The Corner

Politics & Policy

From ‘Not a Crook’ to ‘Not a Liar’

It’s a handy rule of thumb that when a politician — usually in a press conference, where he’s annoyed repeatedly with the same question about his judgment — announces that he is or is not something, well, he is that thing.

Richard Nixon set the gold standard in 1973 when he announced, “I’m not a crook,” which the Watergate scandal then established he exactly was. Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House deputy press secretary, referring to Donald Trump, kept this tradition alive when she yesterday refuted James Comey’s Senate testimony by stating, “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.”

In the 44 years from not a crook to not a liar, a number of other politicians have inadvertently acknowledged their faults by using the same or similar words. Here’s a sampling of their denials, in chronological order, just from January 2010 to March 2017:

  • “I am not an ideologue”: Barack Obama in January 2010, denying what he precisely is.

  • “I’m not the emperor of the United States”: Barack Obama in February 2013, suggesting what he wants to be.

  • “I don’t think we’re stupid”: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, discussing the P5+1’s indeed stupid Joint Plan of Action with Iran in November 2013, and referring to the Obama administration as a whole.

  • “I am not a bully”: New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, responding to revelations that his staff had used arch-bullying tactics.

  • “Je suis social-démocrate” (“I am a social democrat”): President François Hollande, precisely as he announced a series of anti-socialist spending and tax cuts.

  • “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now”: Barack Obama discussing his flawed and failed grand strategy which is very much in need of help.

  • “I’m not a bully” announced Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, when that term precisely describes who he (like Chris Christie) is.

  • “No, I was not being held hostage. No, I was not sitting up there thinking ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t despondent”: So spoke Chris Christie about his weird appearance behind Donald Trump on Mar. 1, 2016, as the latter crowed about his Super Tuesday victories.

  • “I’m not ranting and raving”: Donald Trump, the new U.S. president, stated this at the 47-minute point of a 77-minute news conference in which he precisely ranted and raved.

  • “I was not involved in any criminal action”: U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (Republican of California) referring to the credit card for his political campaign being misused for such expenses as flying a pet rabbit cross-country, registering his daughters in an Irish dance competition, video games for his son, oral surgery, Disneyland, a family trip to Italy, repairs to a garage door, and purchases at grocery stores and at a surf & skate shop.

So, when a politician denies he is something, you can be sure he is that thing.

Daniel Pipes — Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. A former official in the U.S. departments of State and Defense, he has taught history at Chicago, Harvard, and Pepperdine universities, ...

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