Belmont Club

Lie to me

(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Newsmen took Robert Gibbs to task about President Obama’s campaign trail promise to craft the health care bill transparently, going so far as to say it would be televised on Cspan.

Those promises were compiled as YouTube clips below, together with a clip of Nancy Pelosi’s rejoinder that a lot of things were said on the campaign trail that aren’t going to happen any more.

[youtube Api4fUziAnI]

Obama’s pledge

[youtube lxUud3yOsSk]

Pelosi’s rejoinder

An Election Promise is now almost synonymous with a Lie. Few voters believe that an election promise will actually be kept, but many vote according to what they are promised anyway.  There’s even an entertainment factor. According to Wikipedia, evidence suggests that politicians actually benefit from creatively misleading voters because “a party that does not make exaggerated promises might appear bland, unambitious, and uninteresting to voters compared to the one that does. Sometimes this can give the exaggerating party an advantage over the truthful one.”

But although the politician may lie, he may also be expected not to break his promises blatantly or obviously. In the Edwardian age, upper class men and women were often unfaithful to each other. Nobody minded for so long as scandal was avoided.  Infidelity was not the issue. Blatant infidelity was.

Shame no longer attaches to lying. It falls upon those who are caught lying.  One of the most important public relations tasks of the past was to keep embarassing questions from being asked.  The mark of good manners was not to notice the spitoon right next to the carving board.

This kind of hypocrisy is corrosive because it allows people to temporarily believe in things they would never credited in their right minds. Recent political life in common with the theater required the audience to suspend disblief; a convention that was supportable as long as the design margins were so great that the voters were essentially shielded from the worst consequences of their lying politicians. September 11 and then the financial meltdown showed that lies could no longer be kept onstage. While the stage villain remained on the boards, the real villains could go on to loot the public treasury and kill thousands.

Perhaps Barack Obama is perhaps the last gasp of nostalgia; the last hurrah for the Kennedyesque indulgence of electing someone for his charisma and personal beauty.  Deep down in their hearts a considerable number of those who voted for Obama knew he would never conduct the health care negotiatons on Cspan or even keep them safe. But there was something  hypnotizing about the possibility of magic; something compelling about the prospect of getting something for nothing; something touching in the hope that if you truly, truly believed in hope and change from an associate of Tony Rezko and the Blag, that you would really get it. Tyler Connoly catches the mood:

Do you remember that scene in Peter Pan after Captain Hook has poisoned Tinkerbell? Tinkerbell’s light is fading, and has almost gone out, and Peter turns to the audience and says, “She’s going to die unless we do something. Clap your hands! Clap your hands and say, ‘I believe in fairies!'” It’s wonderful to see all the children in the audience clapping their hands and shouting.

I remember watching Mary Martin playing Peter Pan on television when I was a kid, and thinking that I was really saving Tinkerbell’s life. I believed in fairies with all my heart, and I shouted it at the top of my lungs. “I do believe in fairies!” Miraculously, Tinkerbell heard me and her light came back.

But the President isn’t Peter Pan and Nancy Pelosi isn’t Tinkerbell.


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