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Politicians owe voters at least the truth

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Any reasonable adult knows that Facebook can be full of misleading and downright incorrect information.

But we expect our elected leaders – such as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. – to meet a higher standard. Durbin has failed in that regard.

About a week ago, here’s what Durbin posted on Facebook: “Many Republicans searching for something to say in defense of the disastrous shutdown strategy will say President Obama just doesn’t try hard enough to communicate with Republicans. But in a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you.’ ” Durbin then said it’s hard to deal openly and honestly with someone so disrespectful.

But the incident never occurred. Aides to Republican leaders said Durbin’s account wasn’t accurate, and then White House press secretary Jay Carney added later in the week: “I looked into this and spoke with somebody that was in that meeting, and it did not happen.”

The White House later reaffirmed that the incident never occurred but tried to pass it off as a miscommunication between the White House and Senate Democrats. The White House said the miscommunication occurred when Senate Democrats were briefed about the meeting with Republicans.

Durbin posted on Facebook that he appreciated the clarification and added, “It’s important now to move beyond the unfortunate events of the last few weeks and work together constructively so that we’re not faced with another showdown or debt-ceiling debacle.”

So, it’s pretty clear that the incident never happened.

There is a growing trend among many – including some media – to simply pass on everything they hear as being the truth. We’ve seen that for years in erroneous emails that make the rounds and are forwarded by users that never stop to check and see if what they are forwarding is true. It’s safe to say that politics and the truth are often further apart than ever.

But that doesn’t excuse Durbin’s behavior. In his powerful position, he has to exercise better judgment. He has to understand that if information is coming from him, it should be truthful. He should have confirmed the story before posting it. That’s especially important because he didn’t witness it in person.

Durbin’s mistake certainly won’t help the already-strained relationships in Congress. How can Republicans “work together constructively” with a senator who is so quick to post accusations that aren’t true?

Voters should expect, and receive, more from their elected leaders. In this case, Durbin failed to perform in a manner that adequately represents his position, or his constituents.

(Decatur) Herald & Review

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