Opinion: Honest about Lying

May 23, 2019

As pointed out in a CNN editorial recently, a common defense for inaccurate information from the White House is the idea that “all politicians lie”—that is, because it is thought that no politician is entirely truthful, telling falsehoods is to be expected.

But does this make it okay?

There was of course the infamous Washington Post article about President Trump making 9,451 misleading claims in 801 days, as well as debates stemming from the Trump White House’s use of terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts” to justify inconsistent information and falsehood.

The kind of logic behind “all politicians lie” is reminiscent at its basis of the “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do so as well?” allegory. We as a society seem to understand at a base level that the actions of a group don’t justify the actions of the individual, and yet this justification is used time and time again in the defense of Trump.

There is a certain “otherism” that Trump has been afforded during his time in office, the rhetoric of which extends to his past in Hollywood culture. We often make excuses for celebrities based on the supposed “stress of fame,” and we make excuses for the actions of celebrities based on the idea that we can’t truly understand their life—that, if we have not experienced what they are doing, we can’t have an opinion on it.

While this is a bad mentality in general, when applied to politicians, it can become dangerous. If we feel that we can’t judge the president simply because we have never been president, we have essentially broken down the intuitive authority of the people established by the structure under which the president is, first and foremost, a civil servant working for the people.

One of the more peculiar elements of the “all politicians lie” argument is the idea that Trump is “honest about lying.” While this firstly doesn’t make sense on a situational level—Trump avoids acknowledging his lies—this logic at its basis is, again, flawed and unsettling. Honesty is not an overbearing good; admitting to lies does not equate to honesty.

At the end of the day, we need to have higher standards for our president and political leaders than we do for Hollywood celebrities. We can’t continue to make excuses for people that are responsible for some of the country’s—and the world’s—biggest problems. The president needs to be held to higher standards by the nature of his job—and at the very least, he should most certainly not be excused for falsehood.

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