All Lies Are Not Created Equal

President Biden told a little fib.

While I agree with the gist of Adam Serwer‘s “Biden Will Lie to You; All presidents do,” he makes the point rather poorly, eliding rather important distinctions.

After cataloging how routinely and destructively President Trump and his administration lied, Serwer declares, quite correctly,

presidential lies were destructive long before Trump appeared, so the press and the public should resist the temptation to assume that the Biden administration will always be on the level, or that its dishonesties can be forgiven because Joe Biden’s predecessor wielded falsehood with such abandon. There will be moments when the public interest conflicts with the political interest of the White House, and during some of these moments, the president will lie.

This makes two important points.

First, and most importantly, that Trump should not be the new bar. The fact that Biden is likely to be incredibly honorable by comparison should not excuse misconduct.

Second, yes, it’s almost a given that Biden will be dishonest. Indeed, as we’ll see, he likely already has.

But Serwer undermines that first point here:

Presidents lie for all sorts of reasons. Lyndon B. Johnson lied about the Vietnam War, as did Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Ronald Reagan lied about selling weapons to Iran to fund right-wing militants in Nicaragua. George H. W. Bush lied about raising taxes; his son George W. Bush lied to facilitate his push for war in Iraq. Barack Obama lied about how the Affordable Care Act would affect preexisting health-insurance plans. Prior to becoming president, Biden was known for bluster and exaggerations, including most memorably the falsehood that he was arrested while trying to visit an imprisoned Nelson Mandela. These are deceptions, not mere errors of fact which all mortals make.

Most obviously, as the link makes clear, Bush the Elder did not lie when he said “Read my lips, no new taxes.” He almost certainly intended to keep that pledge when he made it. Rather, circumstances forced him to go back on that pledge, at great political cost, in order to secure a compromise with an opposite-party Congress. That’s not dishonestly; indeed, it’s arguably the height of honorable conduct.

Additionally, while I voted against Obama twice and disapproved of his signature healthcare initiative on all manner of grounds, the degree to which “If you like your healthcare, you can keep it” was a lie rather than a goal is at least debatable.

The degree to which Bush the Younger “lied” to get us into the Iraq War is debatable. That Bill Clinton lied about the Lewinski affair is not. But, surely, they’re on different scales? Cherry-picking data to garner support for a war that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives is almost certainly a bigger deal than covering up an embarrassing sex scandal.

Which gets us to this:

Already, Biden has sought to mislead the public by setting expectations for vaccinations that experts have said are too modest—which will allow the president to declare his approach a great success if the goal is exceeded. On Thursday, Biden insisted that 100 million vaccinations in 100 days was an ambitious goal that the press had declared impossible.

[…]

This was in fact, false—the Trump administration had nearly reached that pace by the time Biden took office, despite its mishandling of both the pandemic itself and vaccine supplySpeaking to The Washington Post, the vaccine scientist Peter Hotez said that “1 million vaccinations per day is not nearly enough if the aim is to halt virus transmission in six months.” The Biden administration has since claimed that the 100 million target was “a floor, not a ceiling.” On Monday Biden announced a new target of 150 million vaccines over the next hundred days, a tacit acknowledgment that the original goal was not as ambitious as he had claimed.

Biden’s remarks are nowhere near as egregious as Trump’s insistence that the virus would “disappear,” but Trumpian lies should be neither floor nor ceiling. The standard should be the plain truth, even though the Biden administration will, at times, inevitably fail to meet it. Biden will lie. All presidents do.

So . . . yes, Biden was clearly being dishonest in touting a hundred million vaccinations in a hundred days as a major accomplishment. How else is he going to keep his reputation as a miracle worker? But this strikes me as more akin to Bear Bryant poor-mouthing his team when facing weak opponents than lying to the public.

Serwer is right that we should demand “the plain truth” from public officials. Reporters should call BS when they downplay expectations to make claiming success easier. But treating ordinary spin as “lies” poisons the well rather than raising the discourse.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden, Media, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    Worse, he is being deceptive himself. . Biden’s comment was about his original statement in *December* – before any vaccines were approved.

    I’m not sure whether Biden is right or wrong that people scoffed at that pace then but I know for damn sure that the pace of Trump’s vaccine delivery last week (80% of goal which suddenly is “roughly equivalent to the same pace”?) wasn’t the basis for people disagreeing with Biden in DECEMBER

    12
  2. MarkedMan says:

    “If you like your healthcare, you can keep it”

    To me, this is actually a whole ‘nother category: an incorrect statement that shows a profound lack of understanding. Obama believed this, which means he believed it was true in the pre-Obamacare system. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. The average length of time employers keep the same health plan is three years. And every time your employer switches some providers are not going to be in the new plan.

