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.
So they can produce a faux document, assuming we even get to read it, that no one adheres to and move on. Does anyone expect otherwise? Could a man who could not even be honest about the details of a health insurance plan be trusted to negotiate the enrichment of uranium in a secretive country on another continent governed by religious fanatics who have been hiding their activities for decades and for whom deception is a way of life?
What will Obama say if and when a dirty nuke explodes in one of our shopping malls, thousands die and the global economy goes into free fall? Maybe he will forget he ever said “Iran won’t have a nuclear weapon. Period!”
Okay, he never said “period” in this case. Everyone would have doubled over in hysterical laughter. Maybe he’d just press that old reset button with Russia and get Vladimir on the line to help solve things.
Outrageous, isn’t it? It would be if it weren’t so tragic. But what is to be done?
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has an article in the Telegraph — Why Washington needs to open its eyes to Iran’s intentions — in which he warns the administration to take the nuclear discussions seriously and stay firm on sanctions. Mark, as usual, makes sense, but at the same time admonishing the administration in April 2014 to “open its eyes” on Iran seems a tad late, to put it mildly.
After all, it was only a few years ago that Iranian democracy protestors by the hundreds of thousands were marching in the streets of Tehran shouting “Obama, Obama, are you with us — or are you with them?” I’m pretty sure we all now know the answer to that one.