David Manning Liars of the Month for November 2005

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson

Governor Bill Richardson, the once and future political star who was President Clinton's cabinet utility player, on the short list to be John Kerry's running mate and on a long list of 2008 presidential hopefuls, comes across in his frequent television appearances as kind of a pudgy middle-aged guy who might well have couch potato tendencies. Therefore it is apparently important to him to make it clear whenever possible that 'twas not ever thus. Richardson's resume and the biography he circulates have, for many years, noted that he was once an aspiring baseball player…in fact, he was good enough to have been "drafted by the Kansas City A's," the major league team now located in Oakland.

That is indeed proof of above-average athletic prowess and achievement, not that there aren't plenty of dock workers, car dealers, bartenders and second story men who have the same or equivalent credentials. They have a credential, in fact, that the New Mexico governor doesn't have, because they, unlike him, really were drafted once by a major league baseball team.

It seems that after all these years some reporters finally got around to checking out Richardson's claim, and the Albuquerque Journal discovered that neither the A's nor any other team drafted him. Despite that fact, voters were told otherwise when Richardson ran for Congress, the Clinton White House mentioned Richardson's phantom drafting in press releases, and the Associated Press has been publishing the draft story for years. So what was Governor Richardson's response to the revelation that he had allowed a non-existent accomplishment to circulate so widely and so long? This:

"After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter … I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's."

Richardson then explained he had believed it was true based on an old program from an amateur team he had played for. Apparently when he pitched for the amateur Cape Cod League's Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers in 1967, the words "Drafted by K.C." appeared next to his name on the team program.

Here's the problem: when someone is drafted by a major league baseball team, he is always told about it at the time. There are no secret drafts! First you are drafted, then you get a phone call or a letter, then the team meets with you and tries to sign you to a contract. Richardson's story is, essentially, that he saw the information about Kansas City drafting him on a program long after the drafting supposedly occurred and concluded, "Huh! How about that? I was drafted!" No. Impossible! Assuming, reasonably, that the Governor of the great state of New Mexico was and is not mentally deficient, the Scoreboard knows of only two possible reactions he could have had when he read this information in a ballpark program if he hadn't supplied it himself:

1. "Hey! That's not right…I was never drafted! I better correct that."

Or

2. "I was DRAFTED??? When did that happen? Why am I playing in this rinky-dink amateur league if I was drafted? I'm going to get to the bottom of this!"

But no, Richardson expects everyone to believe that he was so uncurious about this momentous event in his baseball career that he somehow allowed it to grace his official public biography for decades, and just now, prompted by the newspaper story, decided to "investigate."

Are we laughing out loud yet?

This simultaneously insults our intelligence and his. Obviously, Richardson permitted a phony credential that he placed on his resume years ago to remain there because it was a nice, though false, little detail that showed him to be a regular guy, and he didn't think anyone would ever bother to check on it. It's not the same as falsely claiming that you're a Harvard grad or a Nobel Prize winner, true. But it is still a lie, and now that it's been exposed, Richardson should have had the courage to step up and admit it. His excuse, that he just believed what he saw in a program, is so absurd that it is far more offensive and alarming than the original lie. Imagine someone who has a fake medical degree on his resume explaining that it was there because he "once read somewhere that I was a doctor."

Public figures who calculate that they can get away with lying about little things are highly susceptible to lying about big things. Richardson is clearly a graduate of the "I didn't inhale" school of unbelievable excuses founded by his mentor, and while the subject of this dishonesty has little bearing on his trustworthiness as a public servant, his conduct in the phantom draft episode should not be forgotten.

University of Idaho Microbiology Professor Scott Minnich

Perhaps it is unfair to single out Professor Minnich, who was an expert witness for pro-"intelligent design" forces during the recently concluded Pennsylvania trial over whether high school students should be exposed to a school board-mandated disclaimer before learning about evolution. (The trial took 40 days and 40 nights. Really.) After all, the entire "intelligent design" movement is based on double-talk and deceit, intelligently designed as it was to evade the prohibitions of two Supreme Court cases, Lemon v. Kurtzman and Edwards v. Aguillard, prohibiting the teaching of religious beliefs in public schools. "Intelligent design" claims to be an alternate, non-religious "theory" that counters evolution, the lynchpin of scientific thought that is roughly on par with gravity, relativity and quantum mechanics as a basic tool for understanding the universe.

"Intelligent design" posits that life on earth is so darn complex and amazing that it only could have arisen through the work of some sentient being, a logical deduction much akin to the ancient Greeks' belief that the only way that big yellow ball could travel across the sky was because it was really a big chariot and a team of fire-breathing horses, or the similarly reasonable conclusion held by Rip Van Winkle's pals that the thunder in the Catskills had to be caused by little men bowling up there. "Intelligent design," in truth, is nothing but creationism in disguise. It is put forth with a "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" to the large fundamentalist Christian population, which is large enough to get this tenet of faith accepted into some school curriculums. After all, it's science, not religion. Sure it is.

Minnich, however, in the course of compromising his integrity as a scientist while on the witness stand, managed to crystallize the true disingenuous core of the intelligent design forces. While going along with the Undercover Creationism Playbook by asserting that "intelligent design" was a scientific and not a religious theory, Minnick admitted that in his own case he believed that the designer was God. But, he stressed, that is a personal belief, not one based on science.

Now let's get this straight, shall we? If "intelligent design" is a religious theory and not a scientific one, it violates the Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. And by definition, if the "designer" is God, or even a god like Vishnu or Zeus or Allah, then the "theory" is religious. So those advocating "intelligent design," while they personally believe that the designer is God, officially insist that the designer's true identity is a mystery, sort of like Zorro.

Who could this designer possibly be, if not God? Is not the ability to "design" millions of diverse organisms and populate a planet with them sufficient proof of omnipotence to win the "designer" god status? Are there any individuals in the "intelligent design" legions who don't believe that the designer is God? Could there possibly be anyone who believes in a "designer" but who does not believe in God? That would require a feat of mental gymnastics even Stephen Hawking couldn't muster. Or Kind Solomon, for that matter.

Minnich's testimony was intrinsically dishonest. He advocated "intelligent design" as a scientific theory, admitted that if the theory held that the "designer" was god, it would be religious and not scientific, violating the Constitution, and yet then asserted that he personally believed that the designer was God.

You have to admit, these guys are good…."good," as in "harder to pin down than Hulk Hogan smeared with Vaseline." They are also lying, at least those of them, like Minnich, who are educated enough not to believe that the earth is only 10,000 years old, as the literal reading of the Bible would indicate. Undoubtedly, the "intelligent design" advocates are persuaded that their intentional blurring of science and theology is just and necessary to out-maneuver a wrong-headed Supreme Court. But their argument contradicts their own principles.

Especially the one about "bearing false witness."

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