Liars are supposed to scare us, but in practice they don’t. America loves its scoundrels. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby the magnificent, which is about a prolific liar, ranks among the top polls of America’s most beloved novels. Its enduring lesson teaches that if you can’t make it, pretend, and no one will be the wiser by the time you do. Spoiler alert if you slept in high school English: Gatsby climbs to the top by lying about his name (it’s James Gatz), the origin of his wealth (smuggling; moving counterfeits; bribing public officials; working with gangsters ) and his background (he was born poor in North Dakota, not rich in San Francisco). He ends up being overthrown, not as a reward for his lies, but in an act of revenge. (His killer mistakenly thinks Gatsby punched and killed his wife in traffic when in reality Gatsby’s mistress, Daisy, was the helmsman.) Gatsby the magnificent is if you want to get ahead in American life, lie plenty – but make sure your sweetheart is driving safely.
The Gatsby directive has long been observed in corporate America, with executives routinely arrested for filling out their resumes. The university environment, too, is crossed by professors who tamper with their curriculum vitae. And you might fill a little roadside library with hit memoirs that turn out to be fakes. Turning their exaggerations and embroideries into political success, Santos, Luna and Ogles resemble President Joe Biden, who has dispensed one big dip of double fudge after another throughout his political career. In a recent hard-hitting column, Marc A. Thiessen of The Washington Post told Biden the truth. The president’s many lies include those about his family background; about his academic achievements; of being arrested while trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison; to be arrested for protesting civil rights; about getting arrested for sneaking into the United States Capitol; to be shot at in the green zone of Baghdad; on the pinning of a Silver Star on a Navy captain in Afghanistan; cut the federal deficit in half. And this is only a partial list.
Of course, the volume and breadth of Biden’s lies do not compare to those of Donald Trump, who has completely detached himself from the truth during his administration. According to Washington PostIn Trump’s Fact Checker column, Trump made at least 30,573 false or misleading comments during his four years in the White House. Trump had such a unique relationship with the truth that it might have been easier for the Job to classify his truthful statements as his lies. When the fact-checker first launched into Trump during the 2016 campaign, it looked like their accounts were going to shatter his credibility with voters, but they didn’t — or at least not enough to overthrow. the election. Trump supporters ignored the fact that he had plenty because they liked a lot of the things he said about immigrants, foreign entanglements, Hillary Clinton, trade, economic growth, and race. The same – albeit on a drastically different scale – seems to be true with Biden supporters. When Joe blunders or exaggerates, they cover it up by saying, “Oh, that’s just Joe,” and change the subject.
If Santos, Luna and Ogles studied Donald Trump’s political career before composing their personal stories, no one should be surprised. Trump has established that if reporters care about the truth, voters can be more forgiving. If voters cared so much about campaign lies, Democrats would have made the 2020 election an exercise in public shaming about Trump’s lies. But they didn’t. The only lies politicians should avoid are those that could trigger legal action against them, such as the questionable campaign finance statements that Santos has filed that have triggered investigations and could result in prosecutions. Non-prosecutable lies of any kind are routinely forgotten by voters as their speakers run for re-election.
Politicians lie, lie and lie again because they have learned that voters don’t seem to care much when lies are uncovered. (In a perfect world, the press would fully verify every statement by every politician, but even before the decline of the industry, it lacked the resources to perform mass lie detection.) In the long run, voters don’t don’t seem to care if a contestant’s credentials are legit or if they’ve really climbed Mount Everest in their stockings as they attest to in the race. So why bother pumping up your resume in the first place if voters will just shrug their shoulders when they find out you stretched the truth? Could it be that, like committing minor acts of vandalism or petty shoplifting, telling lies about ourselves is too good to resist, especially when engaged in the contest that is politics, where every day brings another public CV comparison exercise?
When it comes to politics, a candidate’s lived experience should be less important than their position on the issue. For that reason alone, we’d be better off if politicians competed by deflating their resumes instead of inflating them.
However, I want my neurosurgeon’s resume to be accurate. Send neurosurgeon referrals to [email protected]. No new email alert subscriptions are honored at this time. My Twitter feed launched in the World Series. My Juggernaut account invented a cure for cancer. My The postal account saved a baby to be run over in traffic. My RSS feed has accomplished nothing and has no ambition.