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Why Do We Let Politicians Get Away With Lying?

Conor Friedersdorf has a sobering take on the current state of American politics:

Politicians have always lied because they’ve always had powerful incentives to do so. Over time, some level of mendacity became an expected part of the process; for American voters, it only seemed pragmatic to accept some lies from candidates, else who would there be to support? Only particularly egregious mendacity was penalized under the evolving norm. But “particularly egregious” reling ative to what? For politicians, the incentive to lie just a bit more always existed, and so the expected level of lies kept getting ratcheted up to new levels.

It’s now easier than ever to get elected despite telling brazen lies. But on some level Americans are aware of what’s gone on, and so they accord decreasing amounts of respect to elected leaders. The conventional wisdom is that in order to be a successful politician these days, you’ve got to gradually compromise many of your core principles and perhaps your integrity.

Ask yourself this question: Can anyone become president without lying? Without misrepresenting their opponent? Without using people as a means to an end? I don’t think anyone can. And I have no idea how a nation would go about reversing the ratchet effect successfully. I’ll be voting for a third party this November, but I don’t really expect it to make any difference.

Most Americans have grown so used to mendacity that it’s taken for granted. I wonder if, despite its inevitability, we’d be better off if we raged against betrayals of what we believe is right a bit more.

It’s worth noting that the idea that politicians lie is hardly new to American politics. It’s an accusation that has been tossed around by political opponents since the nation’s first truly contested Presidential election in 1800 and, by the time we got to the era of people like Mark Twain and Will Rogers the mendacity of politicians was apparently such a common belief that it became the subject for humor and satire. At the same, though, there’s always been a level of tolerance that the public has had for certain kinds of, if not lies at least misinformation and I’m not really sure the genera public is any more cynical about politicians now than they were 50 or 100 years ago. T Partly, I think, because there is in fact a sense of resignation among members of the public who realize that, in some sense, every politician is going to bend the truth in s0me sense so there’s no sense in holding them to a standard they won’t be able to meet. Partly, it’s because there are some lies we want politicians to tell us.

here are still some bright lines, though when it comes to lies by politicians. Lying in order to cover-up a potential crime, for example, is still political suicide, as are the kind of lies that John Edwards told about his personal life. Fourteen years ago, Bill Clinton learned that lying under oath could lead to an Impeachment proceeding, though most Americans came to believe that his particular form of lying should not be punished by removal from office. But when it comes to telling a “lie” about a piece of legislation, or misrepresenting the facts for political purposes, which we have come over the last two decades or so to refer to as “spin,” though, the American people do indeed seem to have just decided to accept the fact that politicians lie and there isn’t a whole lot they can do about it.

There’s another side to this, though, and I noted it above. Sometimes, Americans want their politicians to lie to them about certain things. Do voters really want to hear the truth about how painful its going to be to fix our fiscal and entitlements crises? Do they want to hear that there are some problems in the world that America can’t, or shouldn’t fix, or that the economy isn’t going to return to the boom days of the 90s any time soon? I’d argue that they most definitely don’t want to hear the truth about these and many other subjects, so we let our politicians lie to us about them all the time.

I’m not trying to excuse lying and misinformation in the political arena at all, and there are problems that develop if the public becomes overly cynical about the political process. The good news, I suppose, is that we now live in a world where technology allows people to publicize the lies and half-truths that politicians tell far better than could be done in the past, and far better than the media even tries to do theses days. From websites Politifact and Factcheck.org, along with things like Glenn Kessler’s “Fact Checker” column for The Washington Post to ordinary blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages, people have the opportunity to learn about the truth of what their leaders tell them than ever before. What they choose to do with that information is their choice.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Commonist says:

    Politifact? Reliable? I am araid that is a lie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Americans want their politicians to lie to them about certain things

    Bingo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. Jay_Dubbs says:

    Better to hear the lie than deal with uncomfortable truth.

    Plus, at this point, the public can assume that a truth on Fox is considered a lie on MSNBC and vice versa. (and of course, the neutral media would treat the dispute as “this side say ‘A’ and the other says ‘not A’”rather than say A is the truth and the other side is full of crap.)

