Most people now recognize that Obama has been lying about a lot of things. But it’s often said that’s just business as usual for politicians, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is being naive.
Blogger Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club, a writer with a keen mind and a graceful style, as well as more than his share of that rare commodity known as wisdom, has this to say on the subject:
An Election Promise is now almost synonymous with a Lie. Few voters believe that an election promise will actually be kept, but many vote according to what they are promised anyway…
But although the politician may lie, he may also be expected not to break his promises blatantly or obviously…Perhaps Barack Obama is perhaps the last gasp of nostalgia; the last hurrah for the Kennedyesque indulgence of electing someone for his charisma and personal beauty. Deep down in their hearts a considerable number of those who voted for Obama knew he would never conduct the health care negotiations on Cspan or even keep them safe. But there was something hypnotizing about the possibility of magic; something compelling about the prospect of getting something for nothing; something touching in the hope that if you truly, truly believed in hope and change from an associate of Tony Rezko and the Blag, that you would really get it.
I have deep respect for almost everything Fernandez writes, but this time I disagree with him, at least in part. Yes indeed, we’ve become very used to politicians telling lies. And yes, I suppose “a considerable number” of those who voted for Obama didn’t expect him to keep the promise about televising the deliberations on C-span. But I think an even more considerable number believed he would.
Here we’re not talking about a tangential or trivial lie, although the C-span promise may seem to be minor. But it went to the very heart of Obama’s attractiveness to voters, which was that he was a different sort of politician. The C-span promise was tied to a larger and more fundamental promise about being responsive to the people and actually listening to them, and well as allowing them to witness the deliberations of their government. Unlike Jimmy Carter, Obama never actually made the explicit pledge “I will never lie to you.” But it was implicit, and it was central to his appeal.
This was true especially for young people, who formed one of the demographics most responsible for Obama’s win. Young people may be cynical (although they tend not to be as jaded as their elders). But what cynicism they had most of them suspended in the case of Obama. One had only to look at their shining eyes to see how much they believed, and whether it was because of hypnosis or the “possiblity of magic”—still, they had real (if misplaced) faith in Obama’s openness and veracity.
So Obama’s lie was about who he fundamentally is in terms of honesty and openness. It was a lie about lying itself. I cannot recall another president who built his campaign so heavily on an important personal characteristic and then demonstrated the exact opposite so quickly, nakedly, and without apology. In sum: Obama lied about the most central fact of his character.
And then there’s the little matter of where Obama stands on the political spectrum. Many politicians tack left or right during a campaign as the situation demands. For example, they tend to be more extreme in the primaries because they are catering to their base, and then move to the center once nominated because they must now appeal to the country as a whole. Obama, however, was deceptive from start to finish about extent of his leftism, although the canny observer could look at his record and divine his true leanings. But most people did not do so.
It’s possible that other candidates would love to practice such a degree of deception, if it could get them elected. But most are precluded from it because (a) they have a longer and more well-known track record that can’t be hidden; and (b) the press would expose them. Obama, however, was able to get away with what he did because his record was shorter and more obscure, and because the MSM colluded with him in covering it up.
I submit that this is not business as usual. This is something sui generis in American politics. And this is something that everyone who’s paying attention—Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats (including idealistic liberals, and those who expected more of a voice in the political process)—can recognize and be angered by.