COLUMN: Lies, damned lies and counting on our votes

Remember a time when the very act of knowingly uttering an untruth would destroy a political career?

It might be difficult to remember a time when the very act of knowingly uttering an untruth – a.k.a. lying – was enough to destroy a political career.

Well, not so much the lie itself, but being caught lying.

It didn’t really matter the subject of the lie – whether political or marital or other – the fact of the lie being found out seemed to force the elected official to tearfully acknowledge his or her sins, before fading away into the political mist, never to return to the ballot.

This was, of course, the golden olden days of more than a year or two ago, and a lot has happened since, leading up to bigger and bigger lies that are celebrated by politicians’ supporters, who blindly gloat that at least their guy is better than the other.

If you think I’m overstating, watch and read what has been coming out of the tumultuous White House over the past few months. The lies, both by elected officials and their political staff and more partisan loved ones, are staggeringly transparent and shameless.

This isn’t a condemnation of social and financial policies; this is simply acknowledgment that false statements are being made for what, perhaps, is considered the greater good.

And it’s not so much saying one thing and doing another – politicians have always done that – it’s the brazen way people now say something, then immediately deny saying it. On the record. Both times.

And I’m trying to figure out how we got here.

I seem to recall a fairly well-known, and very married, world leader in the mid-’90s explain to his televised audience that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman…,” and then evidence was produced that indicated he most certainly did.

Nope, didn’t kill his political career (though to be fair, he was predetermined by term limits not to run again), however, his post-political reputation and career, while financially fruitful, has been somewhat stained.

Closer to home, we had a White Rock councillor in the late-’00s who was removed from office by the BC Supreme Court for saying something at election time that was a complete fabrication.

As the veteran councillor’s lawyer notably told Justice Laura Gerow, if his client should be unseated, “it should be for something better than ‘this guy lied to the Peace Arch News over an email.’”

Ultimately, madam justice disagreed.

Given the option to run again, the politician in question opted out, and I wonder whether he still would have had the votes. If it had happened this year, I would be most certain he would.

When asked who I support politically, I will suggest that while no individual or party definitively has my vote, when I discover I am lied to – even a single time and on any issue – my potential support is gone for good.

With all the politicians’ lies that have been so overt in recent months – in the U.S., the U.K. and, yes, here in B.C. – I have to wonder how the next generation of voters will decide who will represent them.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.