True, I might think somebody is lying and could say “I think he is lying”, but, coming right out and calling him a liar or a “promise breaker”, without having the solid facts in my court, to support my claims, is an animal of a different color.
Which gets me to a commentary by Lee Meredith, the very respected General Manager of WAFB TV which was posted on Facebook yesterday, as proof to me that Jon Bel Edwards is not the Honest Abe, he told us he would be, when he ran for Governor, last fall.
I have been insisting that there is no evidence that I have seen that proves that Jon Bel Edwards has lied or broken any promise concerning taxes, which he has proposed raising this year due to a horrendous $2.6 billion dollar shortfall. I have likewise asked others to prove to me that he has fibbed or broke his commitment, but, so far, nobody has provided me the proof or even the pudding.
The TV opinion appears to begin by suggesting that politicians feel the voters are not entitled to the truth because they cannot handle the truth.
Meredith seems to be making these points:
Only Jay Dardenne spoke the truth, saying tax increases would have to be on the table. He finished fourth. Specifically, the editorial stated:
"Of the four major candidates for governor in Louisiana, one person spoke the truth, saying that tax increases would have to be on the table for whoever who won the election.
Jay Dardenne said it, and of course, he finished fourth of the four major candidates running for office. Governor John Bel Edwards and the others promised to find options besides raising taxes.
We all know how long that promise lasted, not even until Governor Edwards was sworn in. And so it goes. We cannot handle the truth, and since just about every politician in America knows that, how can we blame them when they don’t give it to us?"
The editorial appears to be focused upon these points:
- Politicians don’t tell us the truth because they believe voters cannot handle it, therefore, the politicians feel they are not entitled to the truth.
- Only Jay Dardenne felt we were entitled to the truth, that we could handle it but, he finished fourth. The implication of that suggestion is that the voters, (in my opinion, particularly the Vitter voters, who slammed Dardenne for telling the truth), absolutely would not vote for anybody uttering the “t” word, which is one of the reasons the former Lt. Governor, came in fourth place. Thus, the self-fulfilling prophesy, if you tell the truth about taxes, you will get slammed, which is why Edwards, Vitter and Angelle did not tell us the truth.
- Edwards and others promised to find other options besides raising taxes but, the governor broke the promise, even before he was sworn into office.
- Politicians don’t tell us the truth and since they don’t, we can’t blame them since we don’t know better, which is part of the self-fulfilling prophecy, once again.
Some of the anti-Edwards crowd (many of them voted for Vitter) who have been bent upon catching the new governor in a lie or a broken promise is taking this commercial as a vindication that Edwards broke a promise and that he lied, which would be the ultimate destruction of the character of a man who promised us that he would not lie or embarrass the State of Louisiana.
If one accepts the implications of the words of Meredith as being correct, that is, Edwards lied and broke a promise, it necessarily follows, that since the TV newsman said only Dardenne told the truth, then, Vitter also lied about the issue of raising taxes. Thus, the logical argument would be--don’t be so uppity about Edwards lying since it seems WAFB is saying your own candidate was not being very honest, either.
Meredith is not the only media person who appears not to believe Edwards. Others suggest that since he was in the legislature, and a high official, he knew or should have known about the worsening budget situation.
However, in making these claims, they offer no actual proof that Edwards or anybody else knew that the fiscal situation was growing much rockier when they were making these statements during the past elections.
Simply because a media person renders a belief, whether it comes from me, or anybody else, does not make it gospel. If we do not provide facts that can be scrutinized and verified, our opinions are just that, opinions. No more, no less.
Maybe Edwards didn’t fully disclose what he knew or believed just as perhaps Angelle and Vitter did not. Months ago, I personally applauded Dardenne after the debate for telling the truth about the budget when he said that everything would be on the table. You might remember, some of the Vitter supporters and his camp slammed Dardenne for speaking what he thought was the truth—everything should be considered.
However, we don’t know for certain what Edwards knew or did not know because so far, none of those people attacking his credibility have presented any real facts to bolster their argument.
A LIE AND A PROMISE
For Edwards to have lied about the future budget and taxes, it would be necessary that he knew he was going to raise taxes while saying he would not do so. That is, he would have said, “I will not raise taxes” while knowing he was going to do so.