    We have reached a point in our society where it is difficult for opposing sides to agree on what is the truth. I guess we are truly post-modern now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    In addition to having been dumbed down in various respects nearly to catatonic levels, the reality is there is a strain of masochism that runs through Zombieland. A form of inertia also plays a role. People stay in bad or even abusive relationships. People stay in crappy jobs. People allow themselves again and again to be duped into throwing good money after bad. Not surprisingly people also allow politicos time and again to lie to their faces with no repercussions. All part and parcel of the big decline.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. James says:

    Well Doug, there’s lying, and then there’s selective use of facts to provide intellectual support for demagoguery; like say, insisting that a 4.6% increase in the top marginal income tax bracket is tantamount to class warfare.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 7

  6. Moosebreath says:

    “and of course, the neutral media would treat the dispute as “this side say ‘A’ and the other says ‘not A’”rather than say A is the truth and the other side is full of crap”

    I think this gets at the problem directly. If the media is not calling politicians on their lies, lying has little cost. That’s how you get to birtherism, and “death panels” and “Obamacare is the largest tax increase in history” and numerous others.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 3

  7. Most Americans like political corruption and lying politicians are part of that; they only have a problem with corruption that they’re not in on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  8. @James:

    Cognitive dissonance is a terrible thing to waste?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Xerxes says:

    It takes two to lie though. One to tell the lie, the other to believe the lie

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  10. rodney dill says:

    @Xerxes: That doesn’t make any sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Congrats Doug, you’ve been elevated to demagogue. Do you get to hang out with Hercules now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. jan says:

    Michael Gerson has written an opinion piece which skirts this topic of lying, except here he softens the act of lying a little by using the word ‘finesse:’ Obama can finesse his failure no longer

    Instead, we witnessed the five stages of bad public relations. Delusion: It was a “step in the right direction.” Dismissiveness: Don’t “read too much into any one monthly report.” Grudging acceptance: “It’s still tough out there.” Cliche: “There are no quick fixes.” Self-pity: “I suspect that most people in Cincinnati would acknowledge that I’ve tried real hard.”

    Other areas of ‘finessing’ have been in Obama’s relentless ad campaign asserting Romney’s companies outsourced jobs. In reality Romney bought failing companies, turned the greater percentage of them around with more jobs (never outsourcing them), sold them to other businesses, some of whom did engage in outsourcing jobs. It’s would be using the same type of disingenuousness if Obama bought run-down homes, rehabbed them, sold them to another who turned them into crack houses, having Romney then state, in a political ad, that “Obama dealt with housing that were crack houses.” Do you see how that works!

    Another lie is Obama taking on the role of the under-dog, saying he was outspent by his opponents in all his previous campaigns.

    When he ran in the dem primary for state Senate, he challenged all his opponents’ signatures, having them one-by-one thrown out, including the party’s popular favorite, Alice Palmer’s signatures, so he could then run unopposed in that primary. How difficult was that?

    When Obama ran against the inept Alan Keyes, he had an 8 to 1 financial advantage against his political opponent.

    When it came to John McCain, well, Obama didn’t go along with his financial reform pledge, as did McCain, and he had an overwhelming advantage there — either 2 to 3 times as much money as McCain.

    So, where is the truth in any of this garbage?

    Sometimes people lie, And then sometimes people are pathological liars. It just rolls smoothly out of their mouth into other people’s ears and minds. Look at the context of his books, how Obama condensed and fabricated his characters to make them more interesting and applicable to his ideological themes. Is this merely using creative license, in writing a supposed non-fiction, autobiographical book, while having so much of it brazenly fiction..or is it plain and simple finessing the truth and ultimately lying!

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 26

  13. george says:

    Actually I think its more about team sports than anything else – you’ll note that most people find it quite easy to justify the lies told by their team (ie party or political philosophy). Or perhaps better said, find it quite easy to rationalize the lies by cherry picking details, and arguing that what seems to be hypocrisy isn’t and only appears to be because of false equivalency.

    So if your team cheats and gets away with it, that’s just part of the game. Its only wrong when the other team does it. And until that changes, until people’s team becomes the nation instead of the philosophy they follow, its never going to change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. Blue Shark says:

    We now have entire “News” networks devoted to propagating those same lies.

    …What did you think would happen?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  15. mannning says:

    There is not much one can do about past lies of politicians except to recognize them and catalog them for use against the liar at the next election. A number of people have done this to make Obama suffer for his lies*, and I am sure that a few are trying to do the same to Romney. I hope they succeed in nailing all of the lies to the wall for us to read.

    The suggestion that we are accepting of lies and liars seems to be true for this administration, since its liars won by a nice majority. If they repeat, the majority of voters are to be condemned for doing it blindly yet again, while the rest of us suffer quite needlessly.

