Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Problem of President Obama's Deceit

It is not, I hope, an insult to say that President Obama is deceitful. I am using the term to avoid the word "lie" which is perhaps too strong. After all, all politicians lie, all the time. They lie because we insist upon it and we cannot stand the truth. We cannot abide the truth until it is too late.

However, there seems to be an etiquette about presidential lying. This surfaced in the late 1960s when President Johnson was said to have lost "credibility" over the porkers he told about the war in Vietnam.

Then of course there was the lying of President Nixon over Watergate and its aftermath. This was insupportable, and so the president had to go.

But when President Clinton lied about sex with Monica Lewinsky, that was OK because everyone lies about sex.

On the other hand, as we all know, "Bush lied, people died" over the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Politicians usually do shade the truth in the run-up to a war. See: civil war, US.

The question is: have President Obama's lies been better or worse than his predecessors?

Obviously, I'm a conservative and a Republican partisan, so for me, the president's lies matter a lot, and they matter to Robert L. Erhlich, Jr., who recites the president's lies on health care, on Syria, on capitalism, on religious freedom, on immigration, on world public opinion, on Benghazi, and now, of course, on Iran.

Is there something different about the president's lies, or are they just run of the mill and merely seem unprecedented to an opposing partisan?

If there is a difference, I would say that it is because the president's lies seem to be deliberate attempts to disarm and humiliate his political opponents. I'd say that the presidential lies of his predecessors were more the normal lies of people trying to "get through the day." Even President Clinton's lies about Monica Lewinsky were the cheap sort of lies that everyone uses to avoid embarrassment and exposure.

The Obamacare lie was a lie thrown up in defiance of the opposition; the lies about the Iran deal are bound to infuriate Congress. Presidents normally just don't do that, because it creates too much ill will in the opposition. That's why most presidents spend so much time on the phone twisting the arms of wavering congressmen.

It seems clear to me that the president use of deceit has sailed the presidency into uncharted waters, with what has to be regarded as tactical brilliance on the part of the president and/or his advisers. After all, it is no small thing to tell the president "you lie!"

The question is, of course, whether his voyage into uncharted waters will make strategic sense or whether he will wreck his liberal ruling class and the Democratic Party on the rocks, charted and uncharted, and deliver a Republican president and a solidly Republican Congress at the next election.

Remember, the last time we elected a Republican president with a solid Republican Congress was in 1928.

The reason that presidents don't stick the opposition in the eye and instead try to build consensus for their policies with the lies of flattery and cajoling is that they don't want to unify the opposition. They would much rather pick off a couple of fence-sitters and divide the opposition.

On that view, the president is setting himself and his party up for a disaster.

But you never know. President Obama may get away with his lies and his cunning ways of getting around the Congress with regulation and with executive action, and the Democrats may come storming back in 2016.

But somehow, I believe that the Democrats are in for a long dark night, and that the old adage is true, that it is better to let the sleeping dogs lie, particularly the dogs in the other party.

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