Why Do Politicians Tell So Many Lies? Answer: Laziness and Partisanship.

Greg Markley


American humorist Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Many people believe he was equating statistics with the other two — lies and damn lies. Others contend Twain meant statistics were not always as accurate as thought. That is, they were not always “deep” enough to prove a point, yet many trusted their accuracy.

Recently, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, junior senator from Iowa, proved my headline above. She is certainly partisan, as most senators are. But it is her intellectual laziness that has brought the latest controversy. A retired lieutenant colonel who served during the Iraq War, she lied on CNN when she said that President Biden, himself a father of a war veteran, has yet to express gratitude or empathy toward the U.S. troops who have served overseas since 9/11/2001.

“Not once has he expressed empathy and gratitude to the men and women who have put the uniform on and have fought so bravely overseas the last 20 years to keep our homeland safe,” Ernst said. “And I feel that by not acknowledging his gratitude for them, he’s diminishing their service.”

Ernst was obviously speaking without doing research. That’s what a staunch partisan does, speak something that will appeal to their supporters, and not care that it is false. She must be a lousy delegator as well. Why didn’t she get a subordinate to look up and read the six speeches I just read where Biden honors the 9-11-era troops?  I looked in the usual place: www.whitehouse.gov, under Speeches and Remarks (Sometimes they are in in Statements and Releases.).

On July 27, the President spoke to the intelligence community, thanking them 14 times for their efforts during the wars. On Aug. 31, in a defense of the choppy withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden said: “I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1% of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.” He spoke on veterans (including his late son Beau) and families’ sacrifices due to military service. He also praised veterans on April 14, May 28 and 31 and July 8.

 Republicans are not the only liars who know better but don’t even research their stump speech phrases. President Obama ad infinitum stated, “If you like your health plan, you can keep it.” That was “Lie of the Year” for PolitiFact. According to Jake Miller at CBS, Obama’s promise “was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan.” At least the President apologized to the victims of his lie. That’s rare for a politician.

When the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, was being debated, there were plenty of sources of news on it, from academics, journalists, do-gooder groups, etc. Yet many persons who believed the president did not do their due diligence on his crafty phrase.

For example, 38 million Americans lacked health insurance when the bill was proposed. All one had to do was figure out how additional millions of Obamacare users could get health care, without adjustments in who gets what doctor when (Rough estimates of the math and costs were readily available.).

 “We’ve got to manage the social media animal we permitted to get out of the cage that has taken dangerous control with unfounded conspiracies and other harm to individuals and families,” wrote Steve Corbin, columnist at the Globe Gazette in Iowa. “As a start, it wouldn’t hurt for critical thinking and logical reasoning courses to be offered in all K-12 and post-secondary institutions so people will learn how to discern fact from fiction and truth from conspiracy nonsense.”

I agree that more emphasis on critical thinking can be a big help. But I can imagine a backlash as parents and administrators tussle to categorize what is “critical thinking” and what is one’s opinion based on their ideology. Look at some of the school board meetings on Critical Race Theory. The anger and outrage in those formerly placid meetings reminds me of Saturday afternoon wrestling bouts! The difference is that those TV wrestlers were acting, not reacting.

As I have written before, you do not have to check every statement from a politician, journalist, TV radio commentator, friend or relative you disagree with. But periodic checks of every fifth statement or fact about politics he or she makes, will indicate if they are truthful, misguided, deluded or a good researcher.

Even U.S. senators can err, as Sen. Joni Ernst did without consulting President Biden’s speeches that are available with a simple click of a mouse. That led to her repeating the same false claim. It was a version that as Mark Twain said, turned into “damn lies” which are worse than regular “lies.”

Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 12 years.  gm.markley@charter.net.


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