    *See: Crimes Against Liberty, by David Limbaugh. (If you haven’t read it all, don’t critique it.)

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 16

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Manning you wouldn’t know the difference between truth and a lie if Jesus, Moses and Gabriel floated down out of the sky to explain it out to you.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

  17. PD Shaw says:

    My problem with the Conor piece and most of these types of discussions is I don’t see most (any?) of this as lies. Obama saying that he wants to go to Washington to “change the system” isn’t a lie. Its a statement of future intent. Most of the stuff that Conor links to are quotes that are too vacuous to have any real meaning.

    Saying we need to change the system is clearly a way to mobilize support to change the system. That’s what Presidents and candidates do. Ultimately, he didn’t mobilize support to change the system, not because he was lying about his desire to do so, but because he didn’t appear to have any grand idea on how to do that and he never expressed one.

    I guess my point is that the problem in politics isn’t lying; that’s infrequent; its cheap, gullible dates like Conor Friedersdorf and Larry Lessig who respond to their dissapointments with personal invectives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  18. G.A. says:

    Manning you wouldn’t know the difference between truth and a lie if Jesus, Moses and Gabriel floated down out of the sky to explain it out to you.

    lol…

    Harry…

    Has Obama ever told the truth about anything?ANYTHING?!?!?!?!?! and if so please tell us what it was..

    The only thing I can think of is that he loves the Islamic call to prayer because it is the most beautiful thing he has ever HEARD and because it is, I believe, a fond memory from his childhood. But knowing him and seeing the way he whacks many of Islams greatest leaders for carrying out the word of Allah, that’s probably bull**** too.

    So I am going with a pass on that one.

    ??????

    And try not to Alinsky this all up.Sow me where he has ever told the truth with out using any rules….Crap that some other liberal gave you as a talking points ain’t gonna fly either….

    It is time to defend your P O T U S…

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 20

  19. al-Ameda says:

    Why do we let politicians getaway with lying?
    A few brief observations:

    1. We hear what we want to hear.
    2. We penalize politicians who tell us what we don’t want to hear.
    3. We often categorize as a lie, an action taken that is not exactly as promised at a different time and under different circumstances.
    4. Far too much verbiage is now defined as a lie, so much so that the term “a lie” has become seriously devalued.
    5. It’s not as if the public is any better than many of the politicians that they vilify ofr “lying.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  20. Dazedandconfused says:

    We don’t mind a bit of bullshitting. Who doesn’t like a bit of sunshine blown up their ass? A discussion on the difference between lies and BS would seem relevant.

    On BS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit

    I disagree with his assertion that bullshit is “worse” than lies though. The assertion is based on lies having more “respect” for the truth. I view it from a perspective of damage done and the facility of detection and verification.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  21. mattb says:

    Beyond @PD Shaw’s thoughtful meditation on the question, I think one need look no further than this thread to understand the answer to Doug and Connor’s question… beyond the vast majority of the population that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to know, the rest are a mix of disappointed true belivers, those who only care about the lies of the other side, and a number of others who cynically assume that both sides do it, so what’s the point of caring.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  22. Hello World! says:

    .. Because there is no shortage of bloggers that will carry water for their lies?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  23. G.A. says:

    Now I get it…since we have no sound here the down votes symbolize the noise made by the Marxist crickets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  24. An Interested Party says:

    Why Do We Let Politicians Get Away With Lying?

    Probably for the same reason that we let various members of corporations, media outlets, talk show hosts, radio personalities, website hosts, and bloggers get away with lying…

    Oh, and Michael Gerson needs to check out a mirror before he writes anything that goes anywhere near the subject of lying…

    …the noise made by the Marxist crickets.

    Speaking of lies…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  25. mannning says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why, you are so right! That explains why we have Obama in office now. None of the left could tell that he was lying all the time. You need a better perspective! I gather that you haven’t read the book I cited, either. I’d bet a c-note that you can’t cite one single Obama lie, because you are not open-minded enough to recognize when he does lie. That is a fatal flaw! I, on the other hand, can choose one out of a book crammed full.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

  26. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: Yes, he would–a lie is something that you have said whereas the truth is what he has said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. ratufa says:

    @mannning:

    I’d bet a c-note that you can’t cite one single Obama lie, because you are not open-minded enough to recognize when he does lie. That is a fatal flaw! I, on the other hand, can choose one out of a book crammed full.

