John Wayne's Westerns stand among the best films of all-time. I can honestly say that there has not been one film in which "The Duke" appears that has left me disappointed. The mere mention of titles such as "True Grit," "The Searchers," "McLintock," "El Dorado," "Hondo," "Stagecoach," and "The War Wagon," invokes memories of a much younger America full of dusty trails, smoky trains, rugged cowboys, fearless Indians, galloping horses, stampeding buffalo, and, of course, the quick draw.
"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," is a classic movie which includes both "The Duke" and another Hollywood legend – Jimmy Stewart. Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) is a young lawyer and newcomer to the western town of Shinbone. Upon entering the territory, his stagecoach is hijacked by the ruffian Liberty Valance. Liberty seems to enjoy the run of the town except that he is kept in check by a gunslinger named Tom Doniphon (John Wayne).
Desiring to handle the hijack and ensuing assault in a civil manner, Ransom Stoddard attempts to file legal charges in town to no avail. After Ransom settles in town, Liberty Valance continues to harass him throughout the film, until one day, Ransom takes the law into his own hands by challenging Liberty to a duel. Everyone in town knows that Ransom is handier with a book than a pistol, and they rightfully fear the worst. When Liberty takes his time torturing Ransom with a series of flesh wounds, Ransom surprisingly gets off a left-handed shot, mortally wounding Liberty Valance.
This one act spreads as a legend in the West and launches a very colorful political career for Ransom Stoddard. When he returns home years later as Senator Stoddard to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon, he reveals to an editor of a local newspaper that Tom, who was standing in a nearby alleyway during the duel, was actually the man who shot Liberty Valance. The newspaperman then stands and shreds his notes.
"You're not going to use the story Mr. Scott?" Stoddard asks.
"No sir, this is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
Such a powerful ending, but what does it mean? More importantly, what does it mean for us today? I found myself reflecting upon that statement during another duel that recently took place between Bill O'Reilly and President Obama, particularly one little exchange about the IRS probe. After the dust of the interview settled, I decided to revisit the site. As I began gathering evidence from the scene of the duel, I discovered a few stray bullets – comments that should be cause for concern for all of us because they hit an unintended target.
After Bill O'Reilly suggests that the IRS was used to go after conservative organizations who oppose the ideals of the Obama administration, President Obama responded by saying, "I mean these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you [Bill] and your TV station [Fox News] will promote them."
This attitude revealed in the President's words exposes a fundamental flaw in his way of thinking. As the leader of the free world, defender of the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, he should be the one person celebrating the fact that there indeed can be ideological opposition. He missed a perfect opportunity to look America right in the eye and say, "As I faithfully execute the duties of my office, I will continue to defend the First Amendment so that you – Bill, and my fellow Americans, can continue to exercise their right to free speech, which guarantees you a voice to challenge, to oppose, and even to criticize my administration."
But instead of answering the question he chose to cast blame upon Bill O'Reilly and Fox News with a statement that sounds pretty defensive. Whether his administration is guilty of misguided principles regarding the "boneheaded decisions out of a local [IRS] office" in Cincinnati makes no difference. How the President deals with those who take part in certain activities reveals much about his character and how he executes the duties of his office. His response not only seemed defensive but it also sounded as if he intended to dodge the main issue.
With 157 visits to the White House by the former chief of the IRS during the Obama administration, how much of what we know about this situation is fiction and how much is fact? Yes, there have been multiple hearings upon the subject, but how much do we really know? To what extent was the White House involved? How much does the President really know? When we cease being a nation under truth, we cease being a nation under law. Maybe the greater and more lingering question has to do with the legacy of this President. How much of what we know about him is legend and how much is fact? How much of the press is editing his legacy? As the legend becomes fact, for America's sake, print the facts.