Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yeah, There Is a Word For It

Trey Smith

With the latest major revelation about National Security Agency surveillance, there’s a huge taboo question that needs to be put out on the table: Has President Obama been deliberately lying about the NSA, or have his statements just been repeatedly “wrong”?

After Barton Gellman’s blockbuster story [Aug. 16] about the NSA breaking “privacy rules or overstepp(ing) its legal authority thousands of times each year,” the Washington Post published an attendant commentary with a headline declaring the president was merely “wrong” in last week suggesting that the NSA wasn’t “actually abusing” its legal authority. The implication is that when Obama made that comment — and then further insisted the surveillance programs “are not abused” — he may have been inaccurate, but he didn’t necessarily deliberately lie because he may not have known he was not telling the truth.

This is not to single out the Post commentary because, of course, such a rhetorical dance is fairly standard for the official political discourse these days. Since at least the Iraq War if not before, the media and political class typically goes out of its way to avoid declaring a lie a lie. Simply put, from “we know where (the WMDs) are” to Obama’s “actually abusing” declaration, seemingly deliberately inaccurate statements are rarely ever framed as outright lies. Even when such statements come from those with vested interests in hiding the truth, words and phrases like “misstated,” “wrong,” “least untruthful” and “misspoke” are trotted out.

These words and phrases now comprise a whole Washington vocabulary crafted specifically to avoid the L word. That’s because once the L word comes out, it means the official in question is deliberately misleading the public — and that is rightly considered an abhorrent act in a democracy.

But just as it is utterly absurd to claim Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t lie before Congress (and some reporters thankfully admitted that truth in the open), it has now become almost silly to insinuate or assume that the president hasn’t also been lying. Why? Because if that’s true — if indeed he hasn’t been deliberately lying — then it means he has been dangerously, irresponsibly and negligently ignorant of not only the government he runs, but also of the news breaking around him.
~ from What If the President Lied to Us? by David Sirota ~
One way to tell how times have changed is to remember that the mainstream press wasn't shy at all in calling out President Richard Nixon. When he lied -- and he told lots of 'em -- the media was darn quick to point it out.

Today, however, politicians and elected leaders frequently are caught not telling the truth and yet -- except in the most obvious and blatant cases -- the mainstream media goes through grammatical gymnastics to avoid using the L word!

In the case of Obama in relation to the NSA scandal, there really are only three plausible explanations for his many "misstatements": a) He is lying, b) He is incompetent or c) It's a sorry combination of a and b.

I suppose one could argue that the officials from the NSA have been misleading him, but that is a difficult argument to make when he himself declares he is on top of the situation. If he indeed is "on top of it" and yet he keeps telling the American people information that is not true, we then return to the fact that either he is willfully being dishonest or he's an incompetent doofus.

Since few people would argue the latter, the former is the default position.

This is not to suggest that President Obama's penchant for being untruthful or, to be more charitable, spreading disinformation is an anomaly among US presidents or world leaders, for that matter. It seems to come with these types of positions. The elite always try to shape pronouncements so as not to overburden or unduly excite the unwashed masses. Our overlords know better than ignorant peons like us.

Where I particularly fault Obama is that even when he is caught in a lie, not only will he not fess up, but he doubles and triples down on it! While James Clapper provided a mealy-mouthed explanation for why he lied to Congress, President Obama won't even go that far. He behaves as if everything word that comes out of his mouth is the god's honest truth and to question him is a treasonous act.

It's almost as if Obama thinks he is our sovereign king!

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