For Edwards to have broken a promise about not raising taxes, he would have needed to say, “I will not raise taxes under any circumstances, or perhaps the infamous, “no new taxes”. Perhaps he did promise such but I certainly have not heard or seen such statements.
However, what Meredith alluded to, for me, is not a lie nor a broken promise. Perhaps, he might want to reconsider his TV statement.
Specifically and again, speaking on behalf of the station, the General Manager said, “Edwards and others promised to find other options besides raising taxes but, the governor broke the promise, even before he was sworn into office”.
The operative words to scrutinize? “Promised” and “besides”
According to Merriam Webster, a promise is “a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified”.
WAFB appears to be combining promises and lies which makes it seem as if they are one and the same. According to the same dictionary, a lie is 1. to make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive or 2. To create a false or misleading impression.
Thus, one can have every intention to keep a promise, can be totally honest about that intent, yet, do not maintain that commitment. A wedding vow, for instance, is a promise and unfortunately, we all know how many of those have been broken.
A lie, however, is a species of its own. It requires a certain scienter, knowledge and deception. For instance, a husband or wife saying, “I did not have the affair”, when knowing, he or she, in fact, did. That would be a lie, not a promise.
Thus, for anyone, particularly a TV station to accuse the candidates of lying, I would think they would need to know what was in the candidates’ heads at the time of the statements. Or, they would need to present information, so convincing, not speculative, that the candidates knew they would be raising taxes despite claiming the contrary.
Vitter, Edwards and Angelle, might have felt and believed taxes would not necessarily be needed to be raised. They might have stated so based upon their knowledge and belief, at the time. If either Vitter or Angelle had been elected and now were to recommend raising a tax, could we legitimately call them liars for changing their minds? Yes, if we have clear evidence they intended to deceive. No, if we don’t. The same goes for Edwards.
We don’t know what any of them thought, or if someone does, to the best of my knowledge, they certainly have not yet come forward with the facts and I invite them to do so.
Again, in my view, for someone to accuse Edwards of lying about raising taxes, they would need to prove that Edwards had the intention to raise taxes at the time he said he would NOT raise taxes.
Which gets us to the “promise” and the alleged breaking of any commitment.
What exactly did Edwards and the others say about raising taxes? Did any of them say, he would “not raise taxes under any circumstance”? We do know they did not want to raise taxes or at least, that is what they said or implied? Had anyone of the candidates said, “I will not raise taxes, under any circumstance”, I would consider that to be a promise. How about, if one said, “I will not raise taxes”, but he left out the reference of under any circumstances? Would that be a commitment to a lesser degree? Some might think so. Which is why, in many respects, a broken promise just might be in the eye of the beholder or in the minds of the recipients of the statement.
Now, what if any of the candidates absolutely believed they would be able to manage the budget without taxes, but unfortunately, all hell broke loose that would now require additional revenues in the form of taxes--certainly more than previously anticipated? Obviously, the statement that was firmer and all inclusive would likely be viewed to more people as a broken promise, regardless of the changed circumstance. Despite the severity of the unanticipated circumstance or intervening event, some might argue and demand a “promise made, a promise must be kept”. Others, however, might legitimately feel, that both statements, particularly, the latter, must be weighed against the burden befalling upon statement made, especially, if events developed that could not reasonably have been anticipated.
For instance, if I were to say, “I will drive you to Florida on Monday”, but, on Monday morning, my car breaks down and I have no reasonable means to fulfill the commitment. Would this be a broken promise? Or, what if I made the same statement and on Monday morning, I encounter a death in the family? Am I a promise breaker? In either case were to occur, the recipient of the commitment just might be understanding and not complain about a “broken promise”. If the next US President vows to not raise a penny tax but suddenly, without provocation, we are attacked on all sides. If we need to raise taxes to defend ourselves, or perish, has the President broken a promise?
