Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lying would-be presidents

During this election season, an article from Reason reminds us of something very important: the presidential candidates are lying. George Bush lied about shrinking government (and yet was the first president in history to sign off on a $2 trillion federal budget, and then later the first to sign off on a $3 trillion budget) and about a "humble foreign policy" with no "nation building" (and here we are with wars fast approaching the cost of WWII, and which have lasted longer than it did, anyway). But what's most interesting about the article is something I'd never known before: FDR campaigned on a platform that looks downright libertarian in retrospect. An excerpt from the article on the Democrats' manifesto for the 1932 election:

The very first plank calls for "an immediate and drastic reduction of governmental expenditures by abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagance to accomplish a saving of not less than twenty-five per cent in the cost of the Federal Government." (It also asks "the states to make a zealous effort to achieve a proportionate result.") Subsequent planks demand a balanced budget, a low tariff, the repeal of Prohibition, "a sound currency to be preserved at all hazards," "no interference in the internal affairs of other nations," and "the removal of government from all fields of private enterprise except where necessary to develop public works and natural resources in the common interest." The document concludes with a quote from Andrew Jackson: "equal rights to all; special privilege to none." It sounds more like Ron Paul than Pelosi.

And of course, the Democratic primaries aren't even over and we already have some hard evidence that Obama hasn't been exactly been honest with his anti-NAFTA electioneering, and then there's the strong anecdotal evidence that Hilary Clinton hasn't been, either (as I recall, someone very close to her championed the passage of that bill as president in the early ' if I could just remember his name!).

The bigger issue, I think, is why this isn't an issue. Why do presidential candidates get to lie their way through the elections, and then totally change their position when they're actually in office? Why, during their inevitable incumbent campaigns, are they not shamed for their lies four years earlier? You'd think that in the world of 24/7 cable news, with constant harping on the smallest of issues, these bald-faced lies would be rating-gettings for the networks. But apparently not.

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