Catching a politician in a lie should not be groundbreaking news to anyone. Making promises during an election can almost guarantee a reversal somewhere down the line. Entire websites are dedicated to sorting out these little fibs, broken promises, and outright lies.
As the President, lying is much more serious because an entire nation, as well as the opposing political party, are all paying attention. Chasing interns around the Oval Office to the Benny Hill theme makes some great nightly news coverage, despite what lie the Commander-in-Chief has lined up to cover himself. But many of the lies these leaders give us are much more serious and have long lasting effects whose costs cannot be easily quantified.
No one knows exactly what Richard Nixon knew, or when he knew it. George H. W. Bush famously asked us to read his lips as he promised no new taxes… before eventually signing new taxes. Lying about inhaling marijuana is trivial and seemingly not worth the effort, until you look at the millions of lives ruined throughout the country from zero tolerance laws regarding marijuana.
Other kinds of lies have larger effects. President James K. Polk lied to Congress about Mexico invading the United States in an effort to begin the Mexican-American War and the eventual confiscation of the southwest from Mexico.
John F. Kennedy said in 1961 that “I have previously stated, and I repeat now, that the United States plans no military intervention in Cuba” all while secretly planning to invade Cuba.
Many people claim that George W. Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to spearhead the invasion, but it is actually much worse than that – he operated under the “truth” of bad intelligence from the US, the UK and France – which paints an even scarier portrait.
President Obama has made lying an art form. His biggest and most famous lie will probably be this claim on the Affordable Care Act: “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.” Yet almost immediately on college campuses he seemed to get away with rebranding Obamacare, adding appendages to this Frankenstein legislation (that, quite frankly, everyone who had been paying attention knew wasn’t true) even after repeating his claim again and again, which is forever enshrined on YouTube where the Internet never forgets.
He creates Red Lines in Syria, but then he doesn’t. He is outraged to learn that the IRS has been targeting citizens for their political philosophy, but then acts annoyed by the media for supposedly making up something out of nothing.
Claims that a video is responsible for protests in Benghazi from his own administration have proven false. His rough relationship with the truth has led us to believe his own Attorney General had no idea about gun trafficking to Mexican drug cartels or his Secretary of Health and Human Services kept him out of the loop during the rollout of Obamacare.
The President claimed “lives have been saved” and “at least fifty threats” have been averted by the NSA surveillance programs just before a review panel from the White House claimed they could not find one single incident where a terrorist threat had been thwarted by the program. Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who was part of the panel which analyzed the information, said after looking through the evidence that “We found none.”
President Obama not only lies about the big things, he lies about the small things – the kind of things you wouldn’t think worth trying to cover up. From statements he makes to the press to stories he has written in his autobiographies, he has lied about girlfriends who do not exist, stories about his parents during the Civil Rights movement that never happened, his time in school and his work afterwards which have been proven impossible.
More recently he said he had never met his illegal immigrant paternal uncle, Omar Obama; a man who was charged with almost hitting a police car while driving intoxicated. Not only had he met his uncle and spoken with him on several occasions since, but he actually lived with him for several weeks while preparing to start Harvard Law School. You would think a man from Harvard law would know how easy it is to fact-check in the Information Age.
In his fifth year as President, it is now almost a self-parody to hear Obama give speeches where he throws his usual tag lines “Let me be perfectly clear” and “Make no mistake about it.” Whenever he takes a strong stance on an issue, you can bank on him meaning the exact opposite. So why do we put up with this new low standard in truth telling from the highest office? Why have Americans become complacent?
The libertarian philosophy doesn’t end lying. Believing in freedom and individual liberty combined with a strong but limited government can’t prevent people from fibbing about what executive orders they have waiting in the wings or what they had for lunch. But it CAN greatly limit the effect a perpetual liar can have on our lives.
It is instinctive for most people to (wisely) not trust politicians, and yet we concede more power every election cycle. By limiting the power a politician can gather, it forces them to be more honest with us. The checks and balances built into the separation of powers help ensure liars aren’t given free passes to get what they want, regardless of truth. Through technology, people and the media have greater and faster access to information on a global scale, the opportunity for miscommunication, faulty information or flat out deceitful conduct can be greatly reduced and mitigated.
Instead, our media seems to yawn and get bored with each new scandal that breaks along with the lie attached to it. There is no justification for giving so much power to be abused by politicians in the first place.
When the lying is tolerated and eventually accepted, why bother holding elections? The libertarian platform is dedicated to keeping those restraints on politicians, and as a wonderful side effect – helping to keep them all a bit more honest.