Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2013/ 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5774
The wages of presidential deception
By Victor Davis Hanson
By 1968, President
"Modified limited hangout" and "inoperative" were infamous euphemisms that Nixon administration officials used to mask lies about the Watergate scandal. After a while, few believed any of the initial Reagan administration disavowals that it was not trading "arms for hostages" in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The George W. Bush administration warned the nation about stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in
Yet the distortions and lack of credibility of the Obama administration have matched and now trumped those of his predecessors. The public may have long ago forgotten that Obama did not close down Guantanamo as promised, or cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, or stop the revolving door of lobbyists coming in and out of the executive branch.
The public may even have forgiven the president when the stimulus bill never lowered unemployment as promised, or when his misleading boasts about vast increases in oil and gas production came to fruition despite, not because, of his efforts.
But the distortions and broken promises have now become so frequent that many at home and abroad are finally tuning out the president. Almost nothing promised about the Affordable Care Act is proving true. Contrary to presidential assurances, Obamacare has not lowered premiums or deductibles. It will not reduce the deficit or improve business competitiveness. It really will alter existing health plans and in some cases lead to their cancellation. Signing up is certainly not as easy buying something online on Amazon.
Two considerations often turn these presidential ethical lapses into political disasters. Unfortunately, both apply to the present administration.
First, the economy must be robust to offset the deception. Voters rejected the first
Second, we expect presidential mendacity to be sporadic rather than serial. By 1968, even when LBJ told the truth, no one listened. In 1973, no one believed anything that the Nixon administration asserted.
If Republicans agree to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, can they be sure that Obama won't suspend "settled law" on border enforcement as he did with the employer mandate? If Secretary of Health and Human Services
For that matter, will a Saudi ambassador or an Israeli diplomat now trust Obama when he swears that
Will German Chancellor
Obama understandably came into office with a sense of immunity. His personal story and nontraditional background made him an emblematic figure. An enthralled media had unfortunately redefined its role as an appendage to, rather than an auditor of, the presidency. After the unpopular Bush administration, even Obama's empty "hope and change" platitudes were considered deep.
Yet after nearly five years of scandals, untruths and hard economic times, a now-ignored
Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
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