    I wish I could have upvoted you more than once for that gem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  28. Scott O says:

    @mannning: Who needs to read Limbaugh’s book when we’ve got G.A.?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  29. Davebo says:

    @mannning:

    If you need that many explanation points to make your point perhaps it’s best kept to yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  30. mannning says:

    @Davebo:

    Sorry, about exclamation points, I didn’t know they were rationed here at OTB. Next time I will use all caps for the key points.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  31. mannning says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Perhaps Connor was not privy to the cottage industry of cataloging Obama’s outright lies, misdirections, and deceptions. The latest of Obama’s, well, lies, is the classic: “The private sector is doing fine!” It took maybe three days before he was convinced to retract that lie. Someone had to point out to him that a jobless rate of 8.1% and the number of give-ups is another 10 or 11%, doesn’t speak to “doing fine,” and with some 40 million now on food stamps and another set of many millions are sitting on the dole, it just isn’t so! A characteristic failure to grasp the truth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  32. rodney dill says:

    @Davebo: Pointless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  33. C. Clavin says:

    Typical Mannnnnning…

    “…The latest of Obama’s, well, lies, is the classic: “The private sector is doing fine!” It took maybe three days before he was convinced to retract that lie…”

    First off “The Private Sector is doing fine” is an opinion…not a statement of fact and cannot be a lie. Second…the Private sector is doing fine. If Obama had added the sheer number of Public Sector jobs that every other President had added then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation about UE. And third the President has not taken back the statement of opinion you call a lie.
    I mean seriously…I regret Reynolds use of mythical charachters…but he’s right. You wouldn’t know thruth if it bit you in your arse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  34. gVOR08 says:

    I find I OTB has become one of my most frequently visited sites. Doug, Steve, and James generally post interesting material and make a real effort to be objective. However, what I really enjoy is the comments. Much better than most blogs. Many of our regular commentors are able to add to the discussion, which is generally entertaining and often informative.

    This thread is worrisome. It’s turning into a standard issue flamewar. Please, please, don’t feed the trolls. Politely correct any misstatements of fact, vote them down, and move on. Their goal is to piss of liberals. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  35. mattb says:

    @C. Clavin: Actually, I would suggest that Manning’s bringing up of “The private sector is doing fine…” demonstrates in a nut shell the problem with this entire issue of “lying.”

    As you note, was Obama’s statement one of Fact or Opinion? Or is somewhere in between — is there a specific marker as to what “doing fine” means?

    Then beyond that, another question is what was the context of the statement. What were the words that surrounded that comment (Mantis did a nice contextualization of the quote here). And to demonstrate “both sides” selectively care about context, one need look no further than the question of whether or not Mitt Romney likes firing people.

    I’d rather point to something else that Manning wrote: “the cottage industry of cataloging Obama’s outright lies, misdirections, and deceptions.” Whether or not it’s truly a “cottage industry,” there are definitely partisan industries dedicated to “outing the lies” of the other side.

    Now before one holds them in too high regard, remember that another key cottage industry has been dedicated to proving that Obama is not an American Citizen. So just because it’s an industry, doesn’t make it the most reliable. More importantly, these industries need to serve a customer base — namely other partisans. So that means that they’re findings should be viewed with a healthy does of skepticism, since their livelyhood is based on keeping their own base (who already believe that Obama is a liar) happy.

    Finally, I find it ironic that the same people who are fast to support the cottage industry dedicated to pointing out Obama’s lies and far more hesitant about the cottage industries that have grown up around tracking the “lies” of Mitt Romney and before him Sarah Palin, John McCain, or GWB.

    Ultimately, for a partisan, only their side has a monopoly on the “truth” and on “real outrage.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  36. mattb says:

    BWT, I do think that it is possible to do more reliable fact checking. But that requires two things:

    1. Fact checking both sides
    2. A record of finding “lies” and “truths” in statements on both sides

    So for example take FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com. In the case of the first, it was a common thing to hear conservatives dismiss FactCheck as a “liberal/Obama/Annenberg” production. But as it turns out, FactCheck has been one of the sites that has done yoelman’s work actually researching claims like “Romney Outsourced Jobs” and found that there is currently not enough data to actually prove the claim. Likewise, if you go to PolitiFact today, the highlighted article is about how MoveOn has stretched the truth on two claims about the Florida Voter purge.

