There's all kinds of lies — and liars

A recent e-mail from a former acquaintance here in Kitsap County forced me to do some thinking.

The e-mail basically accused me of hypocrisy, taking me to task for pontificating on moral right and wrong in this column while, in this person’s mind, I was far from perfect myself.

Of course, my initial response when I’m criticized is a defensive one. Like yours, I’ll bet.

Me, a hypocrite?

But in this case, although there were extenuating circumstances, I had, upon reflection, not treated this person fairly. I did what I could to rectify the situation, and then I started the aforementioned heavy thinking.

Those in the public eye, whether under the gaze of millions, or merely in the sights of 16,000 readers of this newspaper, ought to be aware they are being watched closely by a variety of folks.

My research shows that there are five major schools of thought on how to handle this extra scrutiny.

There’s the former president Richard Nixon approach:

Never admit a mistake, or if a mistake was made and you can’t hide it, erase the tape.

Blame a subordinate.

Claim you were misquoted.

Tell a new lie.

“I don’t know about no Watergate.”

Resign and start a whole new set of lies to “rehabilitate” your image.

Then there’s the former-president, Bill Clinton approach:

Deny first, and then when caught, split hairs.

“Well, you wouldn’t really count that as sex, would you?

Or, “I didn’t inhale.”

Then there’s the Charles Barkley approach:

“Whataya mean role model? I ain’t no role model.”

Then there’s the William Bennett approach:

“I’ll see that pair of aces and raise you 8 million moral dollars.”

And finally, there’s the Mike Tyson approach.

“I didn’t do it but I wish I had.”

Or in another mood:

“That’s who I am. A bad....”

The Charles Barkley approach is the most congenial to me, if I am forced to pick one.

I am pretty good at writing columns and they asked me to write one. So read the darn things and see if you agree with the words written, despite what you know, or think you know, about me.

My next favorite approach is the Tyson manner.

“If I wrote it, it’s true, and if you don’t like it, well lend me your ear over here.”

The Bennett approach is probably the worst of the five because you get nailed to your own cross. It’s not only embarrassing, it undercuts your message. The truth is Bill Bennett isn’t a very good man, but his message was good. So this was a case where the message died when the messenger was killed and that’s too bad.

The Clinton approach is the most understandable — that doesn’t mean I think it isn’t wrong and wrongheaded. It is.

But Big Bill’s skating around the truth looks pretty familiar to me as the parent of two.

“Uh, no Dad, I didn’t take your last beer out of the fridge. Oh, you found the bottle under my bed? Well, maybe my sister was in there. Oh, she’s away at cheerleader camp? I forgot. Well, I had the bottle but it was already empty when I got it.”

Clinton’s method is that of the child. But Clinton isn’t alone.

Richard Nixon, as biographers have shown, always felt excluded. Feeling so, he also felt that anything he did was the right thing because “they” didn’t like him, didn’t respect him, didn’t trust him.

By the end of his life his own actions had brought everything he feared down on his head.

I grew up in a semi-ghetto back East. My neighborhood was full of Irish, German, and white-trash kids. I am a little bit of all three, so don’t call the politically correct police because I used the white-trash label. I can say it if I’m talking about myself.

Literally right across the railroad tracks from us was a big African American neighborhood. Whenever we did anything that brought the cops we said, “I just saw two black guys running away.”

The funny thing was I had a lot of black friends, and they said whenever the cops came into their neighborhood, the brothers would claim they just saw a mick, a kraut, and a poor white buckra boy running away.

I mean everything I say in these columns.

That doesn’t necessarily make me a better person than you, though.

Merely a guy with a column who is trying to do the right thing most of the time.

Just like you, I hope.

Dennis Wilken is can be reached at

(360) 876-4414, or by e-mail at dwilken


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