In the past there have been all sorts of presidential fibbing. Some chief executives make promises that they know they probably cannot or will not keep. Before his reelection for his third term in the midst of a world war, Franklin Roosevelt swore that he would never send American boys to fight in a foreign war. In just a little over a year, he did just that. Lyndon Johnson likewise before the 1964 election said he would not send troops to Vietnam. But once reelected, he sent nearly 200,000 troops to fight the North Vietnamese; by the time he left office, over a half-million Americans were deployed in Vietnam.
In 1988 presidential candidate George H. W. Bush pledged that he would not raise taxes and did so emphatically: “Read my lips — no new taxes!” But in 1990 he flipped and agreed to tax hikes.
Barack Obama has offered all sorts of similar empty pledges, like promising to close the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year of taking office. It is still open. Obama also promised to halve the deficit by the end of his first term. Instead he doubled it. Ditto Obama’s promises on the good things to follow Cash for Clunkers, on the shovel-ready jobs that would follow the stimulus, and on the summer of recovery to be spawned by massive borrowing. At your own job, if you promise the boss that you will do something and then don’t, you’re likely to get fired; when presidents do the same, it’s called politics. Continue reading “How Presidents Lie”→
The second terms of the latest three presidents have not been successful. Bill Clinton was impeached after his infamous lie to Americans, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
George W. Bush was blamed for the postwar violence in Iraq.
Barack Obama’s scandals — with his accompanying “limited hangout” denials — are ruining his second term: the growing IRS messes, the Associated Press monitoring, the NSA embarrassments, the Benghazi killings, the Syria bluster and backdown, and, of course, the Obamacare fiasco and the misleading statements about it.
What are other common denominators of this collective tenure of our recent presidents?
After popular first terms and reelection, they seemed to have lost public confidence and the ability to continue an agenda.
Do two terms wear out a president?
Maybe the hubris of getting reelected convinces our commanders-in-chief that they are mostly beyond reproach. Overreach ensues. Then the goddess Nemesis descends in destructive fashion to remind them that they are mere mortals. Continue reading “Needed: A Different Sort of President”→
Sometime in the mid-first century a.d., an otherwise little known consular official, Gaius Petronius, wrote a brilliant satirical novel about the gross and pretentious new Roman-imperial elite. The Satyricon is an often-cruel parody about how the Roman agrarian republic of old had degenerated into a wealth-obsessed, empty society of wannabe new elites, flush with money, and both obsessed with and bored with sex. Most of the Satyricon is lost. But in its longest surviving chapter — “Dinner with Trimalchio” — Petronius might as well have been describing our own 21st-century nomenklatura.
America has always been a country of self-invention. Yet there used to be some correlation between the life that one lived and the life that one professed. It was hard to be a phony in the grimy reality of the coal mine, the steel mill, the south 40 acres, or atop a girder over Manhattan. Continue reading “The Hipster Façade”→
We are in a transparency mania, but a rather selective sort of one. Bill Clinton, who chose not to tell the truth while under oath and as president, says he is “perplexed” that Mitt Romney did not offer more candor by providing more than a single year’s tax returns. Continue reading “Selective Transparency”→
Barack Obama, both substantively and symbolically, ran in 2008 as a much-needed healer. He was to bring the nation together as never before — a vow taken to heart by millions of voters of all backgrounds who ensured Obama’s 2008 victory. Continue reading “Barack the Healer”→
Former president Bill Clinton just appeared in a reelection television commercial for President Barack Obama. At one point, Clinton weighs in on the potential consequences of Obama’s decision to go ahead with the planned assassination of Osama bin Laden. Continue reading “Presidential Narcissism”→