    So I submit these as examples of Fact Checking done “better” than the sort of Cottage Industries that Manning pointed to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. EddieInCA says:

    @mannning:

    Quoting “The Princess Bride”: Manning, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    Here’s context:

    President Obama: “We’ve got a couple of sectors in our economy that are still weak. Overall, the private sector has been doing a good job creating jobs. We’ve seen record profits in the corporate sector. The big challenge we have in our economy right now is state and local government hiring has been going in the wrong direction. You’ve seen teacher layoffs, police officers, cops, firefighters are being laid off. And the other sector that is still weak has been the construction industry.

    “Those two areas, we’ve directly addressed with our jobs plan. The problem is that it requires Congress to take action, and we’re going to keep pushing them to see if they can move in that direction.

    ***

    Question from a Reporter: “What about the Republicans saying that you’re blaming the Europeans for the failure of your own policies?”

    President Obama: “The truth of the matter is that, as I said we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last two — 27 months; over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine.

    “Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government, oftentimes cuts initiated by, you know, governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.

    ————–

    So Manning (and Mitt, and Rush, and the rest of the GOP echo chamber) took six words from a long and detailed policy answer, to manufacture an outrage. Why? Because the truth is harder to explain.

    You must be sooo proud.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. mannning says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Indeed I am, if this kind of sloppy statement about the economy is touted by Mr. Obama every day. Time for some truth and accuracy in reporting to go along with routing out the past crop of lies, misdirections and outright mistakes by Obama and staff.

    I notice that none of the so-called stalwarts of this blog have reported on or even read the Limbaugh book, hence they have no authority to criticize anyone about Obama’s lies, simply because they don’t know what has been reported in considerable depth and with full references as to sources. I see the reactions here as pure obfuscation of the truth in defense of the Obama left, and the use of the usual tactics of debate: damn the source; damn a part and try to make it stand for the whole; call the entire line of thought to be BS, and obviously thought up by Obama haters; or, it is taken out of context, when the meaning is quite clear, etc. etc. ad nauseam. I further notice that MR did NOT take up my challenge, probably because he did not want to admit to any Obama lies at all.

    So I challenge the whole lot of you. Show me a good whopper from the mouth of Obama, just one, and demonstrate your objectivity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  39. al-Ameda says:

    @mannning:

    So I challenge the whole lot of you. Show me a good whopper from the mouth of Obama, just one, and demonstrate your objectivity.

    Sure here’s one:

    “I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation, and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners.”

    Of course he lied about Libya – we committed 130,000 troops to Libya, 4,000 died, and it was a completely deficit-funded war. Oh wait … that was Iraq, sorry … my bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  40. G.A. says:

    This thread is worrisome. It’s turning into a standard issue flamewar. Please, please, don’t feed the trolls. Politely correct any misstatements of fact, vote them down, and move on. Their goal is to piss of liberals. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

    lol trolls? This place is overrun with kool aid drunk freaking trolls. OTB- OBAMA TROLL BATERS…….

    if you think that was a swipe at this site you are wrong…. IT WAS AN INSULT TO THE INFESTATION!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. G.A. says:

    Speaking of lies…

    lol most of you guys ain’t Marxist because you reasoned with yourselves and came to the the consensus that you’re not …lolzzzzzzz…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. jukeboxgrad says:

    mattb:

    I submit these as examples of Fact Checking done “better” than the sort of Cottage Industries that Manning pointed to

    The ‘official’ fact-checkers like PolitiFact usually do a pretty good job, but sometimes they make serious mistakes. I’ll describe an example I consider important. Mitt said this:

    [Obama has] racked up as much debt as almost all of the other presidents combined

    Now take a look at what was said about that by PolitiFact and by WP-Glenn Kessler. They both criticize the statement, but they seriously understate the falsity of the statement. It’s a little bit like writing an article describing Madoff as a thief while also understating how much he stole.

    Notice that Cato Institute said this:

    Don’t Blame Obama for Bush’s 2009 Deficit …critics sometimes blame Obama for things that are not his fault. …The 2009 fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.

    FY09 ended on 9/30/09. Spending for the period 1/20/09 through 9/30/09 “was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.” Therefore the debt added during that period is “largely” Bush’s responsibility, not Obama’s.

    This issue of how to treat FY09 is critically important because it was the worst year ever (the deficit in FY09 was $1.4T). Assigning that debt to Obama shifts the analysis dramatically. PolitiFact doesn’t give this problem the weight it deserves, and Kessler implicitly ignores this problem (and he has also ignored this problem on other occasions). Who knew that PolitiFact and WP are to the right of Cato Institute? But there you have it.