So, what exactly did Meredith state in his commentary? He started the sentence by stating, “Edwards and others promised to find other options besides raising taxes”. I personally don’t recall any of them saying they would absolutely not raise taxes. All of them said they might be forced to raise revenues. In fact, raising revenues or taxes is exactly what happened this past year under Bobby Jindal, or at least, so said his former Chief of Staff, Stephen Waguespack of Louisiana Association of Business and industry, who said taxes were raised by over $750 million dollars. Actually, just yesterday, Treasurer John Kennedy told me in an interview that roughly $800 million dollars in taxes on businesses were raised during the year, this coming from a legislature and a governor, clearly interested in not doing so, in fear of voter animus during an election year.
Let’s take a closer look at just what the General Manager said--Edwards and others promised to find “other options besides raising taxes”. By the very words Meredith used in that TV spot, did he say the candidates, particularly Edwards, said he would not raise taxes? Let’s see…
BESIDES, NOW WHAT’S THE QUESTION?
The definition of “besides”? According to our friends at Merriam Webster, the word means, “in addition to”, “other than”.
Employing these definitions, let’s look at the words the station used.
They made the statement, “Jon Bel Edwards and others promised to find other options besides raising taxes”. Substituting besides, the statement reads, that they “promised to find other options in addition to raising taxes”. Or, they promised to find other options “other than raising taxes. Thus, based upon the TV commentary, Edwards (and the other candidates), absolutely did not rule out raising taxes, did not promise not to raise taxes and said at the very minimum, would be raising taxes AND would be finding other options.
Again, as I have written in the past, I am not saying Edwards and the other candidates did not make a promise NOT to raise taxes. Nor am I saying that he (and the others) did not lie about raising taxes. I am, however, saying, that so far, I have not seen any evidence presented to date that shows that he (or any of the other candidates) were taking taxes off the table.
PROMISE ME ANYTHING
As far as the question of “breaking a promise”, let us assume he said, “I promise unconditionally, to not raise taxes, under any circumstance, to death do us part”.
I would assume such a statement to be ironclad although again, one could argue that intervening events totally out of one’s control could legitimately excuse the commitment.
Certainly, I do not recall even a statement of a lesser degree such as “no new taxes”.
So far, it appears what we have is a candidate Edwards expressing his preference or desire or plan, that is, not to raise taxes, which statements have become a subject a controversy, (and a vehicle of political attack by those unhappy with the elections outcome), once the Edwards team had access to more and the books. On Monday, I asked the Governor about his knowledge of the changing revenue terrain.
Governor, a number of people are saying that you should have known The major budget, the 1.9 and the 750 million, so, could you just give us a timeline, in terms of when did you know, how did you find out
I would just remind you that in November, the joint legislative committee on the budget met to consider a proposal by Gov. Jindal to eliminate the current midyear problem which at that point stood at $437M. They did everything Governor Jindal asked them to do and today, we're sitting here with the 750 million dollar problem. Which by the time the REC meets on February 10, We could be at $800 million dollars. So, how i could have anticipated that, I don't know. We all knew we had a problem in the next fiscal year. I would just tell you that the problem is larger by the factor of at least two, then we knew about as recently as October and November. And while the price of oil certainly has exacerbated the impact on this, it is still, a relatively small part of the problem. We have had irresponsible and basically dishonest budgeting in our state for a number of years now and the roost, the chickens have come home to roost. This is just where we are. we're not just going to continue on this path, we're going to do things about it. By doing things better, there's going to be some short-term pain associated with this. There's no way around it. This is not the situation i wanted to step into. Any governor would rather have a one billion dollar surplus to start off, rather than a 1.9B shortfall. But, we are where we are and we need (inaudible)
Maybe Mr. Meredith and others had inside knowledge about what Edwards (and presumably Vitter) knew the last days prior to election day after the REC met in November. If so, perhaps they should have pinned the candidates down with questions, such as, Mr. Edwards or Mr. Vitter, since the REC has just announced a whopping $1.9B budget deficit for 2017 and an outstanding $750M hole for the remainder of 2016, do you promise not to raise taxes? Or, “Mr. Candidate, just how bad is the budget situation, based upon the best of your knowledge”.
If they did ask these question or anything close to them, hopefully, they will reveal them (and the responses) during their next commentary.
Besides, if anyone has documented evidence that Edwards knew he would be raising taxes while stating he won’t, perhaps you will share this information to us.
Meanwhile, we’ll be watching.