The Art of the Lie
February 8, 2010 by Bob Livingston
When my children were growing up I could usually tell when they were lying to me. A subtle fidget, a flicker of the eyes or the pitch of their voice would give them away.
That’s because they were taught from the start that lying was wrong. My wife and I drummed it into them, and they believed it. Since they knew what they were doing was wrong it was difficult for them to pull it off.
I’ve always been pretty good at spotting liars. Not as good as Dr. Cal Lightman from the Fox show Lie to Me; but pretty good. It was a gift that served me well as a reporter.
Of course it’s a lot easier to spot a lying politician today than it used to be. How do you know they’re lying? It’s cliché, but, it’s when their lips are moving.
Did you watch any of the President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address? I tried counting his lies but within about 15 minutes I ran out of fingers and toes. No matter, his life is a lie—from his sham birth certificate to his autobiography to his campaign promises to his pledges as President. But the amazing thing is that he does it so effortlessly. And he’s so good at it he’d probably get away with it if those nasty facts didn’t keep getting in the way.
He promised transparency during his campaign, but does everything behind closed doors. He promised healthcare negotiations on C-Span. But negotiations are done in secret. He promised everyone they could keep their doctor, but the public option would end that. He says if someone has another idea he’ll listen, but he shuts dissenters out of the process. He says the Supreme Court overturned 100 years of law, but Justice Samuel Alito says, “Not true.”
Obama also bashed lobbyists. That was right before he invited them to sit in on White House briefings. In his SOTU speech he said: “We face a deficit of trust—deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue—to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.”
Hmm. I wonder why there’s a “deficit of trust.” Maybe it’s because of things like his failure to mention that more than 40 ex-lobbyists work in his administration, as the The Washington Examiner reports.
But that’s not all. According to TheHill.com:
The Treasury Department on Thursday morning (the day after the SOTU) invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.”
The article goes on to say:
A handful of lobbyists told The Hill on Thursday morning that they received the invitations and were planning to call in.
Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.
One lobbyist said, “Bash lobbyists, then reach out to us. Bash lobbyists [while] I have received four Democratic invitations for fundraisers.”
And then there’s Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In a press release issued Jan. 27, he said, “In the upcoming elections, voters will face a choice between Republicans who are standing with Wall Street fat cats, bankers and insurance companies—or Democrats who are working hard to clean up the mess we inherited by putting the people’s interests ahead of the special interests.”
That statement would lead you to believe he opposes standing with Wall Street fat cats, bankers and insurance companies. But two days later, at the DSCC winter retreat in Miami, Menendez and 10 of his fellow senators were entertained by a long list of Wall Street fat cats, bankers and insurance companies who paid around $30,000 each to the campaign coffers of the DSCC, according to Politico.com.
Included in that list are insurance companies like Allstate and Aflac; pharmaceutical manufactures like AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Novartis; financial groups like American Bankers Association, Managed Funds Association and Sallie Mae; large corporations like FedEx, UPS, Ford Motor Co. and Home Depot; and lobbying firms like Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Podesta Group and Heather Podesta and Partners; and an assortment of other big corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups. In all, 129 of these organizations attended at $30,000 each for a total into the DSCC of about $3.87 million. Just for a one-day trip to the beach.
And who can forget that low-life former presidential candidate, John Edwards? According to Byron York in The Washington Examiner, with the National Enquirer set to break a story during the 2007-2008 Democrat presidential primary that Edwards had fathered a child with campaign staffer Reille Hunter, Edwards crafted his own lie.
He encouraged campaign worker Andrew Young to claim the child as his own. This would make it a “one-day story,” Edwards claimed, and would do minimal damage to the campaign. For two more years Edwards would cling to this lie while his marriage to his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth fell apart and his baby was denied a true father.
It’s certain that lying by politicians is a not a recent phenomenon. We could go back to the beginning of politics and find examples. But here are some recent examples that come to mind:
There was George H.W. Bush’s 1988 proclamation of, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” The following autumn saw Bush proposing a number of tax increases, prompting a headline in the New York Post that read: Read my lips. I lied.
Bill Clinton had his own “Read my lips” moment when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” We learned then, for politicians, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is, when a lie is being investigated.
George W. Bush had his own credibility problem. He vowed after the 9/11 attacks: “My administration has a job to do and we’re going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers.”
The world apparently ended in the mountains of Tora-Bora, where those calling the shots put a halt to hostilities allowing Osama bin Laden and his surviving thugs to retreat into Waziristan, a desolate lawless region of Pakistan where al-Qaida remains to this day.
Bush’s vow to follow the enemy wherever he was went unfulfilled.
Instead, he focused his energy on Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While a strong case can be made that there was a need to depose Hussein, placing a greater importance on going there rather seeking out bin Laden and his ghouls in the aftermath of 9/11 demonstrated he lied when he said he wanted bin Laden dead or alive.
Of course, it’s more than likely that bin Laden actually died somewhere along the way and the Bush Administration knew this but wanted to have a bogeyman handy to justify continuing the war. And now the Obama Administration, which seems to enjoy war as much as Bush did, is continuing the charade.
Suffice to say that the only safe course of action is to assume a politician is lying every time he or she speaks. Never, never take one at his word, unless you’re content to believe a lie. They can be judged only on what they’ve done.
Unlike our children, whom we teach from a young age to tell the truth, politicians apparently never learned that lesson. After all, as Seinfeld’s George Costanza character once said: “It’s not a lie if you believe it’s true.”
That’s the philosophy that has allowed politicians to elevate lying to an art form.