Liars in High Places

Americans are queer for liars. We just love them. If that were not so, then we wouldn’t constantly be electing the most mendacious candidates to the highest political offices. And when we discover that we’ve been lied to by some squalid politician, we’d be a whole helluva lot less forgiving. But to understand “our thing” for liars, we must first understand what a lie is.

Of course, that “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Oh, sorry about that... What I meant to say is that a lie is a falsehood that is presented as the truth and that is meant to deceive or mislead; perhaps this qualifies:

... I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time -- never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.

You have to admire someone who can look you squarely in the eye, wag his index finger at you, and vociferously deny what is in fact the truth. But President Clinton may not have believed that he had actually lied. You see, “it depends on what the meaning of [sexual relations] is.” By Clinton’s lights, receiving oral sex isn’t sex. Who knew?

More than anyone else, it was Clinton who drove the Lewinsky scandal. Clinton’s lies and language games were what plunged the nation and the federal government into his sleazy swamp. And it was all unnecessary, because if his objective was to hang onto his job, Clinton didn’t need to lie. Indeed, he may have avoided impeachment altogether had he come out in the beginning and admitted to being the recipient of certain unsought-for attentions. Had he admitted upfront to a moment of weakness, the existence of a stained blue dress would have been assumed; it wouldn’t have had any power to damage. But no, Bubba had to lie.

And having lied, Clinton guaranteed his impeachment, as perjury in a grand jury is a felony, a high crime and therefore impeachable. The fellatio with an underling off the oval office was tawdry. But perjury, that’s big. Senators who might overlook the sex (or whatever you want to call it) weren’t going to overlook perjury. Had Clinton confessed to everything in the beginning, House Investigative Counsel David Schippers, a lifelong Democrat, could not have said:

The president … has lied under oath in a civil deposition, lied under oath in a criminal grand jury. He lied to the people. He lied to his Cabinet. He lied to his top aides. And now he's lied under oath to the Congress of the United States. There's no one left to lie to.

But all that lying didn’t hurt Clinton too much with the public. And now he’s an elder “statesman,” the Big Dog; he’s Elvis, and all is forgiven. (Christopher Hitchens used Schippers’ “no one left to lie to” as the title of a 1999 book that’s still available in paperback and now in e-book. In 1999, Hitchens discussed his book for an hour on Book TV.)

For the political class, lying to the public is no big deal, as they’re rarely held accountable. The political class has their apologists in the media who tell us that “everybody lies about sex,” and that “they all do it.” The media seems to be trying to condition the American people into accepting lying by politicians in high places.

It’s instructive to watch the Truth Revolt video of Clinton’s “that woman” press conference as it goes long enough to include the hearty standing ovation he was given by the nation’s journalists. The media can’t resist a bravura performance by a master liar.

During the Anthony Weiner scandal, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell expressed incredulity (video) that an elected official would have to resign because of lying. Given his position on lying, why believe O’Donnell about anything?

As for who is the more accomplished liar, Clinton or Obama, I’d have to give the gold medal to Obama. If you Google “Obama lies” with quotation marks, you’ll get thousands of hits, including Obama Lies. Obama even won PolitiFact’s 2013 Lie of the Year. Of course, neither one of them has any shame, but lying seems to come more naturally to Obama. Lying is Obama’s default position, his first refuge; it’s his go-to response: Don’t look here, there’s “not even a smidgeon of corruption” (short clip).

The problem for serial liars is that eventually they run out of an essential capital -- credibility. Once the liar’s credibility is used up, he’s done. The question for those who still support Barack Hussein Obama is why do they believe anything he says? If he lied about that, he’ll lie about this. Is it rational to believe Obama when he says Iran will not get nukes?

Recently, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Sen. Harry Reid about his 2012 lie concerning GOP candidate Mitt Romney. On the Senate floor, Reid had said: “Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn't.” Ms. Bash asked Reid if he had any regrets because “some people have even called it McCarthyite.” Reid answered: “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

(You can watch the video of Bash’s interview at American Thinker. But I must take issue with James Longstreet’s criticism of Bash for having no “follow-up” question (like his suggested “That makes you a liar, Senator Reid, doesn’t it?”), and for his scare quotes around “journalist.” Notice that it was Dana Bash who got the interview we’re all talking about, and it was Dana Bash who got Reid to reveal his corruption. Bash pressed Reid about as hard as anyone could; she deserves high marks.)

What to do about Reid? As for expulsion, that takes 67 votes, some of which would have to be Democrat votes. Democrats surely don’t want to reduce their minority numbers any further. And if they tried to relieve Reid of his leadership position, he might up and quit the Senate altogether. Maybe it’s not too late to censure Reid. After all, it only became possible in January. Let’s see how many Senate Democrats will go on record as defenders of this unapologetic unregenerate liar.

Americans are “queer for liars” only in high places. (Even the boorish Lawrence O’Donnell can get quite worked up about lying when the person he accuses isn’t an elected official.) Although they may give politicians a pass on lying, in their dealings with everybody else, Americans despise lying. In business, commerce, and with family and friends, Americans demand the truth. When you discover that your spouse or business partner has lied to you, it’s a big deal, a betrayal, nothing is the same thereafter. But when some scoundrel in D.C. lies to you, you let it pass.

Americans have it exactly wrong on liars in high places. We should hold government officials to (at least) the same standards regarding the truth as we do everyone else. What can one say about a people, a nation, who tolerates abject lying in their leaders?

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.