Cambodia deep in enemy territory. In the early afternoon, Kerry's boat, PCF-44, was at Sa Dec and then headed north to the Cambodian border. There, Kerry and his crew along with two other boats were ambushed, taking fire from both sides of the river, and after the firefight were fired upon again. Later that evening during their night patrol they came under friendly fire."

Falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus.

The second line restated with a rebuttal:

The Washington Times again: Kerry campaign told NBC News, "The Mekong Delta consists of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, so on Christmas Eve in 1968, [Mr. Kerry] was in fact on patrol ... in the Mekong Delta between Cambodia and Vietnam." Unfortunately for Mr. Kerry, this explanation raises more questions than it answers. First, at the point where the Mekong River intersects the Cambodian/Vietnam border, there is no "between." As the map on the opposite page reveals, the river in fact runs from Cambodia to Vietnam, unlike, say, the Potomac River, which creates the border between Maryland and Virginia, and Virginia and Washington. If there is a point where the river meanders in a way that Cambodia is on one side and Vietnam the other, it constitutes such a small area that for Mr. Kerry to be in that exact spot on the river would be highly dubious, although not, we add, impossible.

Falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus.

The international press refers to this mess as "verbal knots."

It seems to me that "fish on!" is more apt.

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