CAMPAIGN 2016: Looking for a little wisdom from past leaders

You are entitled to your own opinion.

But you are not entitled to your own facts.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan
United States Senator


PSSST... TRUST ME HERE: FACT CHECKING is now the fastest growing industry in America.

You know why. Truthfulness (or more aptly: truth-less-ness) has always been a struggle for politicians. This year just seems way worse than usual. How often do we hear:  We're going to fact check that, folks!

THE EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM is that now truth in business is becoming optional. There is a growing inclination among CEOs and business leaders to find truth inconvenient and bothersome. Think Theranos and Wells Fargo.

Writing in Leadership B.S., author and professor Jeffrey Pfeffer says that over-hyping and misrepresenting everything from new products to the benefits of mergers to expected performance and potential has become so endemic (and so expected) that CEOs are falling into habits where exaggeration and hyperbole become the norm. In other words, fewer and fewer expect the truth anymore. Not investors. Not employees. Not customers.

Likely consequences?  No credibility. No loyalty. No trust.

How can that be good for business... or for any of us? 

Carl Francis


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Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927 – 2003) was a naval gunnery officer, served in the White House as Assistant to four Presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford), was elected four times to the U.S. Senate from New York, and was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and to India.


"Perhaps more than anything else, he was a man of intellectual strength and integrity, who lived and breathed the maxim that "ideas have consequences", and who was unafraid to speak the truth, as he saw it, even to those who didn't want to hear it. And most of the time he turned out to be right.

"At Moynihan's funeral in 2003, dignitaries of both parties and many nations gathered, including dozens of aides and senators past and present: Bob Dole, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, as well as many prominent Bush administration figures such as Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, Attorney General John Ashcroftand Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"His burial in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors surprised many because of his choice to spend eternity with soldiers and sailors.

"That there's no family burial plot also has to do with the fact that he grew up without much of a family. He later acquired a remarkable wife and had three talented kids. His father exited when Pat was 10, leaving a poor family in the throes of the Depression. He really did shine shoes in Times Square and worked on the docks. His mother did own a bar in Hell's Kitchen. This man who devoted much of his career to family breakdown, poverty, welfare, and social dysfunction knew such things up close.

"The political analyst Michael Barone once termed Pat the nation's best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson."

Excerpted from remarks by Chester E. Finn Jr., a former assistant secretary of education, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. Finn was a graduate student of Mr. Moynihan's and also served with him at the White House, in New Delhi, and on his Senate staff.