PERSPECTIVErnJesting With Pilaternby Thomas FlemingrnAmericans pretend to be shoeked whenever one of their nationalrncelebrities gets caught out in a lie. Is it really so surprisingrnthat Michael Jordan should attempt to conceal hisrngambling or that Bill Clinton should hide his cochonnerie?rnMy European friends—some of them highly moral and religiousrnmen—never tire of ridiculing us for our Parson Wccmsianrnnaivete. The scandal industry, so lucrative in these UnitedrnStates, is strictly a mom-and-pop business in France and Italy.rnSpy magazine attracted attention with “Bill Clinton’s Firstrn100 Lies,” but who would dream of wasting paper on Mitterrand’srnlies—or his mistresses, for that matter?rnIf Americans, as a people, take lies seriously, why do wernhave a national holiday for a plagiarist but not for the father ofrnour country, who was almost as truthful as Parson Wecmsrnmade him out to be? Why was there so little outcry whenrnDonna Shalala, apparently egged on by Senator Simon, confiscatedrnthe data of two NIH researchers who had designed arnplagiarism detector? Their crime, it seems, was to have unmaskedrna pop historian as a career plagiarist.rnOur entertainment industry is as honest as a WWFrnwrestling match in which surgically reconfigured stars likernCher and Michael Jackson arc lip-synched, dubbed and redubbed,rnspliced, patched, and remixed for films, discs, andrnvideos that win prizes for enthralling the little gammas andrndeltas who give box-office records to Steven Spielberg. If therernis a national icon, it is Milli Vanilli.rnThe most basic lie of all is that ours is a free country, a representativerndemocracy established by the Constitution of 1787.rnEven the ghost of that system was dissipated by our Presidentfor-rnLife, Franklin Roosevelt, in whose four terms many of thernworst official lies sent their spores into every nook and crannyrnof our national institutions.rnFDR was the master of lies, from the doctored photo-recordrnthat made him appear a robust physical specimen, when in factrnhe was physically, not just morally, a cripple, to his manufacturedrnreputation for brilliance and erudition. “He never toldrnthe truth when a lie would serve,” was Douglas MacArthur’srnjudgment, and that verdict could ht virtually every occupant ofrnthe White House since FDR’s timely demise. Bob Dole lostrnthe Republican nomination by telling the truth, and he wasrnwidely criticized as a bad sport when he publicly resented thernlies George Bush was telling about him. It is easy to predict thernoutcome of American elections: the better liar neady alwaysrnwins.rn”And ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus in John’s Gospel,rn”and the truth shall make you free.” But in a culture so deeplyrndishonest, we cannot acknowledge the truth even in privaterncompany, even in our own hearts, lest we blurt out some truismrnabout the sun rising in the East, or boys being boys (or not,rnas the ease may too often be). If we cannot be honest with our-rn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn