Don't Vote for Mitt or Trust Best Buy

Indulge me in a story that explains why I’ll never vote for Mitt Romney or trust Best Buy. Back when I taught public high school I had an eighth-grade kid whom I watched take the paper from a (much brighter) student and copy answers onto his own exam. When I confronted him, he remarked, “I didn’t no nuthin…” “Really?” I asked. “You didn’t just take Randy’s paper off his desk?” “Nope,” said he. “Dude! I just watched you do it.” “No, you didn’t” he insisted, even as I held Randy’s paper aloft. He continued to hold onto his lie, even as I explained to him that his major accomplishment was to make one problem (cheating) into two (+ lying), and then a third (+ calling me a liar). His arrogance led to a fourth and fifth—a trip to the principal’s office and a parent/teacher conference.

Moral of the story: If you do something you regret, have the courage to own up to it and never compound your woes by lying about it. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t, so I’m not making a plea for sainthood, but I will appeal to Socrates and what philosophers call “virtue ethics.” Back in my high school teaching days I took (for fun no less!) an ethics course at St. Michael’s College from a wise and kind man named Peter Tumulty. We read (among others) Socrates, who insisted that it’s never virtuous to do something that you know is wrong. Professor Tumulty took us through opposing viewpoints and exceptions, but he held no truck with branches of modern thought known as “situational ethics” and “moral relativism.” One might, Professor Tumulty insisted, be able to argue that a lie is necessary if it prevented a greater evil, but one should never deceive oneself into thinking that made lying ethical or virtuous; above all, one should never confuse lying in pursuit of self-interest with virtue.

This is why I wouldn’t consider voting for Romney; he is, in my estimation, a person of low moral character who is short on honor and virtue. He reminds me a lot of my naughty, haughty eighth-grader. To say he’s no Socrates doesn’t even begin to get at it. If I might hazard an off-color analogy, Mitt’s like a with his pants to his knees man and a hooker in the back seat who insists the two of them were just doing a tick check. Mitt can spin it from here to Salt Lake City, but Obama’s healthcare plan is Romney’s plan—the very one in place here in Massachusetts where I live. (Disclosure: I’m a single-payer supporter who’d gladly socialize healthcare, but as private plans go, the Massachusetts system is about as good as these get.) Now comes the revelation that Romney left Bain—it should have been spelled Bane—Capital in 2002, not 1999 as he’s been insisting for the past 13 years. Romney continues to lie about this even though the paper trail is clear. It’s not some smear tactic by his political enemies; the evidence—much of in his own words and those of his wife—is overwhelming. Gee, Mitt, how did those papers end up on your desk? I suppose some hypothetical Randy must have planted them there.

Mitt can spin it like an eighth-grader, but the bottom line is that he’s lying and his motive is pure self-interest. His spin is unethical, lacks virtue, and is without honor. I can almost hear the anti-Obama crowd chant, “All politicians lie and Obama lies worse.” And this would be a defense of what exactly? If I know anything from observing politics it is that it never ends well when a politician lies. Ask Bill Clinton. Or Larry Craig. Or Newt Gingrich. Or Henry Hyde. Or Eliot Spitzer. Or Richard Nixon. Or even (conservative saint) Ronald Reagan. (Iran Contra didn’t end so well, did it?) Maybe Obama does lie, but thus far no one has caught him with his pants to his knees. (If someone does, he should be held accountable.)
My problem with the all-politicians-lie argument brings me to Best Buy. Americans have become too comfortable allowing lies told in naked self interest to go forth without question or accountability. A recent Best Buy flyer came with this assertion that all of its Apple products were “on sale.” Except… that’s a big deception. Apple discounts only for educators, military personnel, and employees. An Airbook, iPhone, or iPad is supposed to cost the same everywhere unless the item is discontinued, the store is in liquidation, the retailer strikes a sweetheart deal with Apple, or the merchant is violating an agreement with Apple. The latter two scenarios happen, but neither was the case with Best Buy; it merely advertised Apple’s own promotions as if they were uniquely its own. In truth, you’ll get the same deal whether you buy at the Apple Store, Best Buy, or Shifty Mitt’s Fly-By-Night Electronics. In other words, Best Buy became Best Lie out of self-interest. Just like Mitt Romney. And that’s a good reason to avoid them both. If you lie to me before I’ve even purchased the product, why should I believe you’d honor your warranty?      

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