Thursday, February 27, 2014

We lie for our party. So what?

Rice on "Meet the Press"

“A [diplomat] is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.”

--Henry Wotton, Sr. (1568-1639)  

 "[Politics] is . . . a continuation of [war] by other means."

--adapted from Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)

From the above two quotations, we understand why politicians calmly go before the media to lie for their leader. Politics, after all, is war without death. And both sides play for keeps. As David Lewis, a Vanderbilt University political science professor, frames it,
to get something done, people have to fear what will happen to them if they don't toe the line, or know they'll be rewarded if they do. You have to let people know that if they do what you want, [they’ll] be rewarded, and if they don't, [they’ll] be punished.
Lying for your leader is one’s best proof of loyalty. It’s also a basic tool in political warfare. Listen to former George Bush aide Karl Rove, who escaped being charged with perjury in the Valerie Plame affair, discussing Susan Rice’s role in the Benghazi disaster:
The worst part of National Security Adviser Susan Rice's comments on Sunday's "Meet The Press" was that she expressed no regret for saying that the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi were "absolutely" the result of protests against a "very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world." Almost as bad was Ms. Rice's statement that she was merely sharing "the best information that we had at the time." That is a contemptible falsehood.
The truth: Rove is hardly upset. Catching Rice in a lie is proof she’s covering up something big. Rove is practically dancing. He knows Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both working for Obama’s re-election when the 9.11 anniversary attack on our Benghazi diplomatic outpost--resulting in an ambassador’s and three other Americans’ deaths--threatened to undermine what Obama had said accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination just 5 days earlier, “A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead. (Cheers, applause.)”

Obama could not tolerate a true version of what happened, especially because it also would have required a vigorous American response against al-Qaida, wreaking on election eve peace and Obama’s only foreign policy success. Better to blame a video. Better to lie. The Obama administration lied, Obama won, it’s politics, and Rove knows it.

Benghazi still poses a danger for Hillary Clinton, and that’s partly why Rove and company work to keep it alive. Meanwhile, Republicans are chipping away at a bigger scandal--the use of the IRS against Obama’s conservative opponents in the run-up to 2012. The IRS scandal most closely resembles Watergate--unleashing governmental power against domestic political enemies, in violation of the U.S. constitution. The administration’s absolute determination to stonewall on the IRS front seems obvious, highlighted by Obama’s recent statement just before the Superbowl that the scandal hadn’t revealed “even a smidgen of corruption.” Obama knows. Breech the IRS scandal wall, and Humpty Dumpty falls.

Of course, Republican schadenfreude is most conspicuously on display in their “regret” and “concern” about administration problems with Obamacare. Scandals can be minimized, especially while a compliant media ignores them. Lies combined with poor performance affecting millions, on the other hand, are harder to ignore.

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