The next thing I usually hear is that Bush lied too! Or that Republicans and/or conservatives are liars. If I suggest that not all politicians lie to the same degree, this may be acknowledged, but is treated as an incidental fact.
In contemplating how common this scenario is, several things strike me. The first is that these students, and the politicians whose example they are following, have become addicted to a strategy that most mothers warn against. They are essentially saying that: if everyone does it, it is OK.
Instead of defending a particular lie, they decide to accuse their opponents of the vice of which they stand accused. This shifts the focus of attention and when it works takes them off the hot seat. It may even succeed in establishing an equivalency between different instances of deception.
The way this often goes is: Well, Bush lied too! It doesn’t matter whether he actually lied or that he may have done so years ago, the current canard suddenly becomes unimportant. Now the fight is over whose lies are worse.
But that was not the original issue. The question was about this present lie and its implications. If the “everyone does it” ploy succeeds, then everyone is equally guilty and there is no current mendacity that should disqualify what liberals are arguing.
This seems to me a remarkably cynical gambit. Committed liberals appear to have become so jaded by the habitual deceits of their heroes that they no longer consider a lie wrong. Their criterion is now: Does it work? And if it does, then it is political wizardry.
We saw this recently when Democrats were accused of voter fraud in the Wisconsin recall election. Fraud is a kind of lying that, in this case, is utilized to change election results. Yet Wisconsin Democrats went on television, not to deny the fraud, but to assert that it was no big deal. After all, everyone engages in fraud and it does not really alter the course of events.
Then there is the Department of Justice refusing to allow states like South Carolina to use picture IDs for voters. This is said to protect equality, but what about protecting against dishonest manipulations? Evidently the fact that votes by felons, though illegal, probably allowed Al Franken to become a Minnesota senator does not matter.
There is also the spectacle of the president telling the nation that he has spent less than his predecessors. Given the fact that Obama increased the national debt by nearly $6 trillion, this would seem to be a joke. But no, it was said with a straight face.
Barack’s defenders quickly rushed forward with bogus accounting to demonstrate that black was white and white was black; an exercise that would have been unnecessary had the president been honest. Even so, many of his partisans swallowed this invention as if it were true.
Yes, everyone lies, especially if they are liberals. They have to because what they stand for is so egregiously fraudulent. Moreover, they are forced to defend their lies with another cordon of lies. They know that to do less would place their credibility in jeopardy.
But I submit that the credibility of people who have grown so comfortable with lying should be in jeopardy. The deceits emanating from Washington, be they about national security leaks or attacks on political opponents, have come so fast and furious, that they ought to be alarming to people who value honesty.
I have my fingers crossed that most Americans fall into the latter category.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.