    PolitiFact and WP also completely gloss over another serious issue: Mitt’s claim ignores inflation. How does it makes sense to treat a dollar added to the debt by Reagan as equal in value to a dollar added to the debt by Obama? It doesn’t, but that idea is implicit in Mitt’s claim, and both PolitiFact and WP (and various others fact-checkers, like AP) let him get away with that.

    Reagan added $1.9T to the debt, in nominal dollars. But if you inflation-adjust those numbers, the result is about $3.3T in current dollars. Mitt’s claim glosses over this issue, and every fact-checker I’ve checked ignores this problem.

    I think this example is important because the subject matter is important, and the lie is repeated often (in various forms, by various people), and the falsity is large and easily demonstrated, and even the ‘fact-checkers’ don’t really understand the full extent of the problem.

    There’s a related issue: that debt has been added under Obama (in fiscal years after FY09) as a result of problems that were created before he showed up. However, this issue has been discussed pretty thoroughly in various places, while the other two problems I mentioned (the role of FY09, and adjusting for inflation) are widely overlooked, even by people who should know better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  43. mannning says:

    @mattb:

    That is the working definition of partisan, isn’t it?

    When I spoke of the cottage industry exposing Obama’s lies, I had in mind not only the several books published that expose his lies, deceptions, and blunders, but also the extensive blogs that are dedicated to the proposition that Obama is the greatest liar in the history of the Presidency, and publish what appear to be fact after fact, with reference after reference to support the facts stated, proving the Obama lied here and there all over the place. Many of them are merely smear jobs not worth reading, and echo the lines being formulated by the opposition. But several seem to adhere to journalistic practices and make a valid attempt to present the facts as known to them with substantial corroborating evidence. That is characteristic of David Limbaugh’s book and blog, as one example.
    I have not explored the cottage industry exposing Romney yet. I fully intend to. If, as I have faith it will not come to this, that Romney is as big or even a far bigger liar than Obama, what in hell will I do then? Liars are not acceptable people, which puts your average dissembling politician out of my house immediately.

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  44. mannning says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Your lie, you mean?

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  45. wr says:

    @mannning: “I notice that none of the so-called stalwarts of this blog have reported on or even read the Limbaugh book”

    And never will. It’s nice that you continue to shill for this lying hack, but honestly my time would be better spent watching something with a Kardashian in it than reading yet another litany of trumped up outrage by a loser whose claim to fame (and cash) is that he’s the sycophantic brother of one of the world’s worst human beings.

    If you’ve got an actual “lie” of Obama’s you’d like us “libs” to address, please feel free to toss it out here. But don’t try to claim that the fact we won’t soil our eyeballs with hundreds of pages of drivel means you win any argument.

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  46. Anonymous At Work says:

    Doug, I think you misconstrued the order of why ‘lies for political reasons’ are acceptable. Rather than people deciding that spin wasn’t a big deal and then deciding that it couldn’t be helped, the order is probably more that voters can’t really do much about it (if upset), and have therefore internalized the notion that it isn’t a big deal. It may be semantics but the complexity, expense, degradation and exhaustion of a modern campaign for anything greater than “block captain” have made efficient challenges to sitting legislators too difficult to undertake for anything but ideologically-important reasons.

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  47. al-Ameda says:

    @mannning:

    @al-Ameda:
    Your lie, you mean?

    How so?
    I corrected my own misperception that Obama lied about Libya, right?

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  48. Jelperman says:

    This is really about the level of power of the ones being lied to. You can lie to the serfs, but don’t you dare lie to your elite peers.

    Bush lied to the public, leading to over a million dead Iraqis and thousands of dead Americans, yet he hasn’t been prosecuted for it. Ditto for Johnson, who lied the country into Vietnam. These lies are OK because the powers that be approve of them.

    Clinton and Edwards lied -GASP!- to prosecutors, who are members of the elite. This is unforgivable, so all manner of trumped-up charges were leveled at both of them.

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  49. Moosebreath says:

    @mattb:

    And yet, there are limits to what FactCheck and PolitiFact can do, as they have no investigative reporters. The FactCheck response to the offshoring piece you refer to indicated that the claim was not truthful because Romney said he left Bain in 1999 and was no longer at Bain when the offsourcing occurred.

