Everybody knows politicians lie. Why else would there be such good punch lines about it?
You know: “How can you tell when a politician is lying? When his (or her) lips are moving.”
Or: “Politicians lie like the rest of us breathe - all the time.”
So, yes, in one way it’s not a big surprise that President Obama’s lies about the (un)Affordable Care Act were generally greeted with a collective shrug.
I think a lot of people were so dazzled by the president (not so much any more) that when his multiple declarations about keeping your health plan or doctor were exposed for the lies that they were, people bought the Democratic narrative that if the law eliminated your plan, it's because you weren’t supposed to like it.
Same thing more recently, when videos of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber surfaced in which he stated flatly that it was necessary to sell Obamacare with calculated lies, because otherwise it would not have passed. And, besides, the “American voter” was too stupid to know or care anyway.
Tell your average friend that, and instead of outrage, they’d more likely ask why you were interrupting while they were trying to watch the ball game.
Still, it strikes me as a bit, well, striking to observe the way the allegedly nonpartisan media cover political lies.
Sure, we all know that MSNBC will foam at the mouth whenever a Republican fudges the truth, and that Fox News will do the same when Democrats do.
But those are nakedly partisan media outlets. It’s more disturbing when those that hold themselves as even-handed seekers of the truth do much the same thing.
And that has been the case with the Gruber story.
The first thing Democratic leaders did when the Gruber videos surfaced was to try to convince everybody that he wasn’t who they had said he was – one of the chief architects of Obamacare. They didn’t get much of a challenge from anybody but those the Democrats like to call “the haters.”
Still, they eventually realized those lies (exposed by multiple videos) were a little too rich even for the “stupid” American voter. So the narrative shifted to slapping Gruber’s hand – not for admitting to the lies used to sell Obamacare, but for “appearing” (not actually being) arrogant and for “handing Republicans a political weapon.”
The media have embraced that with enthusiasm. An editorial in the Boston Globe this past week called Gruber “a good economist, but bad with PR.” The paper also said his comments were “impolitic.”
Ah, so that’s what liberal lies are – just a case of bad PR. And how revealing that admitting those lies is considered “impolitic” but nothing worse. Indeed, the paper said any outrage over the lying was simply a “national crusade straight from the conservative echo-chamber.”
The message to all of us - and to elected officials, as well - is: “Go ahead and lie if it’s in the service of the greater (read: liberal) good, but don’t ever be ‘impolitic’ enough to admit it.”
I’m just wondering, was that the way the media covered President George W. Bush when he was accused of starting the Iraq war on the false pretense that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction?
To ask the question is to answer it: Of course not. The media never obsessed about Bush handing a PR gift to the Democratic “echo chamber.” It was, “Bush lied, people died.” The president was relentlessly flogged for failing to be “straight with the American people,” with members of Congress taking the lead.
The coverage also somehow omitted how many Democratic legislators had approved of the war. The media didn’t allow Bush to blame “bad intelligence,” either - the way they now give Obama a pass for the same thing.
But at least the focus was on the real issue: Did the president lie?
Not now. When Gruber appeared before the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called Gruber “absolutely stupid” and “disrespectful,”
But Gruber’s worst sin, he said, was that his statements “gave Republicans a public relations gift in their relentless campaign to tear down the ACA.”
Got it? Lying’s not the problem. Handing the other party a PR gift – that’s the problem.
And that’s a major problem for the nation.
The issue is not whether or not Gruber is arrogant – he is, obviously. The issue is not that he insulted voters – that is also obvious. The issue is not whether he committed a “gaffe” or was impolitic. He did and was.
He was more than happy to admit all those things, groveling before the committee over things that were mere distractions while refusing to answer substantive questions, such as how much he has been paid as a consultant on Obamacare.
The issue was, and is, the lies.
If the media were doing their job, that would be the focus. Did the president and his team lie about a law that affects one-sixth of the nation’s economy? They know the answer is yes.
Yet, what little we are reading and hearing (given the coincidental timing of the release of the Senate report on CIA torture) is about everything but the lies.
Apparently the news that is “fit to print” no longer includes the real news – for at least as long as this president is in office.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com