This is hard to believe, but an awesome 30 years have passed since a major politician ran on a clearly stated platform of not lying.
"I will not lie to the American people," Jimmy Carter said as he set out to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1976.
As soon as he spoke, hordes of reporters and rival politicians gathered to prove Carter was not above lying. (Yes, folks, your humble correspondent was a charter member of the Carter May Lie Club.) In the end, "I will not lie to you" became a hallmark of Carter's successful campaign.
Carter's presidency (1977-1981) generally receives poor historical reviews, though he put in place several economic and defense policies that later served the nation well. He also avoided war. Carter has turned out to be the highest-achieving ex-president in history, performing good deeds worldwide. Carter's recent book, "Our Endangered Values," is on target in dealing with the threat of religious extremism and the blurring of the lines between conservative government and radical churches. Of the stack of volumes he has written since leaving office, "Endangered Values" may be his best.
Whatever else is said about Carter, his presidency somehow returned the country to a rational and moral course in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate and an epidemic of lying and deception in the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
The time may be ripe for a new generation of politicians to dedicate themselves to truth-telling and honesty.
The public appears more than ready. Nevermind the campaign to post the Ten Commandments in courthouses. Posting is simply the first and easiest step. Let's start a campaign to read and obey the Commandments.
The developing Washington lobbying scandal is, at bottom, a billion dollars worth of scams built on a mountainous chain of cheating and lying.
Lobbyists set up a "faith-based" group to receive and distribute bribes. The faith-based organization was merely a cover and a lie. Influence peddlers took money from Indian tribes to promote gambling, and then took money from other tribes to stop gambling. And who knows how much dirty dough changed hands to induce lawmakers to "get right"? In the future, confessed congressional corrupter Jack Abramoff's name may become shorthand for "deceiver" and "liar."
Washington has told so many tales about the reasons for invading Iraq that no one seems to know what to believe. By the way, regardless of our president's cheerful assessment, New Orleans remains devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Let's be fair. Official Washington engages in habitual deception because we tolerate it. Polls show a large majority of people think members of Congress are dishonest. Yet, if recent history is an accurate barometer, 98 percent of our U.S. representatives will be re-elected in November. Deceiving the people does not begin and end in the District of Columbia. It permeates all levels of government.
In the state Capitol, legislative leaders have taken the official position that taxpayers do not have a right to know the truth about how their money is spent on economic development projects, several of which are dubious at best.
As noted earlier, Gov. Sonny Perdue may have delivered the most eloquent speech of his life last week.
On close inspection, however, Perdue's State of the State address to the Legislature and the public was so loaded with deceptions and contradictions that one can only believe the governor thought his audience was a convention of dimwits.
He pledged to upgrade public schools, yet he proposed cutting basic education budgets to the bone.
He bragged that he inherited and remedied a budget shortfall from his predecessor. He failed to mention that his administration has borrowed record sums through bond programs. (Note: Call the attorney general. If former Gov. Roy Barnes or any of his recent predecessors departed office with a budget shortfall, they violated state law. The Georgia Constitution demands balanced budgets.)
Perdue has repeatedly taken a public get-tough stand on ethics, but he proposes cutting the State Ethics Commission's budget to half the level the commission says it needs to enforce the laws.
The governor promises to protect property rights from intrusive government and then backs legislation to decrease the people's ability to learn how government plans to abuse those rights.
When Perdue testified under oath that he did not participate in State Patrol personnel matters and two of the governor's top subordinates swore that he did, no one even blinked.
Enough of this. Perdue may not be the principal state culprit. He is just the most visible.
After three decades, if truth-telling time has indeed returned, let's hear it from the candidates in this election year. Perhaps we could start with testimony from Ralph Reed, who might rescue his bid for lieutenant governor by telling the electorate the whole truth and nothing but the truth about his lobbying career. Voters love candidates who confess and repent.
Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. Write him at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.billshipp.com. His column appears on Wednesday and Sunday.