Politico just recently posted a fascinating article by Michael Kinsley entitled Being Honest Is The Least Of It, addressing the elusive quality of intellectual honesty. A virtue he described as, "being truthful about what’s going on inside your own head."
If you take any time consider the idea it's almost impossible not to realize both the absolute importance as well as its positively shameful neglect in politics as well as in the day to day. Compromise and intellectual dishonestly have become a prevalent facet of every day life; as we reason that our little white lies pay off when you consider our cause for the greater good. But Kinsley counters that by stating,
"...you shouldn’t say anything that you don’t believe is true. But that’s just to start ...Your views on, say, the constitutional limits of presidential war powers should not turn on which party controls the presidency. Your views on one subject should be consistent with your views on all other subjects. And if you’re going to base your reelection campaign on your opponent’s 20-year-old arrest for drunken driving. . .you need to have handy an explanation of why you believe that this is one of the most pressing issues facing voters."
Kinsley then proceeds to illustrate the prevalent intellectual dishonesty which has become such an integral part of Washington politics that "you have to force yourself to notice it." He illustrates this, referring to Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who Kinsley scathingly describes as having "a capacity for intellectual dishonesty that can take your breath away. He can denounce President Barack Obama’s health care reform with such apparent sincerity and venom that you forget his own plan in Massachusetts was essentially the same." Kinsley doesn't mince his words in the slightest as he proceeds to sarcastically hypothesize that Romney would,
"If he thought there was some political advantage in asserting that two plus two is five...be out there within minutes with a speech about how business had taught him a thing or two that these government bureaucrats will never understand and promising that in his administration two plus two will equal six."
It's affronting and frightening to consider all the intellectual dishonesty that goes on in Washington in both parties. Everyone supposedly knows that government is almost always corrupt, but very few of us without political aspirations ourselves care to think too much about it. We prefer to just brush it off, leave it to someone else to ponder the dilemma.
But if we simply dismiss it we are failing to realize that intellectual dishonesty does not simply start upon arrival in Washington. It begins in the foundation of the country, which are the people.
Suzanne Necker said, "fortune does not change men; it unmasks them." Intellectual dishonesty does not become a character flaw only after a person gains power or platform for which they seek support. It is already a habit present in the choices they make and the sides they take during the "inconsequential" day to day. Putting an end to that habit in Washington means nipping it as it tries to bud in the everyman. Washington simply shows the overall temperature of the country.
Kinsley concludes with the admission that "absolute intellectual honesty is something I’ve never actually seen in anyone inside Washington or out, politician or journalist or diplomat," but that it is something he aspires to.
Kinsley's article has inspired me, to look for intellectual honesty in others, and more importantly, to strive for it in myself. In my political views, but most of all, in the every day.