    However, today the Boston Globe wrote, relying on Bain’s tax filings and financial disclosure forms, that this was not true, and Romney was still CEO and 100% owner of Bain through 2002.

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  50. mannning says:

    @wr:

    Now that is a classic diversion from a lib, just as I predicted. Attack the source not the content, and condemn by association and innuendo. What a miserable soul to trot this s**t out here instead of an intelligent rebuttal. Of course you won’t identify any Obama lies, because you are sold out lock stock and barrrel to Obama, and to actually admit there are such is much, much too painful. Actually, there are over 18 documented subject-groups of repeated Obama lies, fortified with proof, in David Limbaugh’s book. I find it quite par for the course that a lib would run for cover and use every evasive tool at his disposal to avoid actually coming to grips with the bald fact that Obama is a proven narcissistic, consummate and inveterate liar. You are welcome to the likes of him to slather over, it must suit your tastes.
    No, I won’t do your research for you, you must do it for yourself. I pointed the way, but, of course, following the code of liberalism, and in the tradition of ostrich thinking, you will not do so. A pity.

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  51. mannning says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Simple. You don’t get to mislead with a lie and then HAHAHA correct it. You formulated your deliberate lie with malice aforethought.. Full stop.

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  52. rodney dill says:

    @Moosebreath: Nice lie to try and perpetuate, Moosebreath. The time discrepancy is explained by several sources and backed up by Bain’s own statements.

    Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Olympics and has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure. Due to the sudden nature of Mr. Romney’s departure, he remained the sole stockholder for a time while formal ownership was being documented and transferred to the group of partners who took over management of the firm in 1999. Accordingly, Mr. Romney was reported in various capacities on SEC filings during this period.”

    I’ve been involved in several corporate takeovers (at the bottom rungs) and I’ve received W-2′s from the company that was acquired for 1-2 years afterward. I was also told this was for legal reasons, but never was told much more that. It probably would’ve been illegal for his name (Romney’s) not to appear on the filings during that transition period, even though he left management of Bains in 1999.

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  53. Moosebreath says:

    @rodney dill:

    What’s the “lie”? Was he not the CEO through 2002? Was he not the 100% shareholder for that same time?

    Moreover, why would it take 3 full years to finalize the paperwork on the transfer of shares (much less a change in who the CEO is, which typically can be done in a week, even if the Secretary of State’s office is very slow) in a privately held entity.

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  54. mannning says:

    Speaking of cottage industries that find liars, I Googled “Romney Lies”, and came up with a long list of accusations that he did lie about several business matters, and about what he perceived as Obama’s failings. Over the next days, I will sort some of this out to my satisfaction in order to decide whether the accusations are true or not. Some of the supposed lies, such as the one mentioned just above this comment concerning when Romney left Bain, have been put to rest by the facts. On the others, we shall see. Quite obviously, these cottage industries jump to find and publish what they think are lies far too fast for the eventual facts to dispel them.

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  55. rodney dill says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Romney said he left Bain in 1999 and was no longer at Bain when the offsourcing occurred.

    However, today the Boston Globe wrote, [...] that this was not true,

    That was easy.

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  56. mannning says:

    There’s another side to this, though, and I noted it above. Sometimes, Americans want their politicians to lie to them about certain things. Do voters really want to hear the truth about how painful its going to be to fix our fiscal and entitlements crises? Do they want to hear that there are some problems in the world that America can’t, or shouldn’t fix, or that the economy isn’t going to return to the boom days of the 90s any time soon? I’d argue that they most definitely don’t want to hear the truth about these and many other subjects, so we let our politicians lie to us about them all the time.

    …Doug Mataconis

    This is cynical in the extreme. The answer I give is yes, yes, and yes. And yes to the others too.
    Bring it all out into the sunlight and we go from there. Honest and patriotic citizens do indeed want to get to the truth, even if it hurts, for we cannot stand to live on top of nothing but lies. That way is the way to hell, witness the last three years of say one thing and do the opposite. Of course they don’t want to hurt, but so long as the real truth is hidden from them, they have no other reference but doubt and confusion, and the other side’s lies.

    Do I think this clensing will take place? No. The political sphere is much too far gone for that on both sides, it seems. I don’t believe we “let” them lie to us: we have little choice in the matter, and that makes me very angry. I simply detest liars and decievers. We appear to have only a lesser of evils choice in our lying political leaders, but it should not be that way.

    Who here doesn’t want to follow the way of truth?

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