On Wednesday morning, our editorial board gathered in the publisher’s office at The Post-Star as we usually do.
It was the day after the State of the Union speech.
The editor was making small talk, wondering if our members had all recovered from the long speech the night before.
There was mostly silence.
One by one, five of our members admitted they could not bring themselves to watch the speech, although one did watch the first 10 minutes.
One person said they had to force themselves to even read about it that morning.
Considering our role on the editorial board, it was an alarming and unprecedented admission, and we wondered if it carried over to community members at large.
The State of the Union speech has always been a mixed bag of patriotic tradition and hyperbolic political grandstanding.
It has gotten worse in recent years.
Generally speaking, the mission of this editorial board is not to weigh in on Washington politics unless it is impacting our own local communities. We look for community problems and issues first.
But Wednesday we talked about our worries of community division and unreliable information and how politics is seeping into every crevice of our community.
One member related a story where a local person asked her how come the editorial board had not taken a stand against the Reproductive Health Act. The person explained that one of our local representatives in the Legislature told her the law would allow doctors to” rip children from the womb with late-term abortions.”
Our editorial board member explained that was not true, that the Reproductive Health Act allows abortions after 24 weeks only if the mother’s health is in danger or the fetus is not viable.
The person repeated that she had been told this by someone with a vote.
Our editor shared that the same incorrect description of the law had been submitted by three letter writers and had to be corrected.
How could this be possible in a day and age where legislation is readily available for anyone who wants to look it up online?
Then, we were reminded of what the president said the night before:
“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”
That was not accurate and it sought to inflame — and worse, perhaps court votes from religious groups — in what is already an emotional issue on both sides.
Gov. Cuomo responded with an opinion piece in the New York Times:
“Contrary to what its detractors claim, the Reproductive Health Act does not allow abortions minutes before birth, nor does it allow third-trimester abortions for any reason.”
From the various fact-checks of the State of the Union speech, it is clear that the speech was filled with stretched facts and dubious figures.
Politifact reviewed 15 specific claims in the speech and found three accurate and 12 that were inaccurate, exaggerated or lacked context.
The Washington Post fact-checker reviewed 30 dubious claims, many of which had been disproved repeatedly in the past.
This was at the heart of why our board members did not watch the speech.
It was the lying.
It goes to the heart that our own political leaders continue to take political stands, using rhetoric neither useful nor honest.
The politics is going to get worse.
We are going to have to be better citizens, willing to dig for the facts and get it right.
We can no longer trust even those that represent us.
We should be careful of what we watch, listen to and believe on opinion-based television and radio. It also cannot be trusted.
We had hopes at the start of the State of the Union as the president said:
“Together we can break decades of political stalemate, we can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”
But before he was done, he issued this warning:
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”
It was a threat.
We all need to know that, to pay attention to it and acknowledge it is not right.
Not in the United States of America.
This country is based on the rule of law, above all else. Before we can move forward together, we must be able to trust one another, and sometimes, that means investigations of wrongdoing. Without that, we cannot have peace.