Archetypes / Ethics / Recent Events

Shadows of the Presidential debate 2012 part II : What is truth and does it matter?


What is truth and does it matter?  To a survey question – “Is there absolute Truth?” – sixty-six percent of American adults responded that they believe that “there is no such thing as absolute truth; different people can define truth in conflicting ways and still be correct.” Seventy-two percent of those aged 18 to 25 expressed this belief. In a recent series of interviews conducted at large universities, people were asked if there was such a thing as absolute truth – truth that is true across all times and cultures for all people. All but one respondent answered along these lines:

  • “Truth is whatever you believe.”
  • “There is no absolute truth.”
  • “If there were such a thing as absolute truth, how could we know what it is?”
  • “People who believe in absolute truth are dangerous.”

The lone exception was a Christian, who said absolute truth was in Jesus Christ. I suggest that the situation that these surveys reveal, is fairly typical in the Western World.

Changing from empty words to deceiving words.

I was reminded on this during the second presidential duel, which left both camps satisfied but with an edge for Obama. Not on truth though. Personally I felt, he was only changing from empty words to deceiving or insulting words. Unlike during the  televised  first debate in Denver, Colorado Obama was in Hempstead present with every fiber. Unlike in the first verbal exchange of blows, which the Republican challenger Mitt Romney had clearly won and gave him a significant boost in all surveys, the President was this time combative. The format of the second debate was literally a boxing match of words – a “Town hall meeting”

No-No for a moderator

The moderator Candy Crowley of CNN news channel now and then with own questions failed to allocate about the same time for both (40/44 in favor of Obama, due to cutting off Romney about five times, Obama once). When Crowley slipped in a judge role, in the dispute over the attack on the American Consulate in  Benghasi, where on September, 11 four Americans were killed, her ruling statement was so coarse and imprecise, that it bordered to incorrectness. She sided for Obama. As a consultant I would say this is a No-No for a moderator (in the broad sense) in any case but I know in the heat of moderation it is sometimes hard not to press moving on. The audience also was clearly on the side of Obama’s, which is of course expected at universities, where the faculty and student body are in large majority supporters of the Democratic Party. At the scandalous verdict of the presenter of Crowley in the Libya dispute in favor of Obama, even applause broke out.

Its the economy stupid (or not?)

Romney was strong as he has been in Denver on the economy, taxes and debt. He pondered what he described as Obama’s monumental failure: high unemployment (23 million people without paid employment); Increase in the public debt to well a trillion dollars per year now $ 16 trillion; every sixth lives in poverty; 47 Million Americans receive food reference cards; Only half of university graduates find a job appropriate to their training. He accused Obama to hinder oil and natural gas production on State land and thus increasing the energy and gasoline prices. Romney had his strongest moment as he replied on Obama’s accusation that he run his tax reduction plans with wrong numbers: “who piles up debt and deficit as Obama, was perhaps not the best Math teacher”. His CEO language “binder of women was a mistake, not going after Obama for basically – with many words  – not answering the question who declined in the state department to increase the embassy security a big mistake. His basic pitch was right but badly executed.

The war on roses

As expected Obama attacked  Romney for his  remark, where Romney called 47% of the population as recipients of social benefits with demanding attitude. Several times he emphasized the wealth of Romney, denounced the challenger for low tax rates and accused Romney investing his money in Chinese companies and at banks in Caribbean tax havens. Obama said about Romney’s  five point tax and economic plan : “he has a one point plan, and that’s to make sure that different rules apply to the people at the top.” In dispute over the attack on the Consulate in Benghasi, Obama kept the upper hand – on the screen (where it counts) not on the facts: “The suggestion that someone on my team has acted misleading when we lost four of our people is offensive” the President said in calculated anger and claimed he had called the Benghasi event already on the day after the incident a terrorist attack – which of course is not true. Instead, the President made in this speech in the rose garden just a general remark about terrorism as we will see.

An out-of-control protest that never existed

The reality of the issue is that the following Sunday, President Obama sent his U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, out talking about an out-of-control protest that never existed – appologizing for a video that had nothing to do with the attack. For two weeks the administration stuck to the video and protest as the cause for the death of four Americans – something they now say was incorrect and that they knew it the second it happened.  On the merits of the argument, Romney is therefore correct, but he failed in execution. The President’s official statement had no reference to terrorism and the President’s Rose Garden Speech next morning has no reference to the video or a protest. In the full transcript he made a general reference to “acts of terror”, but held short of calling Benghazi a terrorist attack: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.

What is truth and does it matter?

If you read both speeches closely, you will realize that it is so constructed that whether the attacks turned out to be spontaneously motivated by the film or whether they turned out to be a calculated terrorist attack, retroactively that speech will prove that Obama was right. A sad layers, politician and consulting truth that was and in which we live in today.

In politics, we hope that our Archetype Shadow can be effectively revealed and mastered by openly discussing the issues as they arise. But if that hope is ever lost, democracies around the world might become just as undemocratic as the ‘undemocratic other’ against whom they routinely define and defend themselves.

The judgement of the intellect is only part of the truth. Through pride we [can keep on] deceiving ourselves [much]. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice [hints that] something is out of tune. Never before has eternal truth been faced with such a hybris of will and power.

[C.G. Jung]

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