Column Date 2007-08-01


There’s a raging epidemic in America.

It’s called lying.

And it involves baseball players, Tour De France cyclists, Captains of Industry, Wall Street traders and, no surprise, hundreds of people on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C.

These people have their moral compasses set in the wrong direction.

They think it’s O.K. if you cheat a little bit (with performance-enhancing drugs, misleading earnings reports, back-dated stock options, a faulty memory about firing Federal attorneys, etc.) Why, it’s just the American Way– the normal things you do to get by. And “everybody does it,” they say.

Well, I beg to differ.

I think the CEOs of Enron, Worldcom and Tyco had it all wrong. The Wall St. people have it all wrong. The bike riders in France have it all wrong. And certainly John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, who used a phony name in blogs to deride his competition, has it wildly wrong.

So who’s got it right? Is there anyone in America with good, old-fashioned values -- who still believes that lying for advantage is, somehow, wrong?

Yep – Marge Simpson, the anchor of that typical dysfunctional American family, the Simpsons, has got it right.

How do I know this? I judge people by their actions, not their words. And here’s what Marge did in an episode (“All’s Fair in Oven War”) that I saw on a plane yesterday.

After remodeling her kitchen, Marge decides to enter a baking contest. Her entry is a “Dessert Dog”– it looks like a hot dog but it’s actually a dessert.

She makes it all the way to the semi-finals, where the other contestants try to sabotage her “Dessert Dogs”. In retaliation, she drips Maggie’s ear medicine on all their entries (except for one, a dish that looks like a pig, which she doesn’t think is actually an entry.)

Needless to say, Marge winds up in the finals, since all the other dishes taste like ear medicine. (The other finalist, of course, is the pig dish.)

Her daughter, Lisa, however, has seen the crime, and confronts her mom. At first, Marge instinctively defends her actions – like every politician you’ve ever seen – but then, conscience-stricken, admits her guilt in front of the judges and TV cameras.

She’s a hero to Lisa, to her family, and she can sleep well at night.

Wouldn’t this be refreshing in the White House?

No doubt about it -- President Marge would certainly have my vote. (And remember that she’d have Lisa looking over her shoulder.)

As for Homer, he’d be a spectacular First Gentleman, with enormous political appeal to your average Joe Six-Pack.

The Simpsons would be a helluva First Family.

And, since our country has been run into the ground by a bunch of clowns in Washington anyway, maybe it’s time for some moral cartoon characters in the White House.

©2007 Peter Tannen