Truth


Then Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." 38Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.” (John 18: 37-38)
Truth is oftentimes in short supply when it comes to politics. The time was September of 2004. George W. Bush was running for re-elction against John Kerry, the Democratic candidate who was under fire for his version of his participation in the Vietnam War (which appeared to be at variance with the memories of some of his fellow soldiers). Bush, of course, didn't serve in Vietnam; he was appointed to the Texas Air National Guard instead.
Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) was, at the time, the producer of “60 Minutes,” and a close colleague and friend of Dan Rather (Robert Redford), the nightly news anchor. Mapes was contacted by former superiors of Bush in the National Guard, claiming that his appointment was political, and he didn't properly serve his time, anyway. Mapes is given copies of the “smoking gun” documents, because the originals were said to be destroyed. Mapes ran with the story, and the backlash was swift and immediate. The documents were never authenticated, and CBS News got so embarrassed over running the story that neither Mapes nor Rather ever worked in national news again. (Theirs weren't the only heads to roll, but they were the most prominent.)
“Truth” takes the viewer through the intricacies of this convoluted investigation, told from the standpoint of Mary Mapes. She does her best to do her homework, but there are certain limitations: the documents could not be verified as originals. So she resorted to interviewing a handwriting analysis expert (always a subjective judgment), and promised people their names wouldn't be dragged into this, but then they were, because Mapes herself was called on the carpet and forced to reveal her sources. But nobody could really prove anything either way, which meant that the story lacked proper verification, which implied that CBS News had a political vendetta against George Bush as a Presidential candidate. Yes, the personal politics of Ms. Mapes became part of the witch-hunt agenda, as well, as CBS so desperately sought someone to blame that they employed an outside investigative panel (which was itself political, but that's all part of the complex game).
Cate Blanchett delivers a very nuanced performance, as we see her first bustling and confident, then exuberantly triumphant, then pensive and doubtful, then downright scared and angry, then feeling depressed and betrayed, a sacrifical lamb. (Pontius Pilate knew one when he saw one, as well.) So, was she an innocent martyr, or a victim of her own hubris? The viewer is left to decide.

Questions for Discussion:
1) Candidates in the upcoming 2016 election are also being questioned about their military service. How relevant is this to their qualifications as potential Commander in Chief?
2) How much verification should be required before a news story is reported?
3) What is Truth?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas