Published on Countercurrents.org, by Joel S. Hirschhorn, 21 November, 2007.
The phrase honest politician has become an oxymoron. We should not be impressed by the prospect of having the first woman, first black or first Latino president. What would be far more radical would be to have the first honest president, if not ever, certainly in a very long time.
Presidents in recent memory have been excellent liars, contributing mightily to our culture of dishonesty. Bill Clinton had the audacity to look right into the TV camera and blatantly lie to the American public. George W. Bush has probably set a record for official lying, though it might take many decades to fully document them. Carl M. Cannon saw the bigger truth: “posterity will judge [George W. Bush] not so much by whether he told the truth but whether he recognized what the truth actually was.”
Things have gotten so bad that hardly anyone can even imagine an honest president. But if we don’t expect an honest president, how can we expect to trust government …
… Lies entertain. Honesty disturbs. Honesty produces painful truths about the nation, government, and failed public policies. Truth-telling politicians usually say things that people would rather not hear and or think about.
Meanwhile the mainstream media and pundits, promoting confrontation and horse races to entertain and keep their audiences, are reluctant to call lying politicians liars. Instead, they use oblique language and euphemisms to conceal the truth about lying. They are as dishonest as the politicians they talk about. How interesting it would be to have media people ask candidates something like: Are you being the most honest person you can be in this campaign? I don’t think the majority of dishonest ones would not say “yes.” Instead, they would dance and blabber.
Tragically, Americans have become used to lying politicians. Can our democracy survive when most people believe that an honest president is both impossible and unnecessary?
Of course, honesty by itself is no guarantee that someone will be a great president. Nor is it by itself sufficient reason to vote for someone. But imagine if we insisted that it be a necessary, minimum requirement for supporting politicians.
In the end, without honesty, every reason we use to vote for someone is a joke. Delusional thinking about candidates has produced our delusional democracy. Time to stop voting for liars. Better to not vote at all. Voting for liars only encourages more lies
(Joel S. Hirschhorn can be reached on delusional democracy, scroll down.)