Recently, the question was posed on Facebook, of all places, whether all presidents have lied.
A few of you may see an ulterior motive here, but I have chosen to spin it more rhetorically in asking is it ok for certain people, be they presidents or not, to misrepresent the truth, or facts, or that they’ve been caught red-handed and need to confess.
As I have noted earlier in this blog, I’m deeply old-fashioned when it comes to not being truthful, or honest, all that Boy Scout stuff. Many, however, are not so burdened, and willingly, brazenly, stretch and break what is commonly called the truth. But, as many will point out, and not just philosophy majors, assuming anyone is still pursuing philosophy, truth is subjective, so I can say what I want.
This is exemplified in the rich American tradition of political speech, where it is acceptable and expected that those engaged in political theater will accuse each other of any number of terrible traits and sins, so bad, so monstrous that voting for them is akin to voting for Beelzebub himself. This may seem contradictory as they can’t both be Beelzebub, but you never know.
However, and this was in the rich vein of mythological traditions of honesty and forthrightness, it was presumed that lying about policy, the stuff politicians are supposed to be doing when they morph into legislators, was different than just calling your opponent a child mollester during a campaign, and as it had real world ramifications, should not be lied about.
Sadly, as we have come to learn over the years, what we’re told a piece of legislation will do versus what it actually does is…
When confronted by these inconvenient truths, most politicians/legislators/policy makers will do the walk on hot coals trying to explain or explain away their malfeasance. This doesn’t buck up our eroding confidence in either them or the system.
By that logic then, lying is endemic and our political life comes down to which lies we find most compelling, or are most comfortable with, or they’re all liars so it doesn’t matter anyway.
The problem with lying is it subverts and destroys trust.
As an example of why lying is bad, I will use the great game of baseball using 2 scenarios. Here’s the setup: A game is being played and pitch is thrown and caught at the height of the batter’s head. In the first scenario, the ump calls the pitch a ball, much to the consternation of the pitcher.
“No,” he states emphatically, “that pitch was a strike!”
Now by both tradition and rule, a pitch that high is a ball, so for the pitcher to say it was a strike is untrue. However, he may honestly believe that, unlike other pitchers, his pitches thrown high are still strikes and will emphatically continue to argue and defend that pitch as a strike.
In this instance, if he continues to argue, the ump tosses his ass and the game resumes.
In the second scenario, it is the ump that calls the pitch a strike, much to the consternation of the batter. To complicate matters, the ump continues to call it a strike no matter what the rulebook or tradition calls the strike zone, to the consternation of both teams. You can’t toss the ump, and if he emphatically continues to claim he is right, how can the game go on? Furthermore, he is backed up by the other umps in his association, because without the association the game is not official, and because the strike zone is subjective.
(For those of you who might feel that last line is balderdash, you’ve never been the victim of a bad call.)
What does this have to do with lying presidents?
Lying is bad whether it’s your guy or not, and it’s baseball season.
©2019 David William Pearce