Many politicians find ways to benefit from lying, and it might not be coincidental that the three front runners from the two major parties are candidates who have spread a lot of misinformation this year. Politico has looked at the lies from Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson, finding differences in the types of lies they tell:
Not all lies are created equal. When Hillary Clinton lies, she generally does so with legalistic care. You get the sense that she knows what the exact truth is. But you also get the sense that she knows she’ll suffer if she provides the whole truth, so she shades the facts with interpretations and embellishments that flatter or favor her. She presents an incomplete timeline for her email account. She claims that her email practices were “permitted.” She overstates her cases and fibs with the numbers. Clinton has been doing it so long and so well that by 1996, New York Times columnist William Safire had already diagnosed her as a “congenital liar.”
Trump’s and Carson’s lies, on the other hand, come from the land of bullshit, that wonderful place where loose facts and wishful thinking mate to produce a quotable soundbite. They’re not trying to deceive you in a Clintonian fashion. They’re indifferent to the truth, content to say the first things that pop into their brains. You can see this strategy at work in Trump’s story about the American Muslims celebrating the fall of the twin towers, or his bogus assertion that the federal government is steering refugees to states that have Republican governors, or his claim that “61 percent of our bridges are in trouble.” He’s just winging it. If something gets broken in the telling of one of his stories, he doesn’t think it’s his fault.
Ben Carson brings the quality of moonshine to his lies. Whenever he goes on, he voices the sort of stuff you hear mumbled from the sozzled end of a dive bar. Take, for example, his claim that Mahmoud Abbas, Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin were classmates at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, or his idea that “a lot of people who go into prison straight” come out gay. Carson is much better at spotting other candidate’s lies than he is his own. Originally, he backed Trump’s claim about celebrating American Muslims. Yesterday, he said that the film he saw was shot in the Middle East, not New Jersey.
This summary only touches the surface of the many lies told by all three of these candidates. Ben Carson has been exposed for other lies about his biography. I recently noted some of the questionable claims made by Donald Trump as to what he observed on 9/11. While it doesn’t mean she lies any more that her Republican opponents, I have pointed out far more lies by Hillary Clinton in this election cycle alone due to concentrating coverage on the Democratic race.
I recently noted how Clinton has been accused of lying about Edward Snowden in the second Democratic debate, although this might have been a mistake based upon her conservative mind set as opposed to an intentional lie. Her false claims about Sanders’ support for Medicare for All was more likely an outright lie considering how she has flip-flopped on single payer health plans. She was also exposed by the fact checkers for dishonesty during the first debate. Clinton has similarly been dishonest in her other smears against Sanders, reminiscent of the campaign she ran against Barack Obama eight years ago, during which many think she crossed the line, even considering our usual standards for a political campaign.
Politico also looked at why these candidates get away with such frequent lying:
We generally dislike liars, so why do we tolerate well-documented political lies? For one thing, findings by the fact-checkers aren’t evenly distributed within the culture. Nobody but political fanatics pay much mind to them. To injure a politician, documentation of his lie must puddle out to television and the Web, where the sizable audiences reside. But even then, the politician has the advantage. He can level a countercharge, saying that he’s telling the truth and the press—the scheming, oily, wicked, privacy-invading press—has it in for him and is doing all the lying.
As trust in the press (and other institutions) has fallen in recent decades, the counterattack gambit has worked for many politicians. This has been Trump’s path. He complicates the fact-checkers’ job by lying with effortlessness and rapidity, making it become difficult to keep up with his bullplucky. After getting caught in a lie, Trump tends to retweet or repeat it, writes Tufts University’s Daniel W. Drezner today. Next, he bullies the media for reporting on his statement. (Today, for example, Trump demanded an apology from the Post for pinning Pinocchios to his 9/11 tale.) If Trump ever deigns to backtrack on a brazen lie, it’s to claim that he’s been misinterpreted.
I think another factor is also important–partisanship. Many people will defend members of their party, while criticizing members of the opposing party of dishonesty. We have seen comparable acceptance of dishonesty among Republicans for years, including the manner in which many still believe George Bush was telling the truth, and even that there was WMD in Iraq long after the government admitted this was not true. Many Republicans will repeat the lies spread by scientists on the payroll of the petroleum industry to promote their agenda on climate change, even after it has been revealed that Exxon’s own scientists knew the truth about global warming forty years ago.
Of course such hypocrisy can be seen in both parties, as many Democrats are willing to ignore Hillary’s Clinton’s long career which has been characterized by dishonesty, corruption, and undermining liberal principles whenever it was politically expedient. Some simply ignore the facts, while other see it as a good thing that someone on their side is matching the Republicans in their tactics. Partisan Democrats who back Clinton certainly cannot claim any moral superiority to Republican voters–which is one reason that so many independents who consider her to be dishonest are expressing a lack of interest in voting Democratic–possibly paving the way for dishonest Republican politicians such as Trump or Carson to get elected in 2016. Bernie Sanders’ campaign against Hillary Clinton is differentiating those Democrats who support principles as opposed to those practice blind partisanship.