    13
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    All politicians obfuscate, shade the truth, exaggerate, deceive by omission, fabricate, and yes every now and again just flat out lie. So does every other human on the planet. But trump? He tells falsehoods like most people breath. He is categorically incapable of telling a simple truth without enhancing it. If he ever did, it was a mistake on his part.

    7
  4. Scott F. says:

    Amen, James!

    I’d argue the trope that ‘all politicians lie’ is what allowed Trump to lie >30,000 times without it costing him every bit of political capital available to a public figure. It is what allows Rand Paul (as noted in Steven’s post of yesterday) to whine about being called a liar in the midst of telling bald-faced lies.

    9
  5. @Scott F.:

    I’d argue the trope that ‘all politicians lie’ is what allowed Trump to lie >30,000 times

    I think this is quite true. A lot of people defended Trump’s lies by saying “they all lie.”

    It is a longstanding oversimplification that is used to deflect away from serious untruths.

    8
  6. Also: kudos to the Scotty reference in the OP.

    5
  7. Kylopod says:

    I continue to maintain that the most notable thing about Trump’s lies, compared to previous presidents, is how moronically unsophisticated and transparent they are. Traditional pre-Trump politicians usually made some effort to make their lies sound plausible, and part of that involved all the classic techniques of misleading without technically stating something false. When Bush justified going into Iraq on the grounds that “the enemy attacked us,” was he lying? I’d say yes, but the phrasing was too vague to be provably wrong. The Bush Admin deliberately misled a significant portion of the public into believing there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but to my knowledge they never stated it outright. Instead, they resorted to insinuation. That’s one of the oldest political tricks in the book. It’s something even Trump does, in some cases (his racism and his mob-boss threats are examples), but most of the time he goes straight to claiming black is white and up is down, even when there are more subtle ways available to convey the same message.

    Which type of lying is more destructive? On the one hand I’m wary of people using Trump as an excuse to overlook some very bad elements of politics that the press has turned a blind eye to for a long time. The attempt to resurrect the reputation of Mitt Romney–whose 2012 campaign was one of the most flagrantly dishonest in modern history, prior to Trump–shows the danger in holding up Trump as some kind of unique case.

    On the other hand, I can’t ignore the fact that Trump has launched an assault on the very idea of truth that is unprecedented in degree if not kind, and that the Republican electorate is more detached from reality than it’s ever been.

    5
  8. Andy says:

    I think Trump is sui generis in this regard. So many of his lies were such obvious bullshit that it was difficult – for me at least – to take them seriously.

    Personally, I find the dumb lies that Trump engaged in and which almost no one believed (and which the press was forever fact-checking) to be much less concerning than the noble lies and other deceptions that are not transparently BS at first glance. The smart and clever deceivers a’la Little fingers from Game of Thrones are the truly dangerous ones.

    I agree with you that Biden is a good, honorable, and decent man but he is still a politician. We all need to treat his words and claims with skepticism.

    Just as a personal matter, I’m less interested in people’s intentions (which are difficult, to say the least – to see deduce) than in the factual accuracy of statements. In other words, I think it’s usually more important to point out that something is incorrect along with evidence for why it’s incorrect rather than go motive-hunting.

    Finally, given that language has become a weapon in recent years, with activists unilaterally redefining words in strange ways, I think it’s useful to point out that a lie is not merely being wrong or something said with bad intent, or cherry-picking, or wishful thinking, but a false statement that one knows is false when they make it.

    BTW, just a FYI, today I’m getting website certificate errors for OTB’s domain.

    3
  9. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yellowcake.

    Chapelle had so much fun with that. Mos Def as deputy CIA director.

    Aluminum tubes!

    3
  10. Kathy says:

    IMO, the most infuriating kind of lie is the non-sequitur lie. It goes like this:

    A company or a government has a policy that is written down and anyone can look up. Allegations emerge that they’ve acted contrary to said policy. When asked about it, they reply “Our policy is such and such.” When asked if the policy was adhered to in the specific case or cases alleged, they reply, “Our policy is such and such.” Ad nauseam.

    It’s infuriating, because the response adds nothing, provides no argument or information.

    I can respect an attempt to outright lie. Non-sequiturs are just a means of evading all responsibility When Reagan said “we did not trade arms, or anything else, for hostages,” that was a lie. But at least he didn’t say “Our policy is we do not negotiate with terrorists,” then kept repeating it over and over.

