|THE PAULA GORDON SHOW|
|Justice — Obstructed & Defiled|
Lies are endangering one of America’s most fundamental aspirations -- justice. James Stewart is especially alarmed by lies told by prominent people. His book Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America, uses convicted criminals Martha Stewart, “Scooter” Libby, Bernie Madoff, and Barry Bond to show how lies poison democracy.
“When people start lying to get somewhere, when they start lying to achieve something, and in fact when they're already successful and celebrated and then they lie to maintain their status, I think that is corrosive. Telling lies under oath brings the judicial system to its knees,” Mr. Stewart says.
“Martha Stewart was convicted of lying. She deserved to be convicted. The evidence is overwhelming. Yet to this day she goes around saying that she's innocent. Well, I guess that's her prerogative (but) she doesn't stop there. She's saying she was persecuted because she's a successful woman, undermining confidence and integrity of the judicial system. And that is a huge lie. You can certainly make the argument that she got off EASY because she was a successful woman.”
Holding people accountable for their lies is hardly new, Mr. Stewart reminds us.
“Perjury has been a crime since this country was founded. It was a crime in Medieval England. It was a crime in Ancient Rome. Why? Because the obligation to tell the truth in a court is one of the planks of civilization.
“You think Barry Bonds is the only person who lied in that steroid investigation? There was so much lying! People say everyone was taking steroids? No, everyone was not taking steroids. Hank Aaron didn't take steroids. To let Bonds keep the home run crown is not only unjust, it’s committing an injustice to the person who deserves it. I think that infuriates fair-minded people. Bonds was finally brought to trial more than eight years after his alleged false statements. Why so long? Because all the witnesses in this case were lying. If his trainer had given truthful testimony, the case would have been over in six weeks. Not eight and a half years and millions of taxpayer dollars.
“We have appalling examples at the top of our government. You see it with ‘Scooter’ Libby. He was not wrongly convicted. There was a massive amount of evidence. (President George W.) Bush said, ‘No I'm not going to pardon him.’ But then (Bush) commuted the sentence. Now what is the difference? Bush essentially condoned perjury by saying (Libby) did not have to serve his sentence.
“(Bernie Madoff) is one of the most shocking stories I've ever reported. He was a terrible liar! (The SEC) wouldn't refer their case to the Justice Department for further investigation. Why? I think in part it’s what happens when even law enforcement itself comes from the view that, ‘Oh well, everyone is doing it, why single out this guy when everyone else is getting away with it,’ and just kind of shrugging. This is a terrible state of affairs!”
The simplest thing emerging from his work, Mr. Stewart concludes, is this: “The truth is the supreme virtue. If you are ever called as a witness --if you're ever sworn to tell the truth -- it is our moral and civic duty to tell it, whatever the consequence might be.”
[This Program was recorded May 16, 2011, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]
... journalist and author. James Stewart has won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the 1987 stock market crash and insider trading. Formerly Page One editor of the Wall Street Journal, he is now a business columnist for The New York Times. Mr. Stewart is perhaps best known for his 1991 book, Den of Thieves. He practiced law until 1979 and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker.
Anthony Lewis (Freedom for the Thought That We Hate) argues forcefully for the importance of the First Amendment and for its role in curtailing injustice and in clarifying our understanding of what "justice" means in America.
Throughout his career (Sir) Harold Evans has demonstrated the vital role of journalists in exposing injustice.
Since his time as Richard Nixon's White House Counsel, John Dean has written at length about the modern Republican Party's contempt for government. Mr. Dean has also had substantive experience with a President subverting justice.
In FIASCO, Frank Partnoy lays out Wall Street's appalling abuses of public trust which create the kind of environment in which Bernie Madoff thrived.
Oddly, James Carse's description of "belief systems" (The Religious Case Against Belief) presents an accurate picture of Mr. Stewart's four antagonists. Each seems to have a belief centered solely on themselves.
Alan Dershowitz wrote The Genesis of Justice to show how the Hebrew notion of justice evolved from the strikingly unjust behavior of Yahweh recorded in the book of Genesis.
Cornel West argues (Democracy Matters) that America has a unique opportunity to combine three traditions to help move along the development of democracy: the Jewish tradition of justice, the Greek tradition of democratic dialogue and the African American experience of tragi-comic hope.
Psychobiologist Frans de Waal sees the origins of justice in the evolved adaptive behaviors of great apes and, more generally, in social animals. Philosopher Frederick Ferré also finds the basis for ethical behavior in the evolution of our universe. Experimental biologist Stuart Kauffman points to the agency of early animal life as part of the biological continuum leading to justice and its absence.
When the people of a nation are the origin of a country’s power, we have special responsibilities to hold each other accountable. Justice requires it. In addition to telling the truth ourselves, we also need to be told the truth by those we entrust with gathering and sharing what we call “news”. James B. Stewart sets an appropriately high standard both as a reporter and as a citizen. We roundly applaud his willingness to do the work necessary on both counts.