Why it matters whether or not the Administration lied about Benghazi

Michael Barry
I hear lots of people (just yesterday, Joe Scarborough), wanting to sound worldly and mature, saying that the issue of the talking points, etc., is a distraction (and that lying in this context is in fact to be expected) -- that what really matters is the security of our embassies. That is profoundly wrong and here's why (and this is neither a left wing nor a right wing argument).

1. Yes -- Administrations mislead the public. But, no, that's not something that can be blithely dismissed as "the way things are." Anyone familiar with the history of our involvement in Vietnam knows that Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon all lied us into (and into staying in) Viet Nam. If only we had known that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was BS, maybe 60,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese wouldn't have died.

2. As with any lie/crime/deception -- you only catch 1 out of 20, or maybe 1 out of 200. Again, as in Vietnam, if we could have known that the GOT incident was just part of lying, about the South Vietnamese government, about how our strategy was working, about what else we were doing (invading Cambodia, bombing the North etc.) we would have had something "serious" to talk about. But in the way of things, you only find out once in a while that your government is lying to you.

3. The only way you can get a foreign policy (it's much easier to lie about foreign issues than domestic ones, since we can check our lives on the latter) that reflects the will of the American people is if the people actually know what is happening. Administrations lie about inconvenient facts. Facts that will undercut support for their policy.  And their view of the world. Indeed, perhaps the most important function of getting an administration to be honest about what is happening is to get it to (itself) confront how facts are contradicting their view of the world. In a sense, letting an Administration get away with a lie is letting it lie to itself. And you wind up with, in the case of Vietnam, a stupid and wasteful and soul destroying war.

So -- nope. I don't care about the security of our embassies nearly as much as I care about whether this Administration has a realistic view of what is going on in the world and whether it is being truthful with the American people.

I hear lots of people (just yesterday, Joe Scarborough), wanting to sound worldly and mature, saying that the issue of the talking points, etc., is a distraction (and that lying in this context is in fact to be expected) -- that what really matters is the security of our embassies. That is profoundly wrong and here's why (and this is neither a left wing nor a right wing argument).

1. Yes -- Administrations mislead the public. But, no, that's not something that can be blithely dismissed as "the way things are." Anyone familiar with the history of our involvement in Vietnam knows that Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon all lied us into (and into staying in) Viet Nam. If only we had known that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was BS, maybe 60,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese wouldn't have died.

2. As with any lie/crime/deception -- you only catch 1 out of 20, or maybe 1 out of 200. Again, as in Vietnam, if we could have known that the GOT incident was just part of lying, about the South Vietnamese government, about how our strategy was working, about what else we were doing (invading Cambodia, bombing the North etc.) we would have had something "serious" to talk about. But in the way of things, you only find out once in a while that your government is lying to you.

3. The only way you can get a foreign policy (it's much easier to lie about foreign issues than domestic ones, since we can check our lives on the latter) that reflects the will of the American people is if the people actually know what is happening. Administrations lie about inconvenient facts. Facts that will undercut support for their policy.  And their view of the world. Indeed, perhaps the most important function of getting an administration to be honest about what is happening is to get it to (itself) confront how facts are contradicting their view of the world. In a sense, letting an Administration get away with a lie is letting it lie to itself. And you wind up with, in the case of Vietnam, a stupid and wasteful and soul destroying war.

So -- nope. I don't care about the security of our embassies nearly as much as I care about whether this Administration has a realistic view of what is going on in the world and whether it is being truthful with the American people.