    A lie does provide information, even if negative information, and can be checked.

    3
  11. Gustopher says:

    So . . . yes, Biden was clearly being dishonest in touting a hundred million vaccinations in a hundred days as a major accomplishment.

    Given how screwed up the vaccination rollout has been, I don’t know whether the current rate is a sustainable rate or an instance of everything coming together for a two week period because of things that should have happened three weeks ago suddenly happening now.

    Given the poor amount of support the Biden team got during the transition, I’m not sure the Biden team knows either. And looking at how much the Biden team is pushing back on raising that estimate in today’s press conference… they might even have bad news that they are not sharing in hopes that they can remedy it before it affects things.

    So, I’m not willing to say Biden is being dishonest that it is an ambitious goal right now, let alone that he is clearly being dishonest. There have also been statements that we are likely to be limited by the supply of vaccine at some point.

    Given that people outside of the administration are saying “Oh, they should be able to do twice that, easily,” I would expect that if the people inside the administration had better numbers they were confident in they would share them, if only to set the expectations to something plausible so they aren’t blamed when it caps out at 1.5 times more.

    7
  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    30,573 lies.
    Wake me up when we get close to that, again.

    7
  13. Gustopher says:

    Additionally, while I voted against Obama twice and disapproved of his signature healthcare initiative on all manner of grounds, the degree to which “If you like your healthcare, you can keep it” was a lie rather than a goal is at least debatable.

    I think we first have to look at what percentage of people like their healthcare, if nothing else.

    A lot of people who complained about their health insurance being taken away from them were unaware of what shitty junk insurance they actually had — they liked the coverage they thought they had, and if they never bothered using it and discovering what they really had, they would continue to like that mythical health insurance.

    10
  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Fox News’ Peter Doocy: What did you talk with Putin about?
    Biden: You. (Laughs) He sends his best.

    Some lies are justifiable, if not downright honorable…

    13
  15. SKI says:

    One note on the “If you like your healthcare, you can keep it” issue from within the healthcare system: The intended claim was that nothing in the ACA would strip healthcare from people and force them into the exchange plans. That was by and large true.

    Some companies changed insurance companies and or plans (as they always do both before and since) and some plans , particularly on the individual market were phased out by the insurance carriers for business reasons.

    It wasn’t a lie so much as it was a poor shorthand.

    12
  16. dazedandconfused says:

    @Gustopher:
    Precisely. I don’t think Obama lied, what I think he did was screw up. “If you have good insurance you can keep it.” could’ve and probably would’ve spawned an informative discussion on the topic. Opportunity missed.

    Not all lies are created equal brought to mind this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit
    There is a valid distinction between BS and lies. There should be a different word for it.

    1
  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: All husbands lie. I’ve told my wife that I was “doing” a chore, when I had completely forgotten about it and was only doing it in the sense I was rising from my chair and was going to get it done before she got home. And others cheat on their wives and lie about it and take out credit cards in their name and then leave in the middle of the night.

    But sure. All husbands lie.

    11
  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    I think Trump is sui generis in this regard.

    I agree, as far as Presidents go. But it seems like there are an awful lot of Evangelical Christian Ministers that fall into this category. In fairness, I only know ones that make the news, like Jim and Tammy Faye. But who can forget when Pat Robertson did 2000 pounds on the leg press? At 73 years old he could leg press three times what he record holding linebacker for a college football team could do.

    There is a certain type of person that seems to enjoy being lied too. I don’t understand it. But they exist, nonetheless.

    4
  19. Jay L Gischer says:

    I agree that George W. Bush lied very little. His administration was mendacious to the core, and sought to confuse, obfuscate, and mislead in order to get into a war with Iraq. But there were very few outright lies.

    For instance, the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” was one they invented just for this purpose. It’s a category that the public, at least, never used. But it allowed them to conflate chemical weapons (which Saddam had access to) with nuclear weapons (which he did not). Rice said, quite famously, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” – a clear reference to nukes. The thing is, nobody anywhere that had any insight into the issue thought Saddam had nukes. But let’s whip up fears about them and then use the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” to keep it going. There are no lies here, just a massive amount of deception and misdirection.

    The thing is, once you figure out you’ve been had in this way, it doesn’t feel any better than if you have been outright lied to. Compare that to Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman”. How did you feel about it when you discovered it wasn’t completely accurate? And also, what were the consequences of the one deception versus the other?

