Let the Seller Beware

LET THE SELLER BEWARE….Jonah Goldberg is taking some abuse for pointing out today in his maiden column for the LA Times that FDR lied about World War II. I don’t think that defending Jonah will become a regular feature here, but there’s actually nothing much objectionable about saying this. FDR, after all, was a pretty consummate smooth talker.

In fact, as Eric Alterman pointed out in When Presidents Lie, FDR also lied about the end of WWII, JFK lied about the Cuban Missile Crisis, LBJ lied about the Vietnam War, and Ronald Reagan lied about Iran-Contra. Nixon lied too, but I gather that Eric left him out of the book because he was just too easy a target. And as long as we’re at it, Truman continued FDR’s lies, Eisenhower lied about U-2 flights and other things, Bush Sr. told a few whoppers about Gulf War I, and Clinton certainly knew he was lying when he said we’d be in and out of Kosovo in a year.

Of course, Jonah’s point is that lying is OK as long as the cause is just ? about which we should check back with him in a couple of decades ? while Eric’s point was that lying is wrong and we shouldn’t put up with it. In fact, Eric’s conclusion, which is one that Jonah should probably take note of, is that in most cases lying about national security leads to horrible consequences, a lesson that George Bush is relearning to his misfortune. As it turns out, most lies eventually get unmasked, and with rare exceptions the American public is not amused. In a democracy, you need public support to sustain a war, and that support usually can’t survive if the public thinks it’s been duped. Caveat venditor.

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