So, What's New With Armstrong Williams?
That's what Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wanted to know:
When I called to ask how he felt about the new Iraq revelations, he said, after a long pause, "very unpleasant." […]
"Once people find out," he said, "everything you say is going to be questioned. No matter what you say, they're going to wonder if you're just saying it because you believe it or because you're being paid to say it."
The episode also illustrates how reluctantly the administration is learning a painful public relations lesson, he said: "Once you lose your credibility, it's a long hard road to get it back."
I guess $241,000 doesn't buy as much as it used to….
That's actually not the most interesting part of Page's column.
As a former Army public information specialist in my youth, I am hardly naive about the strategic uses of propaganda. But your propaganda is severely neutralized if people don't even believe you when you're telling the truth.
That's what we learned during an earlier war when I was a young draftee in the Pentagon's Defense Information School, then in Indianapolis. Believe it or not, we were well instructed in the highest ethics. The best response to a lie, we were told, is the truth, not spin. Otherwise, when the truth inevitably comes out, people inevitably will wonder why you went to so much trouble to hide it.
Judging by the small sample size of e-mails I've received from Iraq vets and former DoD PR contractors, that last bit rings bitterly true for some of those with boots on the ground.