    The clearly most damaging lie that Trump pushed was “The election has been stolen from me”. This is pretty much the worst lie a politician can utter in our system. Most of the lies he told are not terribly consequential, and akin to “I did not have sex with that woman”. Some are worse, maybe much worse.

    5
  20. ImProPer says:

    Trump has to tell a lie every morning upon waking, just to keep his hands from shaking enough to evenly apply his orange bronzer.
    Comparatively, all the rest are just light weights.

    2
  21. Kylopod says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    For instance, the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” was one they invented just for this purpose.

    The Bush Admin didn’t invent that phrase; it goes back at least to the 1980s. (That was my offhand impression. I just checked Wikipedia, and it traces it as early as the 1940s.) I do agree, though, that the phrase aided their attempts to mislead the public.

    2
  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Compare that to Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman”. How did you feel about it when you discovered it wasn’t completely accurate?

    How did I feel about it? “Name me a man who wouldn’t lie about having sexual relations outside of marriage when confronted with it.” because any man who would, sure as shit was going to lie about it. Besides, what business was it of mine anyway? That was between him, Hillary, and Monica.

    Some are worse, maybe much worse.

    “The virus is a hoax. One day it will just disappear.”

    434,569 deaths later…

    10
  23. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy:

    Pretty sure dodging-the-question falls into the classification of BS. This is not a good thing. BS is worse than lying. Many people are saying that, believe me.

    1
  24. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kylopod: Yeah, that sounds like how the Bush team operates. They used a far more sophisticated method, but the yellowcake thing boiled down to “people are saying” – because they got people to say it. My recollection was that it worked a lot like what Trump tried to do with the Ukraine. Of course, Trump would have lied outrageously on top of it, but the Bushies would have acted so sober and responsible. Again, no lies there, just stuff that was deceptive as all get-out.

    2
  25. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    If you like your healthcare, you can keep it

    I think this was a misunderstanding, Obama’s point being that nothing in the ACA forces you to change insurance or doctors.

    The ACA does not force insurance companies to continue to offer your plan in your area, or to keep your doctor in network, or to make your employer keep offering the same plan.

    7
  26. CSK says:

    Trump isn’t going to be convicted.

    Dammit.

    1
  27. charon says:

    Politician announces goal, promises to achieve goal, fails.

    Two very distinct possibilities:

    1) Goal was more difficult to reach than expected.

    or

    2) Politician was not serious about goal, was just conning people.

    I only take option 2 seriously as a “lie.”

    5
  28. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know the Obama thing – “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.”

    That struck me as a statement that is true statistically. First, how many people were affected by Obamacare – which was not directed at people getting insurance through their employers. Maybe 20 million? Let’s say 30 million. So everybody else wasn’t affected at all. We’re down to 10 percent of the US population already.

    So, how many people were able to keep their plans of those 10 million? I don’t have the figures. I changed, but then again, I was eager to change. I was not happy with my plan. I DID get to keep my doctor, though.

    So, in the thinking of the attack on him, it appears that if anyone has to change plans or doctors, then he lied.

    I think he was just speaking loosely and generally, but without qualifiers.

    Now, if you like the qualifiers, consider how they played out for Hillary. She was seen as insincere and hedging – as having less integrity than Trump-because she constantly used qualifiers. Because she doesn’t like telling lies.

    Politicians lie to us because we demand it of them. No, the Obama thing is not in the same category as “the election was stolen”.

    5
  29. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:

    In other words, I think it’s usually more important to point out that something is incorrect along with evidence for why it’s incorrect rather than go motive-hunting.

    Except when the motive you are hunting for turns out to be destroying the relevance of evidence. Trumps lying was intended, whether intentionally or not, to establish himself as the sole source of truth – facts, data, and plausibility be damned. His most obvious lies were the most pernicious because they forced his supporters and enablers to deny reality to prove their loyalty to him. And they (see Graham, Cruz, most every Red Hatter) chose loyalty.

    2
  30. Kylopod says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    There is a valid distinction between BS and lies.

    I don’t know what Frankfurt would say on the question. (While I’ve read a lot about his little book, I haven’t actually read it.) But I’ll tell you what I, personally, would say. Yes, I think BS is a form of lying. I think “lying by omission” is a form of lying. To me, if there’s an intent to mislead, it’s a lie. If the person is indifferent to whether it’s misleading or not, it’s a lie.

    But you know what isn’t a lie? An unintended factual error, for one. Ignorance is not the same as dishonesty. A delusion is not a lie (though there I admit it gets a little tricky, since delusion can involve self-deception).

