I’m a marathon runner. A few years ago my coach was diagnosed with cancer. The first thing his ragged team of runners did was sign him up with Livestrong. Through the course of his treatment he would show up to track with his yellow beanie warming his chemo-ravaged bald head. He proudly wore the iconic wristband to every doctor’s appointment. It’s possible every athlete—novice or otherwise—fighting cancer in the last decade did the same. Legions of Livestrong members trying to inspire the next cancer survivor.
It’s with that in mind that I say I am disgusted with Lance Armstrong. He’s a fraud. Whatever there was to admire about him was a lie. He’s a fake. A phony. A cheat. It’s hard to hate a cancer survivor. Lance has always had a way of making the difficult seem easy.
I find what he did; the lies, the bullying, destroying people’s reputations to be irredeemable. I don’t think he should be forgiven. I think the best thing that should happen to him is to be forgotten.
He’s repulsive to me. As I watched his “come to Oprah” interview in which he came clean about his doping, I was reduced to only expletives. “Schmuck!”
Then it occurred to me how rare it is that someone who’s been living a lie—a lie as big as the one Armstrong was living—admits all. The public is not used to a full confession. Liars tend to stay liars and go to their graves as liars:
Big tobacco, OJ Simpson, Ken Lay, George W. Bush, pedophile priests, BP and a long list of really puffy professional baseball players (who got passed up to be in the hall of fame this year) just to name a few.
We’ve become immune to baloney in politics. Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster said last August, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” which ended up being the most truthful thing said by Romney or his surrogates until his concession speech.
Romney’s VP pick Congressman Paul Ryan, in a staple of his stump speech, blamed a factory closing in his district on Obama when it had closed during the Bush Administration. They repeated over and over again that the work requirement for welfare had been done away with by the president. It wasn’t. Nor did Obama start his presidency with an apology tour.
Romney even lied about his own plans. In the first debate he said his health care plan covered pre-existing conditions, a lie his own spokesperson had to set straight.
During the primary Romney’s stump speech had a line claiming: “We are the only people on the earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem.” One brief medal ceremony at the Olympics could debunk that. At a CNN debate, Romney quipped, “I’m Mitt Romney—and yes Wolf, that’s also my first name.” His first name is Willard.
Paul Krugman at The New York Times coined the phrase “post-truth politics.” James Fallows at The Atlantic called it the “Post-Truth” Age. David Corn asked, “Campaign 2012: The End of Political Truth?” I joked at the time Romney was singlehandedly trying to kill all fact-checkers from exhaustion. It was a fire hose of half-truths on a candid day.
Oppo researchers Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian in their compelling memoir titled “We’re With Nobody,” wrote, “Say what you will about Nixon—he was a tyrant and arguably a criminal—but he recognized the importance of facts. In an era when people create them out of whole cloth, and are rarely called to task for it, the idea of breaking into a building to steal documentation seems almost quaint.”
Speaking of which: Karl Rove just signed a four-year contract with Fox News.
And now the second-most unlikable human being on the planet, Lance freaking Armstrong, has admitted his deceit with some Oprah-level candor. It’s almost a shock to the system.
I say this even though it hurts: We can’t punish honesty. We have to be able to, you know, handle the truth. If we really want people coming clean we have to reward coming clean. Allocution has to have some merit. Right?
It’s all true! In theory. We can probably wait for a less repugnant personality than Lance to test it out.