I’ve been seeing a lot of statements by politicians of late – naturally – and one thing is striking me: the inability of people in politics to just admit when they don’t know things. All of them appear to be laboring under the impression that they have to have a pat answer to all questions – and as it is impossible for them to do that, they hem and haw around and end up saying things which are wrong and/or stupid.
To be sure, a wise politician will prepare him or herself with answers for likely questions – for GOPers this will be genuine MSM gotcha questions on social issues designed to feed into the overall Progressive campaign themes. But one cannot know everything – it just isn’t possible. And, of course, when a GOPer heads to a conservative or libertarian media outfit, he or she better be prepared for all sorts of smart, penetrating questions – a bit of study beforehand is wise. But even then, you’re still not necessarily going to have an answer for every question. I’m pretty well informed on matters of foreign policy but I, for instance, didn’t know who was in command of Iran’s al Quds force until I read about the Trump/Hewitt fracas over the issue (which seems to be a bit blown out of proportion by anti-Trump forces). Trump didn’t know either – and he should have just admitted not knowing and moved on (one thing about an admission of ignorance is that whatever series of questions your interviewer was planning for that subject are now wastebasket material). If I were running for office and someone leaped out and asked me a question I didn’t have a good answer to, I’d just say: “you know, that is a good question and I haven’t looked into the details of that matter – next time we talk, I’ll have something to say on it. Next question?”. I’d rather take a bit of heat for saying I don’t know something – when I don’t know about it – than take even worse heat by giving an ignorant answer, or getting huffy about the question, itself; or worst of all, lying about things and then getting called out on the lies later.
The main point I’m making here is that honesty is really the best policy. Especially in politics. This might seem counter-intuitive because, well, politicians tend to be people who spread enough bull to fertilize the Sinai. But the reality is that no matter how good a lie seems to be, it never works out in the long run. Well, strictly speaking, it never works out in the long run if you’re the sort of person who cares about the country and our people – those politicians who are just relentlessly on the make find that lies work well, in a sense. But for those who are trying to do something worthwhile, never fall into the trap of thinking that anything other than truth will work. Even if it results in you getting crushed this time around, it merely sets the stage for your ultimate triumph (or the triumph of your ideals, if you don’t get a second chance) – if a politician just tells the truth then in the long run that politician will be perceived as the best person, especially in contrast to the lying opponents who used lies to beat you at the previous election.
Level with the people. Tell them what is on your mind. Admit it when you don’t have the answer nailed down at the moment. Give a precise set of actions you will take once in office. Think about the candidate who has spent the whole campaign telling the truth – and then gets up in debate with the lying opponent: it will be a beautiful moment. “You just heard my opponent tell you a pretty story about what he/she will do – but it is just a fairy tale. It isn’t true.”. It just crushes the life out of someone who lies when someone who is known to be a truth-teller points out the Emperor has no clothes. It has happened before – when Reagan did his “there you go again” in the debate with Carter, that was Reagan saying, “it is just a fairy tale”. Here, take a look:
THE PRESIDENT. As long as there’s a Democratic President in the White House, we will have a strong and viable social security system, free of the threat of bankruptcy. Although Governor Reagan has changed his position lately, on four different occasions he has advocated making social security a voluntary system, which would, in effect, very quickly bankrupt it….These constant suggestions that the basic social security system should be changed does cause concern and consternation among the aged of our country. It’s obvious that we should have a commitment to them, that social security benefits should not be taxed, and that there would be no peremptory change in the standards by which social security payments are made to the retired people. We also need to continue to index the social security payments so that if inflation rises, the social security payments would rise a commensurate degree to let the buying power of the social security check continue intact.
In the past, the relationship between social security and Medicare has been very important to provide some modicum of aid for senior citizens in the retention of health benefits. Governor Reagan, as a matter of fact, began his political career campaigning around this Nation against Medicare. Now we have an opportunity to move toward national health insurance, with an emphasis on the prevention of disease; an emphasis on outpatient care, not inpatient care; an emphasis on hospital cost containment to hold down the cost of hospital care for those who are ill; an emphasis on catastrophic health insurance, so that if a family is threatened with being wiped out economically because of a very high medical bill, then the insurance would help pay for it. These are the kind of elements of a national health insurance, important to the American people. Governor Reagan, again, typically is against such a proposal.
MR. SMITH. Governor.
GOVERNOR REAGAN. There you go again. [Laughter]
Carter did the normal Democrat thing – claim the Republican wants people to die in the streets and then promise a sack full of free stuff if you vote Democrat. But Reagan utterly destroyed it – just by saying, “there you go again”. It means, “you’re just spreading BS, Carter”, and instantly the millions of Americans watching the debate understood it – here was a hack politician promising a world he cannot possibly give, confronted with a truth-teller. Reagan went on to win in a landslide just a few days later. We’ve been hammered by lies for quite a long while now – and people are aware of the lies. In 2016, the Democrat candidate will have to defend the lies – he or she will have no choice as Democrats cannot run far away from Obama’s record (remember: $2,500 reduction in insurance premiums? Keep your plan if you like?)…and when Hillary or Biden or Sanders is up there in front of a massive national audience telling the American people how evil the Republican is and how much free stuff he or she is going to give you for voting Democrat…”there you go again”. But it will only work if the eventual GOP nominee has not spent the campaign hedging and hemming and hawing and trying to triangulate himself into favorable coverage for a news cycle. Telling the truth can make you terribly unpopular at times – you have to endure that heat; embrace it; proclaim how proud you are to be condemned for speaking the truth…and just wait for your moment to point out that the other guy is full of nonsense from start to finish.