When regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful.-- St. Augustine, "On Lying"
Lying is a moral issue difficult to be absolute about. Most of us accept a little white lie to spare a person's feelings. A roguish Southern politician I know dutifully compliments every baby held out by a beaming mother, but occasionally a child is thrust at him that's so plain he can't think of a single thing to compliment. So with a big smile he exclaims: "That's some baby!" The fib is acceptable because the mother is pleased. No harm is done. We accept a lie that spares a life or a lie that defends a life, including the speaker's own. But a slander is the most grievous sin of all.
In Dante's Inferno, deceivers are dispatched to the eighth circle of hell enduring cruel enough punishment, but traitors, "sowers of schism and of discord," are sent to the ninth circle and suffer even greater torment. That's why the attacks on the character and integrity of Gen. David Petraeus are little short of heinous. If the lie imperils the fighting men and women entrusted to his care, the general is a traitor to his country. The lie gives the edge to the enemy.
There is no greater lie than to falsely accuse a person of being a liar. The slander by MoveOn.org, the smearing machine of the Democratic lunatic left, rises to the highest office of the land, falsely accusing the president of lying about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which was not a lie but a mistake based on the intelligence gathered by several nations of the coalition. A mistake is not a lie; an accusation of mistake has no power to destroy a reputation.
Lying in politics is not new, but what is new is the thundering silence from critics of policy who know better and who say nothing. In time truth generally wills out, but when media is instantaneously ubiquitous, a lie, in the words of a senator of the previous century, runs halfway around the world before truth can get its boots on. A lie distracts debate, inhibits rational discussion, curtails the free expression of ideas and reduces honest differences of opinion to vicious tirades. And it lives forever in the infinity of the Internet, even after exposed as a lie.
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