What happens when presidents lie?
The American public has had plenty of experience with this in recent years. Liar-president could be the new hyphenate occupation like writer-producer or architect-contractor. Almost every president has shaded things a bit, but three modern ones have been unabashed bull artists — Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and, of course, Barack Obama.
Clinton ultimately got a pass for his prevarications. Nixon didn’t. Neither deserved one. But our current liar-president deserves one even less, because his lies have been of substance, affecting policy. Nixon and Clinton just lied in self-defense — normal human cowardice.
Obama is something else again. He lies proactively and often reflexively. By proactively I mean the obvious, such as “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. Period!” By reflexively I mean that emotional no-man’s-land when someone says something they don’t really mean, but they say it anyway because they think it sounds good or makes them seem as if they are doing the right thing.
The red line against Syrian chemical weapons is a perfect example. Did Obama ever have any intention of following up on that? Who knows? (Not only are most of those weapons still in Syria, the French say Assad may still be using them.)
Does the president himself know he is lying? I am not sure. Obama would not be the first person to think that pronouncing something made it so — and he has spent his life from a very young age surrounded by people who have not contradicted him. The implications of this are quite disturbing, if you think about them.
It’s a form of what shrinks call “magical thinking” and is an indication of a disconnected personality. It is so, if you think so, as Pirandello famously put it (alternatively translated as “Right you are, if you think you are.”)
But whatever the case, Obama’s lies have far greater impact than the other presidents’ because almost no one across an increasingly fractious world believes him anymore. What a relief that must be to the Iranians not to have to pay attention to his huffing and puffing about sanctions or whatever pathetic amount of saber-rattling, already pro forma, he might do. The nuclear talks can now go on in the spirit to which the mullahs are accustomed — a charade. Obama is one of them — he lies too. Everybody lies. Hahaha.