Like James Bond’s License To Kill, Politicians Think They Have A License To Lie

Image by Roland Schwerdhöfer from Pixabay

By David Grace (

Do Politicians Have A License To Lie?

There’s an idea in the heads of some politicians that everything is fair in war and politics, and that they are exempt from any moral obligation to be honest, honorable, or truthful.

A few days ago, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, made a shockingly honest public admission of this belief.

Lewandowski Claims He Has A Right To Lie To The Press

On September 19, 2019, Mr. Lewandowski, testified before the House Judiciary Committee. When confronted with the fact that he had lied in interviews with both MSNBC and Meet The Press, Lewandowski replied that he had “. . . no obligation to have a candid conversation with the media whatsoever. . . .” and “I have no obligation to be honest to the media because they’re just as dishonest as anybody else.”

Lies To The Media Are Lies To All Of Us

Of course, it’s worse than deceitful for Mr. Lewandowski to claim that lying to the press was OK because the media is also dishonest, the “two wrongs make a right” argument, because, of course, he well knew that the media wasn’t at all the target for his lies.

His intended audience for his lies to MSNBC and Meet The Press wasn’t the particular reporter asking the question. It was the citizenry at large.

A person on the witness stand can’t excuse perjury by claiming that the lawyer asking the questions is himself dishonest. The untruthful witness knows that the audience for his answers to the prosecutor’s questions is the judge and the jury.

Perjury isn’t a felony because the witness lied to the prosecutor. It’s a felony because the judge and the jury are the targets of the witness’ false answers to the prosecutor’s questions.

In the same way that the dishonest witness knows that he’s really lying to the judge and the jury, Mr. Lewandowski knows that when he lies to a reporter he’s really lying to you and me and everybody else to whom the media publishes his answers.

Mr. Lewandowski’s purpose in telling his lies to the press was to use the press as a conduit to spread his lies to everyone.

Stripped of his “two wrongs make a right” sophistry, what Lewandowski is really saying is that campaign managers, and, by extension, the candidates themselves, are entitled to lie to the public in order to gain and hold political power.

The Hypocrisy Of Lewandowski Both Condemning & Creating Fake News

This is especially troubling because, while Mr. Lewandowski often railed against so-called “fake news,” he was personally creating his own inventory of fake news. That sure puts a capital “H” in Hypocrisy.

Apparently his double standard is: “When others lie to the press, the resulting inaccurate article is despicable, terrible fake news. When I lie to the press, the resulting inaccurate article is perfectly fine and proper fake news.”

What About Lewandowski’s Former Boss?

I think Mr. Lewandowski’s infatuation with lying to the press is a reflection of the beliefs and policies of his former boss, Donald Trump who, I believe, does not accept the moral principle that what you say happened should match what actually did happen rather than what you wish had happened.

In my column, Lots Of People Have Opinions About Donald Trump, But What Does He Think About Himself? I said:

DT doesn’t think of himself as a liar or a dishonest person. In his mind, he’s the King and Kings have a perpetual License To Lie.

For him, it’s not dishonest to lie to voters, business competitors, political opponents, or anyone else, at least in the context of politics or business, and for him, everything is in the context of politics or business.

For him, everything he does is part of some cosmic negotiation in which saying things that are untrue is not and cannot be a moral failing or character flaw, and speaking those untruths don’t make him a bad person. Like Tessio scheming to have Michael Corleone killed, it isn’t wrong. It’s just business.

How Can We Make Good Choices When Everything Our Leaders Say Is Possibly A Lie?

The problem for us is that it’s not just business. It’s how our country and, to a material extent, how our lives are going to be run.

  • If we don’t know what a politician is going to do, how can we pick him or her?
  • If we don’t know what a politician has done, how can we decide whether or not to keep them in office?
  • How are we supposed to pick the people who govern our country when we have no way of knowing if what the President or his/her administration tells us they’re doing or going to do is a lie?

You can’t have a functioning democracy when everything the government tells you is just as likely to be a lie as the truth.

The So-Called Right To Lie To The Media Is Toxic To A Free Country

The idea that politicians are entitled to lie to us is as toxic to our society as the idea that the police are entitled to beat confessions out of suspects is toxic to law enforcement or that husbands are entitled to rape their wives and beat their children is toxic to marriage and family.

Unfortunately, politicians having a license to lie appears to be accepted as fact by Mr. Lewandowski and his former boss, the current occupant of the White House.

— David Grace (

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David Grace

David Grace

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.