    That’s why I disagree with many liberals who criticize the media for talking about Trump’s “false statements” without calling them lies. I do think it’s obvious to any rational person that Trump has lied (though there’s some ignorance and delusion mixed in as well), but I don’t think it’s a fact checker’s job to tell us whether someone lied or not. I think their job is simply to evaluate the accuracy of a statement–nothing more.

    Now, having said that, I do realize that most fact-checking groups have never entirely followed this principle. Politifact has “Lie of the Year” and the pants-on-fire category; WaPo has the four Pinocchios. I have long believed that these choices, while serving their purpose of getting them more attention by being more entertaining, detract from their credibility by having them make unproven judgments on a person’s intent.

    Intent is important. It’s among the reasons why people are rarely convicted of perjury, and why it’s hard for a public figure to prove libel or slander; you have to prove not merely that the people stated something false, but that they knew it was false, or at least that they showed a careless indifference to the truth (“reckless disregard”). It isn’t easy to do in court, and it isn’t easy for media fact-checkers to do–yet they’ve taken it on themselves to do anyway, again and again.

    1
  31. reid says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Sounds similar to the current “I’m just representing my constituents, who feel that the election was rigged”.

    1
  32. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod:

    The Bush Admin deliberately misled a significant portion of the public into believing there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but to my knowledge they never stated it outright. Instead, they resorted to insinuation.

    Thank you for that. Yes, they “misled”, and they misled so as to have deniability. That “deniability” doesn’t say they maybe didn’t “lie”, it says they knew damn well they were lying.

    And also thank you for:

    The attempt to resurrect the reputation of Mitt Romney–whose 2012 campaign was one of the most flagrantly dishonest in modern history, prior to Trump–shows the danger in holding up Trump as some kind of unique case.

    As always, it ain’t just Trump. The supposedly liberal MSM are already starting up their perennial snipe hunt for moderate, honorable Republicans, and Romney’s running for the job. He might go so far as to vote to convict Trump again.

    It was good of James to note that while Clinton did lie, that was far less consequential than W’s misleading, or whatever he’s willing to call it, in Iraq. It’s empirically true that Ds lie less, and less consequentially, than GOPs. By an order of magnitude, perhaps two. But that’s enough to support bothsides. The real story though is why Rs lie more. If you want to pass the ACA you can simply say you want more people insured. You can even add that you believe doing so will eventually be popular and help you get reelected. If you oppose ACA you can’t say your sponsors are afraid their taxes will go up, or that it will help Ds, or that people won’t vote for you if you told the truth. You have to lie. And then you lie over and over that you’ll replace Obamacare with something better. If you support trickle down tax cuts, you have to lie. If you say a wall is more effective at the border than what we’ve got, you have to lie. And Mexico will pay? Please.

    Ds don’t lie less than GOPs because they’re more moral people, they lie less because they don’t have to. GOPs lie because they are defending the indefensible. Wouldn’t it be nice if the MSM were upfront about that.

    7
  33. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08: Jonathan Chait got it right in his 2007 book The Big Con:

    There is also a natural–and, in many ways, commendable–skepticism about one-sided accusations of dishonesty. Those who confine their accusations to one side are usually partisans best taken with a grain of salt. Lying and spinning have always been a part of politics, and it is the rare elected official who prevails by offering the voters an objective and unvarnished assessment of his plans. Moreover, since we tend to think of lying as an idiosyncratic personal trait, there’s no reason to think that one side has more liars than the other any more than there’s reason to think one side has more drunks or adulterers.

    Yet, as will become clear, the fact remains that dishonesty has become integral to the Republican economic agenda in a way that it is not to the Democratic agenda. The reason is not that Republicans are individually less honest than Democrats. Far from it. It is simply that the GOP, and the conservative movement, have embraced an economic agenda far out of step with the majority of the voting public. Republicans simply can’t win office or get their plans enacted into law, without fundamentally misleading the public. Lying has become a systematic necessity.

    The analogy I like to make is to sales. Salespeople often lie, mislead, or at least engage in spin. But there’s a clear difference of incentive between those who believe in their products and those who know their products are garbage. In this regard, the primary difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have much less of a need to lie since the policies they support are generally quite popular, whereas Republicans back a set of policies they know are highly unpopular, and over the past several generations they’ve built up a giant media and political infrastructure designed to trick voters into thinking the policies of the two parties are fundamentally different than they actually are. The American conservative movement is not a legitimate system; it is a scam, pure and simple.

