Why Lies Matter

Hillary Clinton’s honesty rivals Donald Trump’s civility.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. –Lord Acton

Hillary Clinton’s honesty rivals Donald Trump’s civility. You know it’s bad when a pundit inclined to support Hillary Clinton for President is practically begging her to please stop lying. It’s not like The Atlantic is even remotely close to a right-wing publication and the writer, Ron Fournier, takes several clear digs at Trump even as he lambasts Clinton. She lied most recently about lying about her treatment of classified emails and lied about Jim Comey concluding she was truthful about the emails.

Lies beget lies beget lies.

How can we make it stop? Barring something akin to this movie miracle, it is hard to stop deeply-ingrained habits. And if we don’t count the perpetual shadiness scandals of the first Clinton presidency, we can at least look back to 2008 for a clear record of flagrant dishonesty. Clinton claimed to have come under sniper fire during a visit to Bosnia as First Lady, and CBS News—which accompanied her on the trip—tore her story apart.

Then we have Benghazi. In typical Clintonian fashion, Clinton left enough wiggle room in how she spoke of the incident so that it is hard to make a fool-proof case that she was absolutely deceptive. Yet this we know: she told numerous family members of the slain Americans (one even recorded it in his diary) that it was caused by a video and she released a public statement that linked the two without explicitly claiming a causational relationship—a textbook example of how a politician can lie without lying. At the same time, she told Chelsea and several foreign diplomats that it was a terrorist attack.

In order to exonerate Hillary in that instance, we have to assume that she was just as confused by the incident as she was about the “sniper” incident in Bosnia. Or we could just go with Occam’s razor.

Finally, we have a series of lies over classified emails that are now the stuff of legend. There are numerous videos out there (like this one) that show Hillary Clinton saying one thing and, after the FBI investigation, Jim Comey concluding the exact opposite. This evidence of dishonesty is irrefutable, but Clinton still tries. This is why The Washington Post just gave her “four Pinocchios”—tantamount to “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

To ask Clinton’s now-famous and reprehensible question, “What difference does it make?” Who care about a few white lies? Bill Clinton lied about sex with Monica Lewinsky under oath, but c’est la vie, politicians lie. This cynical conclusion is why Hillary’s lies are so insufferable and destructive.

Should we allow our politicians to make us so cynical? Our first president, George Washington, helped hold our country together in its infancy by sheer moral example. We look up to such figures and seek to emulate them. We largely trust what these figures say and, thus, also have greater respect for a system of government that elects such figures. A government that cannot elicit our respect and our trust will soon elicit our disdain and animosity. Such a government will not ultimately stand.

It is not simply the lies themselves that erode our sense of trust in our government, but the lack of accountability for such lies. Richard Nixon’s lies did great damage to our country, but there was a comfort in knowing that it was fellow Republicans who were about to convict him and convinced him to resign. Yet there has been little to no accountability for Clinton.

She lied about Bosnia and she was awarded with Secretary of State. She lied about Benghazi and then prepared for her presidential run. She lied about national security infractions greater than those for which General David Petraeus was punished. Her consequence? She is now the Democratic nominee for president.

The years of cynical, unambiguous deceit by Bill and now Hillary Clinton have helped spoil a generation of trust toward our system of government. The lack of consequences for the Clintons prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that such cynicism is warranted.