To Tell The Truth
For reporters, one of the most frustrating parts of the job is the difficulty of getting an honest answer from a politician. It is a given that a politico who’s hit with a tough question is going to evade, dissemble, run away and otherwise do everything he can to avoid answering truthfully.
That’s why I applaud the actions of Gary Horlacher, an Atlanta attorney who decided to run as a Democrat for secretary of state next year. As he prepared to launch his campaign, Horlacher took the novel step of drawing up a list of questions that a candidate would expect from the media and answered those questions while hooked up to polygraph equipment.
The questions touched upon marital fidelity (Horlacher swore he has never engaged in sexual activities with anyone besides his wife), drugs (he hasn’t used illegal drugs or taken legal drugs prescribed for someone else), illegal or unethical activities as a lobbyist (he has never engaged in such for a client) and income taxes (his tax returns have not contained false information).
In the clinical words of the polygraph examiner, retired FBI agent Clifford Cormany, “It is the opinion of the examiner that the recorded responses to the above relevant questions are not indicative of deception.” In other words, he tried to be truthful.
If elected secretary of state, Horlacher said, he would agree to take a similar polygraph exam “if any ethical or legal issues arise during my term in office.”
“We need a much sharper focus on ethics,” Horlacher explained. “We need more clarity, not less – a government that functions with openness, honesty, efficiency and transparency.”
Horlacher’s intentions are honorable and got me to thinking: What if we could hook up every politician to a polygraph machine? That would be a reporter’s dream, to be able to see when someone was trying to avoid the truth. There are quite a few questions I’d like to ask the candidates who have qualified for governor.
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine: Before you were compelled to give up the emergency “blue light” for your state vehicle, did you ever use that emergency light to clear the road when you were driving to a social engagement? Is it fair to expect taxpayers to cover the costs of repairing all those state vehicles you crashed as insurance commissioner?
Secretary of State Karen Handel: Should the state’s chief elections officer preside over elections in a fair and impartial manner? If your answer to that is yes, then why did you keep trying to remove Democrat Jim Powell from the ballot last year after judges kept ruling that he was legally qualified to run for office?
Former Governor Roy Barnes: Will you ever admit that it was a mistake to bring Bobby Kahn into your administration? If you run for governor next year, will you take the advice of many Democrats and cut Kahn loose from your campaign?
Sen. Eric Johnson: Your ballyhooed plan to give private school vouchers to Georgia parents will effectively destroy the state’s system of public education. How do you propose to educate the hundreds of thousands of kids who won’t be able to find private schools to take them in?
Attorney General Thurbert Baker: Why didn’t you aggressively investigate the governor’s land dealings and the circumstances surrounding the passage of a bill that gave Sonny Perdue a $100,000 personal tax break?
U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal: One of your top congressional aides is still working on your payroll despite the fact that he was required to return $90,000 in pay that exceeded congressional limits for outside income. Is this the kind of behavior we can expect from your staff if you are elected governor?
House Minority Leader DuBose Porter: One of the most shameless giveaways from the General Assembly to big-money interests was the “private cities” bill of 2007 that would have allowed developers who don’t answer to the voters to sell tax-free bonds and levy ad valorem taxes to pay back those bonds. That bill would have been defeated if you and other Democratic lawmakers had stood firm and voted against it on the last night of the session. Why did you support such a bloated piece of special interest legislation?
So many politicians, so many questions. A guy can dream, can’t he?