Lying is the dumbest policy
by Jon Worley
Back in the days of the despots, the only type of political scandal that could really get you hurt was if you did something truly stupid. Y'know, like invade Russia. Napoleon tried it. The Brits (can't recall the PM, but I like that old Iron Maiden song "The Trooper," not to mention "The Charge of the Light Brigade") tried it, Hitler tried it. The simple fact is that invading Russia has always been a fast ticket to Elba. Sending your wife off on extravagant thousand-shoe shopping sprees? Not popular with the masses. Dying a thousand miles away from home? Not a good idea. Dying is a good way to get yourself out of political trouble, of course, but a terrible way to run an empire.
In our enlightened democracies, however, it's never the foul deed that does in a government. The lying is what gets you in the end.
Remember ten years ago, when some kids with economics degrees from Cupertino State declared a "new paradigm" and said that all the old rules about business no longer mattered? No more recessions! No need for companies to take in any money, much less make any profit! Electricity would be unmetered and dorky guys could bang all the supermodels they wanted!
Ah, yes. The "new paradigm" euphoria lasted a couple of years, until the guys with the money realized that companies that don't charge anyone for anything are simply lighting a match to cash, and the supermodels realized that while some dorks might actually be better in bed, they don't look nearly as good with their shirts off as the hot guys.
Six years ago the Prez and his pals embarked on a similar campaign. Their brand of evangelistic utopian conservatism had never held sway in the White House, and by God, the time had come. Tax cuts and more tax cuts, damn the deficits! Testing kids in public schools every single day until their parents gave up and pawned the family minivan so they could pay for test-free private schools. And, of course, making the world safe for democracy, one war at a time.
In retrospect, all of these policies are obviously dreadful. But that's not the problem. Our government creates bad policies every day of every year. And every "smart" guy in government (of every political stripe) has at least one pet project that isn't merely wacko but positively deranged. There is no shortage of bad thinking here inside the Beltway. The key is to recognizing what doesn't work and then fixing the attendant problems. The Prez is no good at this, of course.
Even worse, he and his pals have lied every step of the way. In the run-up to the Iraq War, the Prez kept saying he hadn't decided to go to war with Iraq. As has been amply shown, he and his buddies (the Creepy Veep, etc.) waltzed into office months before 9/11 and immediately sat down to try and figure out how to justify such a moronic course of action. This "I haven't decided" bit is a lie that few have called him on, but for me it's the worst (not to mention most dangerous) one. Every time the Prez says he has no plans to invade Iran, my skin crawls.
There have been plenty more lies. On just about every occasion, whoever went to Congress to pitch any of the Prez's grand plans either lied or didn't tell half of what they knew. Yes, there should have been at least one person in the House or Senate who might have mentioned that the Laffer curve requires a much higher top marginal tax rate than 39 percent--but that still wouldn't have stopped the tax cuts. Some folks did question the cost of No Child Left Behind--but no one asked how much money the testing people pumped into the Prez's campaign, or how much those companies would make if the law passed. And the Prez's guys severely underestimated the cost of the program to the states, which is why more than a dozen states are suing the federal government.
Then there's the Justification League, the folks who promoted the Iraq War. WMDs? Not there. Links to al Qaeda? Faked. Aluminum tubes? Not related to nuclear production. Yellowcake uranium? Still in Nigeria. There were enough lies in the run up to the war to make Watergate look like an all-star rendition of the Stations of the Cross.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone that the top law-enforcement official in the country, the Attorney General, should have a "lie first" policy. This is an administration that has consistently defended its policies with a steady stream of lies, so why shouldn't the AG?
Hey, I agree that it was perfectly legal (if decidedly unethical) to fire those U.S. Attorneys. Just don't lie about it. The Prez has the absolute right to fire any U.S. Attorney for overtly political reasons. He was completely within his rights to do so. Why cover it up?
Because lying has become the currency of the realm. Why tell the truth when all your pals are snaking out of problems (even if only temporarily) by lying?
The simple answer is "Because it's wrong." If you want to get all patriotic, you might refer to the apocryphal story of George Washington and the cherry tree. I have a feeling, though, that the response that would be bluster and more lies. At some point, we'll probably hear Tony Snow announce that the truth is a lie. Then it'll be time to re-read 1984 for some helpful hints--if that time is not already upon us.
I'm a world-class bullshitter. I like to say stuff just to freak people out. Most of the time, I let folks in on my nonsense before I get in too deep. After all, I like my friends to believe me on the rare occasions when I'm trying to be serious. I guess the Prez doesn't feel that way. Or maybe, despite his jocular manner, he doesn't have any friends.
Either way, that sucks for us.