Election lies instill degree of voter doubt

The elections are over. But I'm afraid the lying is not.

I do mean lies. Not campaign promises, which often seem like they're made to be broken, or at least forgotten after election day. But outright lies. Whoppers.

Perhaps the lowest points in this lackluster election year were two local cases of candidates lying on their resumes. They were lying about their credentials. They were lying about their experience. They were lying through their teeth.

Voters are trained through experience to take campaign promises with a block of salt. But resumes used to be taken at face value.

No more.

Now, everything is in question. Nothing can be believed.

This atmosphere of suspicion plays to an old, cynical saying, often attributed to cops, blues singers and reporters. It goes something like this: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

That's what it's come to this year for us, the voters. I can only imagine, now that another strand of trust has been broken, it will just get worse.

The absence of trust dooms a society. Just look at Russia. Decades of cynicism and distrust have made the country collapse upon itself.

Liar, liar

Rebecca Prem Groppe ran for Hamilton County recorder. The Republican claimed she had a degree in humanities from the University of Cincinnati. Her campaign literature said it was a B.A. degree. Then she said it was a B.S.

In truth, she had no degree.

Rebecca Prem Groppe did go to UC. She took a bunch of courses. Gathered lots of credit hours. But not enough of the right ones to earn a diploma.

Arlie Lawson Jr. ran for sheriff in Warren County. The Democratic candidate campaigned on the pledge that he would run a ''squeaky clean'' department.

He missed a spot.

Mr. Lawson said he was a graduate of the FBI academy in Quantico, Va. He also said he was a former FBI agent. He was, in truth, none of the above.

He did take a 13-week course at Quantico. It was taught by FBI agents. But he was no agent. He was a security guard at a nuclear-weapons plant.

''We did car searches and carried a weapon,'' Mr. Lawson said of his guard duty, ''exactly the same as any police officer.''

In my younger days, I carried two pearl-handled, cap-shooting six-guns. I made believe I rode a horse and rounded up all the desperados from here to Tombstone's O.K. Corral. I thought I was Wyatt Earp. But I was 7 years old.

Arlie Lawson Jr. and Rebecca Prem Groppe are adults. They should know better.

Almost, but not quite

An easy excuse for both candidates is ''everybody does it.''

Willie Brown, the mayor of San Francisco, said so earlier this year. After the police chief for the city by the bay was found to be a few course credits shy of a full load for a degree, the mayor said: ''I don't know of anyone who doesn't lie on their resume.''

Can the job market be that tight? (A recent study of 100 University of Louisville students found that 95 percent of them would lie on their resume to get a job.) Or maybe ethics have just gotten that loose.

To say ''everybody does it'' is an easy excuse. But it is no justification for lying. In the end, lies take us all down. When you can't trust anyone to tell the truth, there is no foundation, no place we can stand together and plan for tomorrow.

Honest people work hard to earn their degrees. And other honest people believe them when they say they graduated.

In 1975, Stephen P. Kosky II graduated from Quantico and became a special agent for the FBI. The lawyer-turned-Cincinnati-based agent felt ''enormous pride'' when he received his badge in front of the other members of his class of 15.

Before they can even enter Quantico, Mr. Kosky said, prospective FBI agents ''have graduated from college and worked somewhere for three years.''

They apply to FBI school ''not as a lark, but to prevent crime, save lives and maintain our national security against terrorists. That's important stuff. You don't have to talk to these people about duty, honor, country.''

Or telling the truth.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.

Published Nov. 6, 1996.