Do Voters Really Care Whether Politicians Are Honest?

Bush lied, people died! That was the relentless chant for much of the former president’s administration. One might discern from such protestation that voters expect their politicians to be honest. Yet, last week, we’ve watched as the same media which lambasted Bush over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq collectively shrugged in response to the revelation that Hillary Clinton knowingly deceived the American people regarding the September 11, 2012, attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya.


In case you somehow missed it, here’s what we learned, as reported by Reason:

According to documents revealed as part of the ongoing Congressional hearings on Benghazi, then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil in a phone call the day after the attack on the U.S. consulate, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.”

The film Clinton refers to is the 10 minute Youtube trailer for the ultra-low budget anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims,” which she and other senior Obama administration officials, including President Obama himself, almost immediately began casting as a scapegoat for the attacks. Those attacks, however, were already understood by senior administration officials to be a planned and coordinated attack, and very much not what then-ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called a “a spontaneous reaction to a video.”

People died, Clinton lied! Perhaps that doesn’t have the same ring to it. Or, perhaps, the same folks who raked Bush over the coals for his perceived dishonesty simply don’t care whether Hillary lied.

That was certainly the impression I got from Don, a caller chiming in during Friday’s “Up and At ‘Em” morning show on Twin Cities News Talk AM 1130. Host Andrew Lee and I were discussing the Benghazi story when Don called in to tell us how “boring” it was. Here’s how the conversation went (embedded above beginning at 21:57):


Andrew: Don, are you supporting Hillary Clinton for president?

Don: Oh, absolutely.

Andrew: Even though she clearly lied about a terrorist attack?

Don: Absolutely. Oh and just a comment about that —

Andrew: Hold on. <crosstalk> No, Don, I want to know. Does it bother you that she lied to the American people about a terrorist attack? She tried to blame it on a video when she knew from the get-go that it had nothing to do with a video.

Don: I was about to, when I was interrupted, I was about to make a point about that. First of all, there was confusion – you call it lies – about whether there —

Walter: No, no, no, no, no. No, she calls it a lie. She called it a lie. She confessed! <crosstalk> Yes, I am interrupting you. It’s our show. We can do what we want. She confessed to it being a lie. Okay? We found out that she called the Egyptian prime minister and told him, “We know that it’s a lie. We know that this attack has nothing to do with this video that we are blaming the attack on, but we’re going with that narrative anyway.” She confessed to lying! What part of that do you not understand?

Don: First of all, go ahead, call it a lie if you want to —

Andrew & Walter: She called it a lie!!!

Walter: How willfully ignorant do you have to be?! Are you so intent on believing that this woman is above reproach that you won’t even believe her when she tells you that she’s a liar?

Andrew: Go ahead, Don.

Don: [If] you think it’s extremely important whether they called that attack a protest instead of an attack, then so be it. But it isn’t important to me whether you called it an attack or a protest… <crosstalk> There’s just a fine line between protest and attack.

Andrew: Oh, no there is not.

Walter: Not according to Hillary Clinton.

Andrew: <crosstalk> We have protests here in the Twin Cities three times a week, and you’re telling me there’s a fine line between a protest and an attack? A planned coordinated attack, not a protest that just happens to maybe get out of control? A fine line? Don, you are so in the tank, man!


And so it went.

Next: The ostrich factor…

The encounter reflected the insight of Penn Jillette, who had earlier opined in his podcast regarding the mindset of Clinton supporters. He said:

We have Hillary Clinton — while you were alive, while you were sexually active, three years ago — saying marriage is just between a man and a woman. …

And yet many people in [the gay community] are supporting Hillary, and their reason for supporting her is that “she was always in favor of gay rights, but she had to say what she had to to be elected.” …

She came out in favor of the pacific trade deal, very strongly in favor of it, and now she’s against it.

And that’s not seen as flip-flopping, it’s not really seen as a revelation or learning something — it’s seen as “she is politically expedient, and we want someone who is politically expedient.”

The followers of Hillary Clinton seem to think they have a secret deal with her — where they understand what she really believes, what she’s really going to do — and they are willing to support her as she bends the truth in order to be elected. …

Why do the people who support Hillary think that what she’s saying is to manipulate other people and not to manipulate them?

It goes beyond Jillette’s perception, and beyond Clinton supporters. Culturally, there seems to be a widespread abandonment of integrity as a virtue. People don’t expect honesty, least of all in their elected representatives, and especially in the pursuit of political ends. Perhaps Bill Clinton fueled that abandonment with the Lewinsky debacle, but it manifests in many ways.


Psychologically, it’s easy to understand why partisan voters would rally behind their candidate in spite of flaws. So my guy lied, they might confess to themselves. But he’s still better than the alternative. If that’s the thought process, fair enough. Don takes it to the next level, however, actually believing that a confessed lie is somehow not a lie.



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