AS A LATE VENERABLE U.S Senator once said –and I am paraphrasing here – people have a right to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
In an appearance on George Grant’s talkshow yesterday, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas gave us heavy doses of his opinion – which he has the right to do – and inter-mingled with anecdotes he tried to represent as fact.
In his calculated anger, he successfully failed to tear apart the main points of my recent commentaries; resorting desperately eventually to impinging sinister motives, and to cast me off as a cheap opportunist.
In doing so he both cheapened his office and strengthened my resolve.
In spite of his innuendos (that are strangers to verifiable facts), neither his government nor party owes me anything; nor have I expected or demanded anything, for which I might have some reason to be upset.
The many invitations that were made to me two years were ago were politely declined either because (a) it was not worth my while (b) it did not fit into my family commitments (c) I could not give up the other stuff I was engaged in at the time and/or (d) I did not feel it was the best career move then.
At no point was there animosity about any matters, and subsequent to this all – I have always volunteered my time, efforts and contacts in non-partisan matters, when I have been asked and when I felt it was in “the national interest.”
Volunteering my time included training government information officers and helping out national committees.
To suggest otherwise is to seek to muddy the waters and to deliberately mislead.
(Out of a deep sense of self respect and not to reduce this to childish levels, I refuse to take the bait to speak in more detail than this).
To equate my commentaries to personal attacks was unfortunate, especially coming from someone that I have privately and publicly shown the greatest respect and regard.
Over the years, including the last few weeks, I have written a lot of opinion pieces on politics, sports and entertainment.
They have never been presented as the gospel of anything – just the view of one writer, using facts as they unfold – interpreting them and giving an opinion.
Of course, no matter what anybody says, there is no one with complete objectivity.
Everybody’s views will be colored by the place they were born, their race, class, family connections, religion (or lack of it), financial interests and that of their families and friends; the sporting teams they back, the music they like – and all those other variables.
What commentators try to do is come to a fair conclusion, given the facts presented.
So Mr Prime Minister, opinion pieces are not true or false, right or wrong. They can’t be, because they are not facts. They are what they are – opinions. You judge opinion pieces on whether the commentator reached a fair conclusion based on the series of facts he might be commenting on.
A commentary piece is different from hard reporting, which just present the facts.
The Prime Minister had a lot of his own opinions on the George Grant show on Sunday; and he sure has a right to them. And we can debate them, like anyone can debate mine. That’s s just part of the state of play.
Where we differ is that I don’t consider his strong opinions on what I wrote a personal attack, though he obviously saw mine as one.
It bothered me a bit though that he found it necessary to set me up as this straw enemy which he needs in his time of crisis.
We all must be careful about trying to suggest other people’s motives, when they have not been stated clearly.
If he reviews all of my pieces, I never speculated on his motives – because they are not only hard to tell, I find it patently unfair.
But in his appearance on Sunday – and sometimes urged on by a willing interviewer – he went on to suggest my motive for my commentaries.
This was the most disappointing part of his posture.
Instead of seeking to debate on the merits or demerits of the points, the Prime Minister threw up a childish tantrum, punctuated by coded phrases, he hopes will intimidate me.
In his mind, he has set up this straw enemy, and convinced himself that fighting this is an extension of his personal crusade in his own war of good over evil.
It is unfortunate for both him and the country.
He once again displayed an uninformed rigidity in which he sees everything as black or white.
Like George Bush, he has a puritanical certainty that there are no grays – you either for me or against me.
Life’s got different colors Mr Prime Minister. See me for what I am sir. I am neither black nor white. I am just another shade of gray.