In the summer of 1985, I was riding my motorcycle home. I was taking a left-hand corner about 11:40 pm, and it was, naturally at that hour, dark. There were no lines on the asphalt and no street lights. Going through the corner, I drifted too close to the right edge of the pavement. My bike dropped off the edge and ended up in the field by a power pole, and I went down the road with sparks flying off the studs on my helmet as it scraped the blacktop.
That's thirty years past, and I have told that story a few times. I can remember it quite well. I certainly know which bike I was on at the time. I could take anyone to the spot or very near it, even if the landscape and buildings have changed significantly in the intervening decades. I can tell you what car I was driving for every accident, near miss, and speeding ticket for the last forty-some years.
Of course, I have not lived a life nearly as exciting and adventurous as Hillary Clinton or Brian Williams. I have never been in a war zone. I have never been drunk in war zone. Still, something tells me that if I had dodged sniper fire in Sarajevo (or wherever it was supposed to be), I would be pretty clear on that. If I had ever been in a helicopter that was shot down, I think I would have a story about that. I think I'd have a story even if the chopper ahead of mine had been shot down.
I'll bet you that senile, old John McCain can tell you exactly how his plane went down over Vietnam. I'll bet George H. W. Bush can remember bailing out of his plane in World War II. There are NASCAR fans that can tell you exactly how Dale Earnhardt died.
Aside from blacking out or head trauma, I don't see how it is possible to mis-remember a truly traumatic event. John Kerry never spent a day in the infirmary while acquiring three Purple Hearts, but Nixon sending him into Cambodia at Christmas, 1968 when Lyndon Johnson was still president is seared, seared, I tell you, in his memory. Barack Obama, over the course of twenty years, never heard any of the inflammatory, racist sermons that his best friend and mentor, Jeremiah Wright, preached. Bill Clinton remembers church-burnings that never happened during his youth in Arkansas, but a chubby intern somehow slipped his mind. Hillary remembered zigzagging across the tarmac to dodge sniper bullets that were never fired but could not recall anything about Rose Law Firm billing records.
To give Hillary the benefit of the doubt, after getting loaded on the plane, it's probably a common thing for her to zigzag across the tarmac.
False memories seem to be a very common problem in some circles. Now, I'm not one to be bias against people with handicaps and disabilities. Still, I don't think it's a good idea to give a driver's license to someone with the visual acuity of Mr. Magoo or Stevie Wonder. Perhaps it is time to screen people in positions of influence and leadership in the media and in politics to make sure they are willing and able to reliably tell fantasy from reality.