Giving Lying a Bad Name

by Victor Davis Hanson

All politicians lie, at least in the sense of exaggerating their opponents’ lapses and downplaying their own. But there are a few rules of politically lying: the most important being that one cannot insult the intelligence of the listener by saying something that is demonstrably untrue and/or refuted by the speaker’s own mutually contradictory statements. Do that and we enter Baghdad Bob territory.

Not long ago on national television, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, asserted that she knew no details of Democratic super-PAC commercial-prop Joe Soptic’s life story — although Cutter herself, as an audio clip revealed, had earlier hosted an Obama conference call where Soptic had outlined in detail his bio as part of a general complaint against Mitt Romney. Cutter, in other words, simply lied that she was unfamiliar with something she was very familiar with — as the two tapes demonstrated.

Not long afterward Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was reported to have said that Israeli ambassador Michael Oren had criticized Republican attitudes toward Israel as “dangerous” — an allegation hotly denied by Oren himself. When confronted with that discrepancy, Schultz then claimed that she was misquoted — until audio surfaced of Schultz saying exactly what she hotly denied having said.

At the Democratic Convention, when a voice vote was called to correct the embarrassing problem of having removed “God” from the platform and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the delegates were clearly split between nays and yeas. In fact, three successive voice votes only made it clearer that about half the hall did indeed want “God” out of the platform language as well as no mention of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — reminding us why the platform was written as it was in the first place. The convention chairman, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, stunned by the unexpected off-script 50-50 vote, then simply declared that a clear two-thirds vote had carried the day to revise the embarrassing platform language — something that everyone knew was flatly untrue.

We expect the Obama campaign deputy director, the Democratic party head, and the Democratic Convention chairman to fudge about the respective records of both Romney and Obama, as no doubt do their Republican counterparts. But their flat-out lying gives political lying a bad name. And if three of the most influential in the party do that, who won’t?