America is built on the myth of honesty. “I cannot tell a lie,” George Washington supposedly said, when called out about who chopped down the family cherry tree. Abraham Lincoln, arguably our greatest president, was nicknamed Honest Abe.
Of course, myths are built on half-truths, white lies and downright fabrications. So it is with the American presidency. Presidents lie, even our most admired ones. Some of them were really good at it, like Franklin Roosevelt. Others, like shifty-eyed Richard Nixon, were just pathological.
The truth is, while we Americans profess to want honest leaders, what we really want are effective leaders, and sometimes lies are necessary evils if we want to get something accomplished. Machiavelli famously laid that argument out in The Prince:
“Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.”
When we got a president who promised never to lie to us, as Jimmy Carter did in 1976, many thought he was not particularly effective and voters tossed him out on his ear in 1980, for a master Machiavellian prince named Ronald Reagan.
Republicans pounced on President Obama when, pushing the Affordable Healthcare Act, he promised Americans that if we wanted to keep our current health insurance, we could. That turned out to be not completely true, and surely Obama knew it even as the words were coming out of his lips. Still, for President Obama, the end—a broader, fairer healthcare system—justified the means. His signature accomplishment in office, Obamacare, might not have passed had he been totally forthright.1. Lyndon B. Johnson
2. James K. Polk
3. Ronald Reagan
4. John F. Kennedy
5. Abraham Lincoln
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt
7. Richard Nixon
the stories behind these 7 are in the article. i do believe that there is a necessity to sometimes exaggerate and some times to out right lie but not so much i think intent is the let's say qualifying factor. i don't like the reference to white lie and black lie it's prejudicial in my view.
i also agree that sometimes we need that less than truth to get by when we are dealing with hundreds of million different people there is no standard patented response to anything only republicans as a regularity seem to think one size fits all, don't get me wrong Dems lie too but they just don't seem to sting and mislead and under inform us like those on the other side.