Bush, Cheney should sit under Oprah’s hot lights
It had a medieval feel to it: Oprah Winfrey excoriating James Frey for the many little fictions embedded in his book "A Million Little Pieces" in front of his publisher, other commentators and a live audience as well as millions more watching at home. A spectator sport if ever there was one.
One had to wonder -- in between getting dinner or folding clothes -- what made this hapless creature and his publisher, Nan Talese, agree to being publicly pilloried? Perhaps this was the only way to avert a lawsuit for embarrassing Oprah? Perhaps they were genuinely remorseful?
Maybe it was all just too "sad" -- the limp label that Talese, a woman who has made her name in the world of words, reached for in her "Let's have tea" voice to explain the whole sorry business. Maybe they simply said, "Why not? Good or bad, publicity sells more books."
Whatever their motivations, Oprah left us in no doubt as to what drove her to stage this public spectacle of her mistake in championing Frey: Truth. Invoking Michiko Kakutani's question as to how much we value truth in contemporary culture, Oprah fell spectacularly on her sword -- and drew even more adulation for her courage. She admitted her mistake in promoting the writer even after being told about his fabrications. She exposed Frey's lying and his publisher's cavalier disregard for the simplest standards of factual accuracy. She did all this in the name of truth.
Wake up, Oprah. There are far bigger lies begging to be exposed. Have the people at HARPO not told you about the weapons of mass destruction that weren't where we were told they'd be? Haven't you heard that there isn't a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden? Invading Iraq because of the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida really should make you at least as mad as you were about Frey's account of whether a woman died by hanging herself or by slicing her wrists.
So here's a suggestion: Invite President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Hold them to the same standard. Give them the chance to come clean. Having witnessed the passion with which you ferreted out the "truth" from a mediocre writer and his handlers, you will, maybe, be able to get the people who occupy the highest public offices in the land to understand that the truth they dispense is held to at least the same standard as the one applied to the likes of James Frey. After all, the lies Frey dispensed may have made him rich but they did not cost the lives of more than 2,000 Americans and nearly 30,000 civilians in Iraq. I wish we had the truth on exactly how many people have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq, but we don't. Because in General Tommy Franks' words, "We don't do body counts." Maybe Nan Talese was right. It's all just too sad.
Dawn Morais Webster is president and CEO of Loomis-ISC and is working on her doctorate in English at the University of Hawaii.