PHOENIX—Politicians lie. Brokers drink. Bond traders cuss. And journalists do all three.
It's OK. Or, as my best Republican friend tells me after he relates the scorpion and the frog story one more time, "It's in my nature."
But when Paul Ryan lies about his running record, a dramatic 20 percent time difference, the president fudges the number of jobs created under his administration—by millions when you sift through the fine print—or Mitt Romney lies by omission by sitting on his tax returns, sure, it’s expected but no less insulting to the average voter.
A note about each: Ryan's lie is just dumb, and while it doesn't mean a damn thing to me how fast he runs, it certainly calls his judgment into question to fib about something so easily cross-checked. And he's too damn young to have just forgotten. And Obama: This is pure spin, plain and simple.
The 4.5 million jobs number that got tossed around so carelessly at the convention turns out to a net loss of 110,000, meaning he hasn't even managed to get caught back up to the number of jobs we had when he took office. And I know a lot of people will get mad about my take on the tax returns, but the simple fact of the matter is that Romney wants us to elect him based on his business prowess, so show us.
There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of current tax laws to reduce the amount you hand over to the IRS, so there's simply no reason to act like there is. The clamor for Obama's birth certificate—an absurd controversy from the start—only got louder until he produced the piece of paper. I think Romney's going to keep running into the same problem.
Come to think about it, lying isn't exactly reserved for the well-heeled and the political class. How many of us have shaded the truth on a health risk assessment form? (Two to four drinks a week? Who are we kidding?) Or dressed up reality for a prospective client or employer? LinkedIn is probably filled with more fiction than Match.com.
In fact, lying's become such a fact of life that we've come up with a word for it: spin. So now we can essentially lie about lying. And the truth becomes exception rather than the rule. It's gotten so bad the media's taken to hiring people just to sort through all the fact and fiction. Even worse, it's harder than it sounds.
"Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies," according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and maybe that's why we're consistently so eager to believe them.
On a related note, lying's bad for your health, too. As Dr. Chris Iliades reported on EverydayHealth.com, all those lies hurt your health and longevity, mainly by starting a vicious cycle of stress that wreaks havoc with your system, leading to host of other health issues such as depression, obesity, anxiety, addiction and so on.