We are accustomed to hearing from chronic, habitual and pathological liars in every strata of society from the golf course, the board room, the playing fields, to the White House. Some are easier to recognize than others. Tricky Dick Nixon with his sweat-soaked upper lip and shifty eyes was not a poster boy for truthfulness, while inexplicably a jury of ordinary citizens accepted O.J.’s improbable story, notwithstanding a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Is Kobe Bryant a rapist, Scott Petersen a murderer, Marion Jones a drug abuser, Bill Clinton a womanizer, Barry Bonds on steroids? Did John Ashcroft, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, G.W. Bush OK the use of torture in Iraqi and Afghanistan prisons, suspend the Geneva Convention and turn their backs on constitutionally guaranteed rights for detaining individuals without formal charges or the benefit of counsel?

Should a commitment to choice deny John Kerry, a Democrat, communion in his church, and not Arnold Schwartzenegger, a Republican with the same views?

Is it possible that our intelligence community lied about WMD’s in Iraq, lied about an Iraqi connection to 9/11, lied about Saddam posing an imminent threat to the U.S., all to justify an ill-advised, premature and poorly planned preemptive strike, which has nearly destroyed our allies’ respect for and trust in America?

The horror of 9/11 does not justify rewriting our Constitution or suspending our Bill of Rights under the guise of a Patriot Act. Despite the fact that the Iraqis and the rest of the world are better off without Saddam, it is not un-American to suggest the Iraqi occupation, like Viet-Nam, was a colossal blunder and a foreign policy disaster. The extraordinary cost in lives and dollars of a “mission not accomplished” and the prospects of an inescapable quagmire make it difficult to believe the President’s assertion that the War on Iraq is the front line for the War on Terror.

The State Department reported record low incidence of terrorism since the invasion, but the facts later refuted this report and showed record high levels. As yet there have been no known Iraqi-led terrorist incidents outside of Iraq and clearly the U.S. occupation has provided a righteous cause for the world’s Muslim extremists.

Are the vituperative and vitriolic accusations, which form the core of presidential campaign commercials for both parties, truthful or dreadfully distorted and wholly out of context?

Ken Starr spent nearly eight years and $70 million as the front man for a group committed to bring down the President, trying to prove predetermined wrongdoing as a result of the Clinton’s failed White Water investment, when from the beginning there was not a trace of evidence to support the tabloid talk show speculation and innuendo. Reagan got a pass, and probably rightfully so, on Iran Contra, by claiming he knew nothing about it, while Clinton was impeached for refusing to kiss and tell.

In a totalitarian state, the truth is only what the people in power say it is. Hitler conceived of the ultimate solution to cleanse his master race and nearly succeeded. Stalin, our ally, managed to do the same thing at the same time in Russia, while Milosevic brought ethnic cleansing into the high-tech 90’s. Saddam, Castro, The Taliban, Khadafi, the Ayatollah, Kim Jongil, determine the truth for their citizens, and abuse, imprison, or kill anyone who doesn’t support them.

In a democracy, individual citizens regularly decide who will hold the power and for how long. In the U.S. the power is divided between the executive, legislative and judicial branches with a unique set of checks and balances. In this writer’s lifetime Richard Nixon and Gray Davis were both turned out of office by the people. All of our laws are predicated on the rights of the individual and the assumption it is better for one hundred guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be convicted. U.S. citizens are free to disagree responsibly with anyone at anytime for any reason.

Having said that, some of the people who make, influence and enforce the laws are scary critters. It is difficult to imagine wanting to spend a long weekend with Tom DeLay, Antonine Scalia or Clarence Thomas. Others would feel the same about Ted Kennedy, James Carvel and Jesse Jackson.

It appears that we have ceded too much of our conception of truth to media personalities whose bias and ability to manipulate and distort information helps us to perpetuate lies, the more outlandish, the more readily accepted. While Al Franken, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buccanan, Fox News and NPR are not above reporting fact, it is the facts they choose to report and the way they interpret them that results in stories on the same day which paint George W. Bush as a thoughtful and dynamic leader and a Howdy Doody nincompoop, and John Kerry a multiple medal winner and war hero, and Commie-loving anti-war activist.

It unfortunately no longer seems possible for our leaders, Bush and Clinton, our heroes, Bonds and Bryant, to take the full responsibility for actions gone wrong, to admit mistakes or errors in judgment unless forced to do so. Clinton has written a book to tell us why he lied, and Bush continues to place all the blame for mistakes on his subordinates. If the media have convinced you that Rumsfeld knew nothing of interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib, Cheney nothing of Haliburton’s excesses, Bush nothing about the quality of intelligence regarding Saddam’s ability to endanger the U.S., then clearly you believe in the tooth fairy, and yes, there is a Santa Claus.