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ROGER SIMON

Why Tell the Truth When Lies Will Do?

July 08, 1990|ROGER SIMON

Oh, come on. You didn't really believe him, did you?

You really believed George Bush when he said: "Read my lips: No new taxes"?

Naw, you couldn't have. Not unless your IQ is somewhere around room temperature.

The vast majority of Americans know that candidates for President lie to us. We demand it, in fact.

I'll give you an example: In 1984, Walter Mondale told the truth and said that if he was elected President, he would raise taxes.

And everybody including the press jumped down his throat, saying he was a dummy, a dope and a dweeb for speaking the truth.

So it was not difficult for George Bush's brain trust to come up with their game plan for 1988:

First Genius: "Lemme see, if Mondale loses by saying he will raise taxes then we should . . . we should . . . we should . . .

Second Genius: "We should say we won't raise taxes!"

First Genius: "That's it! That's it! But is it true?"

Second Genius: "Gee, this is politics. I don't think that matters."

It sure doesn't matter to the public. We will take the candidate of soothing lies over the candidate of hard truths any day.

It worked for Ronald Reagan.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan said he would give America guns and butter and balance the budget--all at the same time.

And, of course, he was elected, and he never came close to balancing the budget.

But did we blame the guy? Naw. We knew he had been pulling our legs, but, gee, it sure felt good while he was doing it.

True, some real conservatives were angry with Ronald Reagan for not balancing the budget. But when it came time for Reagan's re-election, what were these angry conservatives going to do? Vote for Walter Mondale in protest?

No way. Maybe these voters felt betrayed by Reagan, but they sure were not about to vote for some crazed liberal instead.

And I predict the same may be true for Bush. He will probably suffer no great political damage for having fibbed to us. Sure, the Democrats will run around saying, "He lied! He lied!"

But in 1992, I think lots of people who voted for Bush and are angry about increased taxes will end up saying: "What am I supposed to do? Vote for a Democrat? Won't he raise taxes even more?"

That's what the Republicans always tell us, anyway: "Maybe we didn't do everything we said we would, but you've got to stick with us because the Democrats will do a lot worse."

And it sells. It sold for Reagan, and it may sell for Bush.

Which still leaves Bush with a momentary embarrassment. How does a President explain that he spoke an untruth?

Well, that's what presidential spokesmen are for. While often fine fellows personally, professionally they are human fog machines. Here is the explanation from Marlin Fitzwater, the presidential spokesman, as to how Bush could say one thing about taxes back in 1988 and the opposite in 1990:

"We feel he said the right thing then and he's saying the right thing now. . . . Everything we said was true then, and it's true now."

Got that? George Orwell may have invented "doublespeak," but George Bush perfected it.

But what made Bush change his mind about taxes? Why didn't he just keep going along blowing smoke up our skirts?

It's something called the "burden of office." And it's no joke. If you are a fundamentally decent man, which I believe Bush to be, you wake up one morning and you tell yourself: "Hey, I've got to really do something about the deficit in this country, or we may have some real trouble here."

Deficit is a word that doesn't really mean anything to most of us because the numbers are too huge. But you want a way of understanding what the real problem is? Take a look at Donald Trump's monthly expenses.

They were just revealed because he is in so much hot water that his banks are putting him on a budget. Look where his money goes, however: Every month he pays $583,000 in "personal expenses." OK, so the guy's a big tipper. Aside from that, he pays $246,000 for his Boeing 727 jet, $841,000 for his yacht, and $2.1 million interest on his loans.

That's right, his monthly interest payments are way beyond what he spends on his toys. And that's what the deficit is doing to our government.

The interest on the federal deficit is huge. It is now more than $175 billion a year. And that money does not go to build roads or feed the hungry or even put a human on Mars. It goes to pay off the financiers, many of whom are German and Japanese, who bought the government bonds in the first place.

The problem has gotten so out of hand that even George Bush is now convinced we must reduce the deficit. And cutting spending is not enough. We must also raise taxes.

True, he said he wouldn't do that. He lied. If we could tax lying, we could probably wipe out the deficit, but we'd never get Congress to pass that law.

In the future, however, if you want to know a sure-fire method of telling when a politician is lying, try this:

Watch his lips.

If they're moving, he's lying.

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