When you’re 6 years old, people tend to cut you a little slack when you tell stories.
That’s what my mom used to call it, when, as a child, I said something that wasn’t true. I was “telling stories.”
It was a gentle way of saying that I was lying perhaps with a softer edge about whether or not I was intending to mislead.
But when you’re grown, living in the public eye and hoping to lead our country, you can’t be “telling stories.”
We’ve had enough stories this week from major players in the Republican Party to start a new storybook of fairy tales.
Secret plans, biological revisionism, skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee or health care follies, it’s enough to make you wonder if Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and former Gov. Mitt Romney are auditioning for a comeback of the doomed sitcom “Men Behaving Badly. ”
In an alcohol-fueled visit to the Holy Land, Yoder decided to dispense with his clothes and take a nude swim in the Sea of Galilee. Joined by a handful of other GOP representatives, Yoder skinny dipped where Jesus walked on water, recruited disciples and may have fed the multitudes.
Yoder kept it simple: I did it; I’m sorry.
The same can’t be said for U.S. Rep. Todd Akin.
The problem is not that Akin is a dunderhead, although he certainly is.
The problem isn’t that he misspoke or used the wrong word.
The problem is that he appears to have just made up a justification for a policy — denying women who are the victims of rape the ability to end a pregnancy that’s the result of a violent, aggressive attack — to fit his worldview.
It’s like saying President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. Just not true.
Akin supports making all abortion illegal. And to get there, he’s willing to ignore any inconvenient facts and make up a few of his own, including the whopper that women who are raped don’t get pregnant because their bodies’ reproductive system shuts down.
He even goes to the point of adopting nonsensical language. Akin referred to “legitimate rape” in the remarks that set off the current firestorm. He then clarified that he meant “forcible rape.”
This notion of “forcible rape” is offensive, ridiculous and completely ignores the reality of what rape is and what rape isn’t.
As President Obama said so well, “rape is rape.”
“And the idea that we should be parsing, qualifying and slicing what qualifies as rape doesn’t make sense to me,” the president continued.
There’s an underlying notion that women can’t be trusted. That they’ll lie about being raped. That somehow, some women — wink, wink, you know the type — are responsible for the attack that they have suffered.
Akin is telling stories. He’s also lying. And, like Maine’s Republicans have said, he has no place in the leadership of our country.
I hope that Republicans, shaken awake by the extreme positions some in their party hold, will stand up to efforts to restrict a woman’s ability to control her own body. Otherwise, the disgust aimed at Akin is just another story.
Closer to home, LePage started bragging last week during a Republican fundraiser about a secret plan to convene a special session of the Legislature. He said his secret plan would stick it to Democrats and change the state for the next decade.
It took less than 12 hours for Mike Tipping, a Bangor Daily News blogger, to get ahold of LePage’s words and post them online.
The details of his secret, game-changing plan remain undisclosed, but a leak about the details suggest that the idea was hardly as the governor sold it to GOP funders.
The truth? Who knows for sure? But once again, the governor got caught telling stories.
He was clearly upset hearing his words come back on him. He’s refused to talk about what his plans were. He told House Democratic Leader Emily Cain the special session was off. But he’s backtracked on that.
When asked about the conversation with Cain, he told WCSH 6, “I lie a lot.” Then he said, “You guys tell me I lie a lot.” I suspect we’ll hear this clip for the next two years.
And now Mitt Romney. Romney would like to be president. But so far, he’s based much of his campaign on telling stories, including a whopper about Medicare.
Trying to cover his ticket’s own efforts to change Medicare into a coupon program, Romney is, according to an editorial in The New York Times, growing more and more inaccurate as he tries to defame the president. He’s trying to scare seniors into thinking the President is hurting Medicare. Not true.
As the editorial states: “In the Medicare arena, the choice is between a Democratic approach that wants to retain Medicare as a guaranteed set of benefits with the government paying its share of the costs even if costs rise, and a Republican approach that wants to limit the government’s spending to a defined level, relying on untested market forces to drive down insurance costs.”
Here’s cheap advice. Stop making stuff up and stop telling stories.
David Farmer is a political and media consultant. He was formerly deputy chief of staff and communications director for Gov. John E. Baldacci and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dfarmer14.