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The Truman Index: Revealing the Mendacity Level

August 02, 1992|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker

NEW YORK — Another presidential campaign is upon us. Time again for balloons, boaters, bunting--and self-defense against rhetoric that has the power to cloud men's minds and swamp the fruited plain under a greasy tide of oleaginous smarm.

Is your candidate leveling with you? Don't rely on Sam Donaldson or Tim Russert or Bill Moyers to know for sure. You don't even know if they're really leveling with you.

You can rely on the Truman Index. Developed by distant relatives of statistical scientists at leading northeastern institutions, this foolproof new methodology allows anyone with a memory--in the privacy of home or office--to instantly determine the sincerity of any political utterance by measuring it against the likelihood that Harry S. Truman would have ever said it.

Here's how it works. Using "The Buck Stops Here" as 100 on the honesty-sincerity scale, every statement of any candidate is set against it. If free of all cant, sleaze, humbug and other rhetorical contaminants, it will register 100. The more weighted with bunk and snake oil, the further it will sink on the scale. The distance between "The Buck Stops Here" and your candidate's effusion is the Truman Index of dishonesty and insincerity.

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