Why do politicians lie?

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, October 7, 2015

By J David Derosier

Did that headline get your attention?  In practice, most of the time, if not all of the time, politicians don’t actually lie; although often they just don’t answer the question or give you the whole truth.  Is that lying?  Probably is.

Recently, according to MSNBC, in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the retiring Speaker of the House, Congressman Boehner said that political groups and lawmakers have purposely misled voters, charging that they’ve “whipped people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know — are never going to happen.” (Sunday 9-27-15). If they do that, it’s lying!

Also on that Sunday, I watched an interview of one of the presidential candidates   he never answered a single question directly and, in truth, seldom gave an answer at all.  He consistently turned the question around to meet his own agenda and that’s what he talked about.  This is someone who wants to be President of the United States!!  In my view, it’s just like lying.  Not getting my vote.

Looking back, in a 2003 documentary, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was quoted as saying, “Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.”  So all of this is not new, it’s been going on for decades, centuries, or longer.  And what’s worse is that they acknowledge what they’re doing.

To me, the answer to the headline is that politicians lie when they are only interested in their own agenda and not much else.  Their agenda is not necessarily bad.  It could be that they believe that they have the best answer to a public problem; just don’t expect them to share too much or to be flexible if the public really wants something different.

Why bring this up now?  Because it’s the season for the news media to be reporting on candidates for election (or re-election) to office.  Because anyone who watches TV or logs on to social media gets bombarded with it.  Even those (like you) who still read print newspapers get more than their fill.

This is when the real news people show their interviewing skills…or lack of.  Watch the candidates in a debate or in an interview.  Do they really answer the questions?  Seldom…and when they do it’s usually incomplete.

So it’s the agenda that drives the issues.  And to achieve their agenda, many will deceive you in one way or another.    Politicians have even written laws to make it easier for them to do that.

Take, for example, a “rider” attached to a bill in the legislature (state or federal).  According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, in legislative procedure, a rider is an additional provision added to a bill or other measure under consideration by a legislature, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill.

Wikipedia tells us that riders are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision that would not pass as its own bill. Sometimes, a controversial provision is attached to a bill not to be passed itself, but to prevent the original bill from being passed (in which case it is called a wrecking amendment or poison pill).

So when candidate “A” accuses candidate “B” of being against women’s rights because of a vote on a specific bill, it could be that the no-vote was because of a rider attached for something entirely different.  In other words, candidate “B” would normally vote for women’s rights, but could not vote for the rider, therefore he had to oppose the whole bill.

So what can we do?

First, especially during this time with so many candidates to choose from, try to find a candidate you can trust.  I think this is best done when they are asked questions by a third party…and the questions are actually answered to your satisfaction.

Next, pay enough attention to the candidate that you can figure out his/her agenda.  If you agree with the agenda, go with the candidate.

The bigger problem is when the agenda is hidden.  I’ll talk about hidden agendas, perhaps even some here in Southeast Texas, in another column.

In the meantime, DO find a candidate to trust and DO vote in the elections.  This country needs more people to pay attention and use their vote.


J David Derosier is a retired technology professional and worked for several years in a business that developed technology to prevent the use of cellular devices in restricted areas, without jamming. Prior to that he worked with Fortune-500 companies in Information Security (InfoSec) with a global focus on National Security. Today he consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services. He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info.