Does it matter when politicians lie?

Everyone knows politicians lie. Politicians say one thing and vote another, they misstate facts and omit pertinent facts. Sometimes they even forget to correct public statements their staff makes on their behalf. These are things everyone accepts as truth. But does it matter?

That was the question posed to me as I discussed (via Facebook) the latest revelation that President Obama, via his staff apparently, failed to corrected the record about his uncle. Omar Obama was said, by White House staff and never corrected by the President, to have never met President Obama. Now we know that they not only met, they lived in the same household and spoke continuously – up until 10 years ago (conspicuously just as Barack Obama gained in stature in politics).

This wouldn’t matter except Omar Obama is a 50 year illegal alien in this nation. Something that could have affected the Presidents ability to be re-elected, and efforts to reform immigration as Democrats are pushing for.

The reason given why it doesn’t matter is because it doesn’t affect anyone, nor does it change anything. That’s what many people feel about most lies and misstatements by politicians. Since they don’t feel an impact, it doesn’t matter at all.

I disagree.

In the case of President Obama, the impact is not direct and immediate but it does affect everyone in the nation. First, if it was known when the Boston Globe did its article in Jan 2012 the debate on immigration reform may have taken a different turn. Republicans would have continued to emphasize a need to make illegal aliens accountable for their actions, and Democrats would have had to buckle – maybe – from the public backlash. Either way, the debate on how to reform immigration would have been more intense, addressing the value of long-term illegal aliens, and the need to have accountability in law.

Second, the impact to America would be very different. Not on a direct level, but in dealing with our allies. How much trust can England or Israel have in President Obama when it is disclosed that mistruths are being made about such little things. Is the White House being honest about how it wants to deal with Iran and nukes? What are the real agreements being made with Russia about Syria and the Middle East?

If President Obama is willing to allow a lie about his past to be fed to the public (and consciously omits facts like millions of Americans won’t keep their doctor) then how much trust can any nation have trust in America when making private deals about international stability that requires absolute trust? Such obvious lies add to distrust making international politics that much harder and the world that much more unstable.

The public doesn’t feel that directly, or immediately, but we feel it when such distrust explodes with other catalysts, and a war breaks out or an Ambassador dies or a trade deal doesn’t get done.

This is also true at the level of Congress. As an example, Rep. Richard Hanna – current incumbent of the NY-22 – has flipflopped on immigration, and lied when he said he voted for restricting the NSA from abusing its power. This affects other Republicans in Congress. Can they trust Rep. Hanna? Will he back their efforts? Does he truly support the issues they believe in, or will he support the other side? How can you be sure?

Consider that Rep. Hanna has made multiple votes to defund and delay Obamacare – that he has described in video interview as “symbolic” votes. Such votes implied support to try to remove Obamacare (or the ACA if you prefer) via shutdown, for the benefit of a nation that never wanted the Affordable Care Act. But then Rep. Hanna folded his position, as was widely reported, almost before the shutdown occured and immediately after it started.

How much trust can other Congressmen have in the commitment that Rep. Hanna has on any issue he claims to support? If Rep. Hanna is willing to undermine support on major issues, and misstate facts to constituents, what will he do to other members of Congress? What deal can be sure to have his support, especially if the vote is close?

Such lies build mistrust, which some may argue is why a simple and non-partisan Bill, like H Res 134 (Congress condemning N. Korea for its aggression) or HR 2310 (to get headstones for Reserve military that have died in combat), have failed to become law. Which doesn’t impact the public directly as a whole, but indirectly affects millions.

Lies, misstatements, omissions of truth and attempts to cover up all of the former affect the nation, even if the result is not immediately apparent. Whether its the cost of imports, the loss of jobs to overseas competition, the threat and fact of war and conflict, or even the burden placed on the loved ones of the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we all enjoy, we all feel the result of elected politicians that are duplicitous.

So does it matter if a politician lies, or flip flops on an issue, or omits all the facts? It always matters, its just whether or not you notice the cost before or after an election that many of these types of politicians are concerned with.

I believe that we need to make all politicians accountable, especially when they fail the public trust.

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