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Truth, the power of politics and the politics of power: the US Senate and us as voters, on replacing a Supreme Court justice
By Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Faculty in Humanities, Austin College
Oct 2, 2018
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Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear (September, 2018), argues that President Trump is waging a “war on truth.” Others have noted that “Truth is the first casualty of war.”(1)  Both Dr. Christine B. Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in the present US Senate hearings (for the latter joining the Supreme Court), say their opposing claims are 100% true! What appears more true is that the political power of the vote will determine who our next justice will be. It was such Republican power in the Senate that denied our former President, Barack Obama from even having a vote on his nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. When all is said and done (a lot more is usually said than done!), lying under oath about some misdeed determines one’s fate more than proof of that misdeed. 

In most US courtrooms every day, a jury of twelve decides which lawyer is telling the truth, and we survive on the belief that justice is served; except in some cases where the guilty party is freed many years later when new truths emerge. Disputes over what should be correct in our Texas high school history texts are decided by majority vote. Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s book, The Politics of Truth, draws on his long diplomatic experience in the Middle East to describe the lies that brought us to war in Iraq. His wife, Valerie Plame was ousted in revenge as a CIA agent by the G.W. Bush administration. She explains the details in her book, Fair Game.

We should not be surprised at how many sages over the centuries have provided their opinion on what truth is. Arthur Schopenhauer’ statement rings true: “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. First it is ridiculed, second, it is opposed; in the third stage, it is regarded as self-evident.”  Perhaps “truth” is more of a goal or destination that we all strive for, but are always on a journey in hopes of reaching it.

Plato said: “They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.”  A more recent sage must have agreed with Plato. She or he agreed that telling the truth is so dangerous that the best strategy is to tell the truth and then run like hell. Well I have to run now, not because I claim to have told the truth, but because I am still on that journey in hopes of finding it. But before I run, Mark Twain must have said things about truth! I found one: “Truth is stranger than fiction…because fiction is obliged to stick to the possibilities; truth isn’t.”

 (1)   The oldest attribution is to Aeschylus (Greece, 500 BCE); but more recently to a Republican senator (California), Hiram Johnson, spoken sometime during World War One.