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Didn't I used to be?

Now that the race for the Democratic Party nomination is over, one can’t help but wonder if Hillary Clinton’s misstatements about having to dodge sniper bullets as she exited a plane in Bosnia had anything to do with her losing. They certainly did garner her plenty of negative press, but I don’t think that was particularly fair, given the current national attitude toward lying.

Face it, no one doesn’t lie anymore. CEOs, presidential administrations, star athletes, drug smugglers, terrorists. Everyone who’s anyone lies these days. Liar, liar, career’s on fire.

So I think some leeway should have been granted to the good senator from New York for imagining her life to be more exciting. We all do it. Everyone’s got a little Walter Mitty in them, and that’s OK.

The same semi-pardon should be extended to those in the literary world, as well. One shouldn’t be faulted for polishing one’s resume in the interest of a more entertaining book. Just don’t lie about it to Oprah.

That was definitely James Frey’s problem with “A Million Little Pieces.” He just lied to the wrong person. He might have gotten away with it if he’d lied to Regis or Ellen, but don’t lie to Oprah. I hope to never get on any woman’s enemies list. Frey had to go and piss off the most powerful woman since Cleopatra.

Besides, the scope of Frey’s lies was so pitiful. He went from being a boring alcoholic and junkie to being an alcoholic and junkie with an inspirational tale to tell. Yippee!

Even in times like these, though, there are some lies that should never be told, and I think we’ve recently encountered a lie that might have managed to step over the acceptability line. I’m referring to the story of Misha Levy Defonseca, the author of the 1997 bestseller “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years.”

The book tells the story of how Misha, a 6-year-old Jewish girl, wanders across Europe looking for her parents during World War II, fleeing from the Nazis, sneaking in and out of the ghettos of Warsaw and even killing a German soldier.

Riveting story, huh? Yeah, well, it’s a pack of lies. The whole thing. Never happened. Not a word.

Excuse me? You lied about the Holocaust? Nice work.

It turns out Misha Levy Defonseca isn’t even Jewish. Her real name is Monique de Wael, she’s from Belgium, and she’s Roman Catholic.

That’s pretty impressive, but it gets even dumber.

“Misha” claims in the book that she traveled for hundreds of miles across the Continent accompanied by a friendly pack of wolves.

That’s right: a friendly pack of wolves.

When it was revealed a few months ago that Defonseca (or de Wael, whoever she thinks she is) fabricated the entire story, legions of her fans around the world were outraged that they’d been lied to.

OK, stop. If you were led on by this woman’s story, you have no one to blame but yourself. She claimed she traveled around Europe in the company of A FRIENDLY PACK OF WOLVES!

Who on God’s green Earth would fall for that? That’s like a Disney movie. Moments after the liberation of Poland, she learns she’s a princess, too! And then she marries Eisenhower and becomes First Lady!

Are our lives so pathetic and dull that we’re willing to believe that kind of nonsense, or are our expectations that much higher as a society?

It’s no longer good enough that you make it to the major leagues, now you have to cheat and lie and hit 80 home runs. It’s not enough that you’re the first woman with a real shot at the White House, now you have to go telling everyone you’re bulletproof.

OK, so Hillary may not have really been shot at, but the fact remains that at one time or another, there were definitely snipers in Bosnia. There might even have been one near the airport that day.

Perhaps the time has come for us to talk about what is and what isn’t the truth. Maybe it’s time we had a whole new category, somewhere between true and false.

And I, for one, think there should be an amnesty extended to some of our more moderate liars, people like Hillary Clinton and James Frey, who just didn’t want to bore us with the facts.

Except for Misha Levy Defonseca. No amnesty for her.

I mean, really, who the hell lies about the Holocaust?

Nice work, Misha. Well done.

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Todd Hartley

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06 2008

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