If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period. ~ Barack Obama
When Barack Obama lied about health care, he lost his ability to lead. People will not follow someone who plays them for fools. Leaders know where they stand, too. Discredited leaders know that followers who trusted them once now consider them to be worthless fools.
What is the worst kind of lie you can tell? The kind where, when you get caught, you look both stupid and dishonest. These are big lies. By way of definition, let’s compare big lies with some other types of falsehood:
- White lies are generally inconsequential.
- Spin becomes tiresome, but these days you have to get used to it. Harmful if you don’t recognize it, or if you forget how common it is.
- Fudging is often done on the fly, in the pressure of the moment. These lies are sometimes consequental, sometimes not.
- Propaganda has become ubiquitous in political campaigns of all sorts. It is pernicious in all its forms, and shades over into big lies.
Big lies often grow out of propaganda. They affect a lot of people. They require deliberation. The propagandist-as-big-liar typically devotes substantial energy to this type of lie, to persuade people that the falsehood is true. Everyone recognizes that a lot hangs on whether you believe or disbelieve the propagandist’s reasoning. This kind of dishonesty matters.
Mainly, big lies make you look stupid when you get caught. People who rely on your trustworthiness ask, “What did you think would happen when you got caught?” For you know that when you tell a big lie, others will discover what you’ve done. Too much evidence piles up, or a critical event occurs that shows you have been dishonest. Pinnochio’s nose tells the story: the evidence is too obvious to be missed.
People lose faith in you not only because they can’t trust you to tell the truth about things that matter, but because you’ve been too inept or blind to know the difference between consequential lies and inconsequential ones. The latter blindness is so unfathomable, liars caught in a big lie don’t even try to explain the origin or motivation for their falsehood. They retire from the scene, humiliated and ineffective. Or they say, testily, “So what? What difference does it make?”
So here’s a brief farewell to you, our discredited president. People who support the Affordable Care Act must feel some regret at your current troubles. For those who oppose the Abominable Care Act, we wish you well as you pick your way through the political wreckage. The country needs effective leadership, but we’re happy you have broken faith with people, for the direction you want to go means protracted misery for everyone who follows you.
Nelson Mandela died today. Charged with treason and jailed for twenty-seven years, he walked out of prison on February 11, 1990. Yesterday’s traitor is today’s collosus.