73. Candidate Lies

30 Oct
Political lies are very important, but this issue is complicated.  When a statement is made, it could be true.   If false, it could be a purposeful lie or a simple mistake without an agenda.  What if the person made an incorrect assertion, but it was based on false information from another party? What if the statement was only about a trivial matter, and true or false is not worth discussing. Is the history and affiliations of the speaker relevant to evaluating the current statement?  Was this a private statement or was it  meant for  the public?
Most people have a belief system, and will evaluate a statement based on their beliefs. For example, people who have known Hillary Clinton for many years, and based on their beliefs, think she rarely if ever lies, but being human she will occasionally make mistakes or exaggerations. I think she is very concerned about her reputation and is careful about her facts. People who just don’t like her will interpret much of what she says in a sinister way, when alternate good ways are ignored.  In judging lies, it is important to look at a person’s goals, orientations, and history.  A long reputation for telling the truth and a concern for accurate speech should be considered when judging any single statement.  And of course, a long reputation for incorrect speech, should be relevant.
A more objective approach is a rating such as one by Politifact.  Their method of rating “True”, “Mostly-True”, “Half-True” etc. is useful, but not always the final story.  We should be most interested in a category that I will call “significant lies”.  A significant lie is one in which an important fact is purposely changed to prove a point of concern for the liar.  For example, Trump said that the Iran Nuclear Deal accomplished nothing.  This statement is about an important fact, it was likely purposely changed, and it is related to the agenda of proving that Pres. Obama is a poor negotiator.  Significant lies have some bearing on presidential performance, whereas ordinary mistakes or exaggerations have no sinister intent and should not be of concern.  Hillary “recalled” that she once dodged bullets after exiting a plane. In fact, she was only very frightened of that possibility and her recollection was faulty, but not a significant lie.
Trump obviously tells many significant lies, but we often don’t know if he is actually lying, mistaken, guessing, hoping, just ignorant, senile, or lacks sleep. Saying that our military is very deficient is one such lie.  Generally, he does not seem to understand that Congress makes most major decisions, so a major goal for the president is to be able to convince them of things.
In the end, reliable evaluations such as “lies-versus-mistakes” are difficult and often impossible.  Intent is critical, but we can never know for certain what someone is thinking.  We can only: present examples of statements, make judgments, explain our logic, detail evidence, and draw a conclusion.  The reader, of course, will look at a speech and draw his own conclusions, based on his history and beliefs.

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