Jonah Goldberg

Stop me if you've heard this already. But there are people out there - honest, decent, sincere people and deranged moonbats, too - who think that George W. Bush lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. No, seriously, it's true. "Bush lied, people died" is one of their catchier slogans.

Now, I'm not one of these people, but let's assume they're right.

What if Bush did lie, big time? What, exactly, would that mean? If you listen to Bush's critics, serious and moonbat alike, the answer is obvious: He'd be a criminal warmonger, a failed president and - most certainly - impeachment fodder. Even Bush's defenders agree that if Bush lied, it would be a grave sin. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently accused Harry Reid & Co. of becoming "Clare Boothe Luce Democrats" for even suggesting that Bush would deceive the public. Luce, a Republican, had insisted that FDR "lied us into war." And this, the Journal editorialized, was a "slander" many paranoid Republicans took to their graves.

My friends at the Journal are right to suggest that some Bush critics are paranoids, but here's the thing: Luce wasn't slandering Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Indeed, the evidence that FDR lied is far greater than the evidence that Bush did.

Charles Beard, arguably the most influential historian of the 20th century - and a very liberal progressive - dedicated the last years of his life to writing about FDR's lies and "Caesarism." Richard Hofstadter, another of the great liberal historians (and a sharp critic of Beard's), also conceded FDR's "undeniably devious leadership" in the months and years before the war. Hofstadter, like countless other historians, had to agree that FDR's diplomacy and politics were designed to push the United States through a "back door into war."

Roosevelt won his unprecedented third election on the vow that he wouldn't send American boys to war: "While I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." This was almost surely a lie.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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