Gingrich’s honesty problem
December 13, 2011
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There’s no doubt that politicians have a reputation for having difficulty telling the truth. But once in a while, there’s a politician that stands out as a liar even among politicians. It’s difficult, but Newt Gingrich has managed to do it. Take a look at his Politifact profile. Among the things he’s lied about: That food stamps can buy a trip to Hawaii (part of a decades-old Republican practice of grossly exaggerating welfare abuse), that the stimulus plan would ban the boy scouts and sunday school from using public schools, and my favorite, lying about the ethics investigation that arose from him lying in Congress during the 1990s.
What really stands out is that Gingrich has twice as many “pants on fire” ratings as “true” ratings. By comparison, Mitt Romney has less than half as many “pants on fire” ratings as “true”, while Ron Paul has even less. Barack Obama has only 1/20th as many “pants on fire” as “true” ratings (although to be honest, I’m disappointed he has any pants on fire ratings. We liberals have standards).
Now a word of caution: Politifact’s ratings aren’t designed to be used as a scorecard. The ratings are dependent on what statements are selected, and are not indicative of all statements. That being said, however, I haven’t seen any evidence of picking and choosing. Moreover, Politifact’s profiles are all we got, other than that there is really is no “scorecard” for politician honesty.
And it’s important to hold liars accountable, even liars among liars. Most voters have little time to review facts and determine who is telling the truth. Therefore lying, if not punished, can be particularly effective for politicians. People like Karl Rove have made careers out of helping politicians lie effectively. We have to fight back by running liars out of Washington and not allowing them to return. If a politician lies as much as Newt Gingrich, what does anything else matter? Can you trust what such a liar says about his opinions or his qualifications? That lying politician clearly thinks you’re a sucker, and that you’ll be easily deceived by what they’re saying. So whether it’s Gingrich or Obama, we have to hold politicians accountable for lying, and consider honesty – as verified by independent sources like Politifact – a primary factor in choosing our politicians.