    5
  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: You really believed that was going to happen?

    Have you ever considered the financial advantages you could accrue from owning your very own toll bridge? I have a portfolio of ones available for sale at this very moment…

    2
  35. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I can dream, can’t I?

    Seriously…I had some faint hope. Not much, but some.

  36. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I initially read that as troll bridge.

    1
  37. Teve says:

    @Kylopod: I worked at a car retailer, I won’t say who, but they rhymed with DarNax. On day one they told me, “don’t try to sell the cars. The cars sell themselves. You just have to get out of the way.” Very different than Uncle Jimmy’s Used Car Emporium. Your job is much nicer when you’re selling a good product.

    1
  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I take it that’s a no on the toll bridge, then? 😉

  39. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I might be interested in de stihl’s troll bridge.

    1
  40. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @de stijl:
    Cracker has the catalog of toll bridges. I have the catalog of troll bridges. Easy financing OAC.

    2
  41. Andy says:

    @Scott F.:

    Except when the motive you are hunting for turns out to be destroying the relevance of evidence. Trumps lying was intended, whether intentionally or not, to establish himself as the sole source of truth – facts, data, and plausibility be damned. His most obvious lies were the most pernicious because they forced his supporters and enablers to deny reality to prove their loyalty to him. And they (see Graham, Cruz, most every Red Hatter) chose loyalty.

    And what does questioning motives actually accomplish or do to ameliorate what you describe as opposed to focusing on the merits? In that situation, which method is more likely to be effective?

    One can’t control if and when someone else chooses to embrace the crazy, belief fatuous nonsense, or engage in blatant dishonesty. The only thing you can control is how you respond to it.

  42. Andy says:

    @Kylopod:

    In this regard, the primary difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have much less of a need to lie since the policies they support are generally quite popular,

    I think there is truth to that, but I would put it a bit differently. The lies on the Democratic side are mostly lies of omission, not commission, particularly with economic policy. It’s selling the benefits of a particular plan while hiding the costs and the downsides or asserting that someone else (usually rich people) will bear the costs. In my view, the advocacy for many Democratic economic policies is the equivalent of promising free beer, which is always going to be popular on the surface.

    As for the GoP, if they have a coherent economic agenda besides tax cuts, I’m not sure what it is. But on tax cuts, the benefits they promise are a lot more derivative to the individual voter and the costs and downsides are more difficult to hide. That requires a different kind of dishonesty.

    Where the two sides meet is on foreign policy, particularly support for military interventions. The lies in service of those are very similar even though the rhetorical rationales are often different. The benefits to the American people aren’t materialistic, so the wars are sold based on emotional arguments. The costs are repercussions are always downplayed.

  43. DrDaveT says:

    @charon:

    I think this was a misunderstanding, Obama’s point being that nothing in the ACA forces you to change insurance or doctors.

    Well, there was the problem of plans that didn’t meet the minimum criteria for value. I think Obama honestly didn’t expect anyone to want to keep a plan that cost a lot and gave crap benefits — but that’s on him, because people aren’t rational.

    2
  44. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:

    One can’t control if and when someone else chooses to embrace the crazy, belief fatuous nonsense, or engage in blatant dishonesty. The only thing you can control is how you respond to it.

    Understanding motives is the best possible way to understand how to respond to anything. Questioning motives is a rhetoric means to share what you’ve come to understand.

    So if I understand that authoritarians have historically resorted to manipulation of information – discrediting journalism, presenting alternative facts, doublespeak from leadership – as a means of control, then I know that responding with evidence and facts is pointless. That response would fall on deaf ears. It would be more effective to attack the authoritarianism than the lies.

  45. MarkedMan says:

    @charon: You may well be right, and my take wrong. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it sounds more right than my interpretation. But it actually kind of depresses me, since it shows such a political tin ear. However technically correct it might have been, I would guess that 75% of the people who weretold their doctor was not in-plan anymore blamed it on Obamacare even before it passed.

  46. Zachriel says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Compare that to Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman”.

    Actually, in his televised speech Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. Now, it’s understandable that Aunt Biddie in Topeka felt she had been misled, but it was clear to philanderers everywhere what he meant {wink}.

  47. Paul L. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Not allowed to count Biden’s lies about sending a $2000 check. But anyone Trump said that Democrats claim is false like Democrats support Gun Registration and Confiscation is a lie.

    Handwave as Whataboutism.
    Obama’s uncle liberated Auschwitz..
    Obama: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”