Cock-and-bull candidates


Did you make it through Sunday’s lunar eclipse OK?

When the moon turned blood red, I bet you didn’t shake spears at it, or beat your dogs to make them bark, as the Incas did to scare away the jaguar that had swallowed the moon. I also bet you didn’t shoot off cannons, or bang your pots and drums, as the Chinese did, to frighten the dragon that had swallowed the moon. I’m pretty sure you didn’t offer your utensils, rice and weapons to the demon Dhanko, as India’s Munda tribesmen do, to bail the moon out of debtor’s prison, where Dhanko had thrown it for failing to repay his loan.  And it’s dollars to donuts you didn’t believe that the eclipse announced the end of the world, or buy Pastor John Hagee’s best-selling “Four Blood Moons,” let alone the “Four Blood Moons Companion Study Guide and Journal” (Includes Full-Color Foldout Timeline, $11.69 on Amazon). 

The reason you didn’t swallow any of those stories is that you know the truth about a lunar eclipse: It happens because the earth comes between the sun and the moon. If truth can protect us from jaguars, dragons, demons and preachers, why can’t it protect us from presidential candidates whose cock-and-bull stories rank right up there with the Incas’ and the Mundas’? 

Consider Carly Fiorina.  She effortlessly reels off the benchmarks of her success as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, including doubling revenues.  But HP’s revenues rose largely because of her disastrous acquisition of Compaq. What counts isn’t revenues, but net earnings, which “>lost half of its value over the same period, while the stock price of its competitors, “>bogus.”

Facts turn out not to matter much in American politics.  It’s as if the Dhanko myth were to have the same standing as an astronomer’s explanation of a lunar eclipse. Journalists can fact check Fiorina all they want, and political rivals can ding her from dawn to dusk. The public’s trust goes not to the best truth-teller, but to the best storyteller. As Brad Whitworth, an 18-year HP veteran and former senior communications and marketing manager, “>hedge fund bro jacks up the price of a life-saving drug; no matter how cravenly General Motors covered up defective and sometimes deadly ignition switches in 2 million vehicles – the story remains the same: Overreach by government regulators is the root of all evil.  

That’s the story Mitt Romney told. If he hadn’t been caught on video writing off 47 percent of the country as freeloading rabble addicted to government handouts, he might have become president.  Instead, the Obama counter-narrative gained power. Its heroes are people of modest means who are still paying for the moral hazard of the billionaire class.  This is also the story that Bernie Sanders is telling to huge and enthusiastic crowds. Perhaps because of that, Hillary Clinton has been telling it, too, though her effectiveness as its messenger may be compromised by her dependence on Wall Street money.

This counter-narrative has the facts going for it. Practically every

+