I was floored this morning when I happened to see former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (Asian America’s governor?) plugging his new movie on “FOX and Friends.” Given the big stories of the day (the Lance Armstrong interview, Manti Te’o, the upcoming Obama inaugural), one of Fox’s blond clones asked Schwarzenegger a serious question:
“What do you make of the culture that we live in now where more and more people, including yourself, find themselves in situations where they have lied?”
“Well, I’ve never lied,” said Schwarzenegger.
(When I saw and heard that, I needed a second to screw my eyes back in my head.)
“Never lied…about?” the stunned interviewer asked.
“No, you’re talking about my scandal I had?” Schwarzenegger shot back. “I came very clean. When my wife asked me the simple question, is this true, I said yes. I went out to the public and I immediately said, ‘Here’s the situation. I fathered the kid, end of story.’ I never beat around the bush because the fact is, it’s always the hiding, the cover-ups that get you in deeper trouble.”
Of course, if you’re covering up the truth way after the fact, as Schwarzenegger was in the interview, then you’re just re-inventing history with your own truth. Not lying. And like Schwarzenegger said, he’s never lied.
Surely, having an affair and fathering a kid was living a lie. But when it comes to American royalty, our star actors, athletes, and politicians (in Schwarzenegger we have a three-fer), we must fully expect our egotists to be master rationalizers.
Everything’s OK until you get caught.
And then it’s all about the quality of one’s squirm.
Some squirm better than others. And some are just plain slimy.
It’s the reason Lance Armstrong’s interview with pop culture’s mother confessor, Oprah Winfrey, is such a backfiring debacle for the doping cyclist.
In part one of the interview, Armstrong just didn’t squirm well enough to make me want to watch part two. Like a cyclist going uphill, Armstrong seemed like a competitor determined to beat the rap. Even as he admitted to doping, not feeling bad about it, or feeling he had cheated, he just seemed so far from contrite.
Worse, Armstrong looked cold-hearted, unremorseful, and capable of far more evil than doping.
I laughed when Armstrong said he was only “leveling the playing field.” Sort of like affirmative action? Damn, I should have become a pro cyclist!
For me, the interview was more an egotist’s defense than a real confession. Perhaps it’s a set-up for the legal battles that will surely come. It all means for Armstrong that the road to forgiveness will be much, much longer than any Tour de France.
MANTI, MANTI, MANTI
By now, you’ve heard of that other jawdropper: The Manti Te’o story. The real one. With no imaginary girlfriend. If you haven’t heard about the Notre Dame football player from Hawaii, who by his incredibly tragic love story has become the most infamous Asian American on the planet, then consider yourself lucky. You can still have faith in all that is good in life (except maybe professional cycling).
But if you have heard the story, then join the line under the sign that says, “Sucker.”
Te’o is giving a bad name to having a fake dead girlfriend.
If you’re contemplating using that strategy in life, don’t. It doesn’t work. Unless you have a death certificate. (It’s the opposite of the birther movement. Though, in this case, a birth certificate would provide good back-up). And in the case of Lennay Marie Kekua, Te’o’s “girlfriend,” a real Stanford diploma would help too.
Why would Te’o make up such a story of internet love?
As of this writing, Te’o is not speaking. Maybe he’s waiting for Oprah’s calendar to clear up. But the longer he waits, the less credible he is. People in Hawaii believe him. Notre Dame still does (of course, they believe in virgin births). But the majority of the public is beginning to doubt Te’o’s totally guilt-free in the hoax.
Fortunately, I have imagined an exclusive interview with Te’o.
EG: So Manti, one word–Why?
Manti: Why not? I’m an athlete. Isn’t there a lower standard?
EG: But you perpetuated this story, even after it’s said you learned that it was a hoax. Why didn’t you come clean early in December instead of letting the story continue?
Manti: I was just having fun. I “punk’d” the world. Ashton Kutcher is supposed to come out now and let everyone know it’s all right.
EG: You don’t feel sorry that you’ve essentially lied and manipulated peoples’ feelings?
Manti: It’s not like I’m selling you a timeshare in Hawaii or anything. Besides, as a star athlete, I’m entitled to some kind of showbiz type legend, aren’t I? I’m an Asian American Paul Bunyan.
EG: Isn’t your record of play on the field enough?
Manti: You need to be big to be a success. The story of my grandmother and my girlfriend dying was so great, it was like having your own Bigfoot legend. What’s the harm? It was kind of motivating, don’t you think?
EG: Motivating? You couldn’t just say, ‘rah, rah, go team’? You needed to lie?
Manti: Not a lie really. The feelings were real. Besides, I’m a religious person. I can see the value of faith over facts.
EG: You don’t worry about people trust ing you? The Notre Dame athletic director cried for you and said you were the most trusting person he’s ever met.
Manti: Then he should have married me.
EG: There was one flaw in the Lennay story. How could you say you were in love with someone you’d never met?
Manti: Ever fall in love with a radio DJ? A voice becomes a dream. You fall in love with a dream. I fell in love with the story.
EG: So no remorse for this story where the people and the media all feel cheated and lied to?
Manti: You’ll get over it. Look, I’m an athlete. Let me play for your team, your city. I’ll help you win. You’ll forgive. Like John Madden says, “Winning is a great deodorant.”
EG: And if the stink doesn’t go away?
Manti: Believe me. I bring a Super Bowl to your town, I’m a hero again. Bet on it. Besides, what I did was a public service. The public shouldn’t be so gullible. It was their choice to believe me. And the media? Well, journalists better check their facts before falling for a tear jerky story. You see, once a hero, always a hero.
Truth? What’s that? I made it up. It’s the truth as I’ve imagined it. But it sounds more truthful than anything recently coming out of Manti Te’o.
The inaugural is coming up and this time, things are different. Hope and change are really the same old, same old. The excitement of possibility that was felt in 2009 has been replaced with a resignation that what we have is less than we had hoped.
Still, there’s reason for triumph. Obama has become the reigning “best politician on the planet.”
That takes some doing. The president isn’t exactly making it up as he goes along. But he has had some truth-challenged moments, where promises don’t match up with action.
It’s hard to be the best politician on the planet without being caught in a few inconsistencies.
The man who said he’d end the war in Afghanistan hasn’t yet.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has enabled us all to take part in war through drones sent to kill in our name.
The man who said he’d end the Bush attack on civil liberties in the name of homeland security has extended them.
There are others.
And yet, the one thing Obama has done is unify Asian America. If you haven’t seen AALDEF’s new exclusive exit poll, check it out.
Unifying Asian America. Isn’t that enough? I’ll have more to say about that soon on inauguration day.