Something to Think About: On Lying Politicians

As more and more national leaders from both political parties are calling for the resignation of Congressman Anthony Weiner because he sent lewd, unwanted messages to women over the Internet and then lied about it repeatedly in public, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is confused. According to ABC News:

He's thinking about it.

“This is a massive overreaction and I don’t understand it,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. . . .

As for Weiner’s bald lies to his family, constituents and the general public in media appearances last week about the lewd photo that appeared on Twitter, Sloan said it was disconcerting and tarnished his credibility but not the worst Washington has seen.

“A politician lying is not that unusual,” Sloan said. “If the new standard is that politicians are out the second they lie to us, then a lot of politicians could be gone.” . . .

“I think there will be a public backlash when people start to think about what is this guy really accused of doing, and is this the most serious thing a politician has done when most people are really concerned about politicians selling their office to special interests. There’s no kind of that allegation here.”

Okay, so let me get this straight, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington doesn’t have a problem with the fact that a congressman repeatedly lied in public (putting aside for a moment his behavior in private). Now that’s something to think about.

  • Anonymous

    Here are a few of my thoughts about this issue:
    Due to the highly partisan nature of our current political climate in America, political leaders are inclined to exaggerate, tell half truths, make misleading comments, distort the facts, communicate terminological inexactitudes, and outright lie.  I think that Rep. Weiner’s lying was a reflexive response when he realized that he had done some very stupid things.  I feel sorry for him, but I believe he should resign, repent, and seek God’s healing and salvation. 
    Of course if all political leaders who have lied to the public resigned, we would be without the vast majority of government leaders.  I just wish a few of them would start being more honest and candid. 
    I worked full time for over twenty-four years as an employee of the Federal Government.  I can tell you that in the agency in which I worked there was a very low tolerance for lying.  I wish our elected officials were held to the same standard as Federal employees.  – Bill Goff

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Bill, for this comment. We have a strange tolerance in our society for lying by government leaders. Your point about Federal employees is particularly ironic and sad.

  • Evan

    Mark,

    I think the first order of business is to nail down what is “lying,” and then to rank what is being “lied” about.

    It is very off-putting to hear talking heads say, “Well, you know, ALL politicians lie.” That is a cousin to the canard, “ALL Presidents have had affairs and sex outside of marriage” that became very, very popular in 1998. The definitions “stretch” so that “everyone” is doing it, but that is itself dishonest.

    “I will reduce unemployment to 5%.” Unemployment remains above 5%. “HE LIED!” is the refrain. That is not a lie. That is a failed goal. Talking heads will call this a lie when the speaker is on the other side politically, and their claim is politically motivated.

    “I did not send that picture.” THAT is a lie.

    “I love your new hat” when you dislike it. That is a lie, but pretty well harmless. “I will vote for this bill” and then they vote the other way with no warning or explanation. That is a lie, and potentially very serious.

    The problem with adultery, sexting and the like in the political context is that it reflects appalling judgment and delving into all sorts of character traits that we view as undesirable in our leaders, and that suggests that the politician will not work in the country’s best interests. We do not elect people who desert their commands in combat or rape people because their conduct indicates they will make bad judgments and bad policy. The same problem is there for people who lie.

    The problem with lying about more serious things is that it introduces complete unpredictability in a politician. Since most lying is to protect oneself and one’s interests, again it suggests that this person will put themselves and their interests ahead of the country’s.

    Finally, it is all well and good to chirp that “all politicians lie, so what?” but the very real possibility of blackmail and other problems arise. Talking heads love to point out various Presidents that had affairs, etc. and then to breezily assert that all of those activities did not affect their job performance one iota.

    Well, yeah, that we KNOW about. See, they could have been blackmailed. And then lied about it. And talking heads that love them may also lie about it, so that the public will never learn of it, because lying is no big deal.

    Personally, I have always thought that if you will betray your spouse, who WON’T you betray? And if lying is no big deal, then why should ANYONE tell the truth?

    C.S. Lewis nailed it. “We scoff at honor and then are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” When you hear someone say that lying is no big deal, grab your wallet and guard your back from knives.

  • Evan

    Mark,

    Pardon the second post, but this comment absolutely illustrates my point:

    “…is this the most serious thing a politician has done when most people are really concerned about politicians selling their office to special interests. There’s no kind of that allegation here.”

    This is what I learn from this:

    1) “Lying about sex” is okay.

    2) “Selling your office to special interests” is the standard, and “lying about sex” does not meet the standard, so no big deal.

    3) There is “no kind of allegation” that any “selling your office to special interests” happened.

    This is ludicrous. There was also no public allegation in “The Godfather” that Don Corleone had put a horse’s head in the movie producer’s bed to get a movie role for his “godson,” either. THAT IS THE NATURE OF BLACKMAIL. If a politician is threatened with exposure of their hidden affairs if they do not vote a certain way, who will know? And is it okay to lie about that?

    Unlike the statue, I do not have to think about that for even a second. :)

    Evan

  • Anonymous

    As usual, great insights. Thanks, Evan.

  • Jspetty

    Paul Ryan lied when he said his bill doesn’t end Medicare.  Should he leave Congress?

  • Rob

    Psalm 146:3-4 sums it up for me. Jeremiah 17:9 is also pretty explanatory. No one should be very surprised by these things.

  • Anonymous

    Is he lying? Or is he mistaken (in your view)? There is a difference, don’t you think?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, that’s true. No surprise, but still sorrow.


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