Vail Daily letter: Liar-in-chief
I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. I’m voting for her not in spite of her troubles with the truth. I’m voting for because she is a skilled and seasoned liar. I think having a first-class liar in the White House is an asset. Politicians lie all the time including some of our most esteemed presidents. FDR lied about preparing troops for war. JFK lied about invading Cuba. Reagan lied about Iran Contra. And Lincoln lied about his position on slavery and the fact that he was secretly negotiating with the South to end the Civil War.
The reason politicians lie are obvious. They’re the same reasons you and I lie. It’s often easier to lie than it is to tell the truth. Telling the truth exacts a price. You often don’t get what you want when you tell the truth. If politicians told the public the truth they’d never get elected or re-elected. How well do you think a politician would fare if he or she were forthright with the public and told them that Social Security benefits need to be income indexed, taxes on the middle class will have to go up in order to reduce the deficit, and the age eligibility for Medicare needs to be raised to 70 or older? The public places an inflated value on honesty because they view the election of the president as if they were choosing an intimate partner, maintaining a long-standing friendship or entering into an important business venture. In each of those relationships trust is paramount. I don’t want to be lied to by a spouse, a friend or a business partner. The sense of betrayal runs deep and the damage to the relationship is often irreparable.
But that’s not the kind of relationship we have with the president of our country. It’s impersonal. It’s not personal. I don’t want to have dinner with Hillary or a beer with Donald. What would we talk about? The nuclear deal with Iran? The best way to defeat ISIS? Jobs? The economy? I have nothing in common with either of them. We don’t travel in the same social circles. I will never meet them. And I don’t care. I’m just like millions of other Americans who every four years in November vote to hire a stranger to do his or her best to help manage our economy and represent our country on the world stage. I hope whoever is elected does a good job. If they don’t I may suffer but I won’t feel betrayed.
I will care much more about what they didn’t accomplish than that they may have lied to me about what they intended to do. There is a species of lying that does matter more than the variety of lies we all practice. In religious terms we distinguish between venal and mortal. In legal speak we classify crimes as misdemeanors and felonies. The lies that matter less are the ones we tell to protect others (Did you like the dinner?) or ourselves (“I did not have sex with that woman.”) Hillary Clinton did a miserable job of lying about her e-mail server. She may have told the truth to the FBI but not the public. But unless she is convicted of a crime for lying (perjury) I don’t think her dissembling and being disingenuous with the public disqualifies her to be president.
The lies that do matter are the intentional ones which cause harm to others, and, in the case of the president of the United States, potentially great harm. Lyndon B. Johnson’s having classified information that the Vietnam War was going to cost more American lives than the public was led to believe and was likely to end in defeat constituted a lie (a withholding of the truth), of the mortal sin and felonious falsehood variety. In protecting his presidency and legacy, LBJ failed to change policies that might have save thousands of American lives. In protecting himself he harmed others.
Similarly, the Bush-Cheney fiasco over the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein allegedly had which led to the invasion of Iraq was not just a sloppy piece of faulty intelligence. The false pretext for war not only protected the Bush administration’s decision, it led to a disastrous course of action exacting an enormous cost in both blood and treasure. As a bumper sticker which was popular at the time read: “When Clinton lied nobody died.” My tolerance level for stains on the oval office rug is much greater than it is for unnecessary blood left on the battle field.
So I’m voting for “Crooked Hillary” over “Crazy Donald. “ I will candidly admit that Trump doesn’t lie nearly as often as Hillary does. But that’s because he doesn’t traffic in facts. It’s hard to lie when you weren’t factual in the first place. Trump’s statements are a blend of innuendo, rumor, gossip, misinformation, conspiracy hallucinations and uncontrolled impulses. It’s tough to fact check someone who finds facts totally irrelevant. Hillary lies. Donald fabricates. I find it far more comforting having a liar-in-chief running the country than I would having Chief Crazy Horse running amok on the world stage.