To paraphrase something which Sen. Moynihan is credited with saying, " All of us are entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts." This past week I got embroiled in a fruitless discussion of the attack in Benghazi. Some of those involved cited "facts" that I could not verify. The one I came closest to tracking down was the assertion that a General in Stuttgart had been arrested when he tried to send troops to Benghazi. After a little research I discovered that Gen. Carter Ham, who commanded the Africa Command, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, was in Washington on the day of the attack and was replaced as head of Africa Command a month later. Was his being replaced prompted by his disagreeing with the Secretary of Defense's decisions about responding to the attack? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.
When I had the temerity to suggest that the statement about an arrest might not be true, my comment was dismissed as a defense of he President's lies by one of those in the discussion. It appears that the convictions of some folks that the President is lying are immune from facts. Of course we can make light of conspiracy theories - as the TV show "Bones" did when one of its character said that Monica Lewinsky was a KGB trained sex agent - but conspiracy theories and other totally unfounded statements ave a way of creeping into discussions of public policy. Remember the Obamacare "death panels"? Having to answer that lie over and over again made the discussion of the actual provisions in the bill a bit more difficult.
The story of a comment of Benjamin Franklin's at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 may be apocryphal, but it does express an important truth about this country. Asked, "What we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?" Franklin responded, " A Republic, if you can keep it." As President Shepherd says at the end of "An American President" democracy is hard work. Part of that hard work, one thing we need to do to keep the Republic left to us is to pay attention to facts. Political decisions based upon rumor will not serve us well.