Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Political Integrity Club

I've often mentioned to students and others my belief that politicians frequently lie (or you could say spin if you prefer the diplomatic approach). This often comes up because, for example, a politician says something like "Social Security lockbox." I know there is no lockbox, and I generally have assumed there is no elected politician who is sufficiently ignorant of our Social Security system to believe, honestly, that there is. As I consider the various policy issues I've paid attention to, and further if I think about all the politicians I've paid attention to, my conclusion is that nearly all (and perhaps all) politicians lie.

Now, I'm reading a biography of a former President, and I'm wondering did this President lie and how often? Then this question leads me to be curious about how historians figure out what to write about politics and politicians. Do historians assume that the things spoken and written by politicians are what the politicians honestly believed? Or, are they able to take into account the likelihood that the people they study are practiced liars?

Then there is another question that comes to mind. When I mention to others that I think politicians, in general, are accomplished liars I don't remember any one ever disagreeing with me in general. Some will agree completely, while others will suggest that there are a few who are honest politicians and people of integrity. (I'm not sure I remember any illustrations I could agree with when I asked.) I have to wonder, why do We The People elect liars to be our political leaders? Why don't we elect people we think say what they mean and mean what they say?

Of course, I may be all wet about this accomplished political liar stuff. So, I have an idea. I would like to open the floor for nominations of politicians to be included in the Political Integrity Club. Please nominate any politician you can think of who has integrity, who says what she means and means what she says? I would also add that we don't have to just concentrate on politicians. There are many in the news business and in punditry who comment on politics and public policy all the time. So, you could also suggest people who aren't politicians but who are public figures frequently writing or speaking on politics who are people of integrity. I wonder if the membership in the Political Integrity Club will turn out to be a null set?

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