Monday, February 22, 2010

Did President Washington Lie in Office?

According to a CNN/Opinion poll released today, 3 out of 4 Americans believe Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both lied to the American people while serving in office.

The poll results highlight Americans' deep cynicism, especially when it comes to politics and Presidents. But is it fair to apply this cynicism to George Washington, the man Parson Weems idealized in the cherry tree legend as the boy who couldn't "tell a lie"? So much for that, I guess. And so much for "Honest Abe." Most Americans will have none of that. Nope, for them, our first President and our sixteenth President lied through their teeth, while serving in office!

Rather distressing, to say the least, given Washington's strong desire to maintain a reputation of integrity. "I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man," the first President once said.

While it's reasonable to conclude that most people (dare I say "all" people) will lie at some point in their lives, I find it somewhat troubling that we so easily believe the worst in people, especially individuals who did so much for America.

This kind of poll reminds me of the surveys during the Bill Clinton sex scandals. You remember those? The polls that said "all Presidents cheated on their wives." Yeah, that's right. There were surveys showing that large portions of the American public actually believed that most, if not all, of our Presidents committed adultery!

The fact of the matter is that all Presidents are not alike. Some Presidents are more decent and honorable than others. Some Presidents are more honest than others. And some Presidents are more admirable and noble than others. George Washington would be such a President -- a man worthy of our respect and esteem. A man who deserves better than this CNN poll.

1 comment:

franceshunter said...

One of the saddest things about this poll, other than the low esteem in which people hold our public officials, is that I believe it reflects the values and desires of the people answering the poll.

I always thought that people were not particularly mad at Bill Clinton about his adultery, because they would have done the same thing in his place. Similarly, if you think it's OK to lie and cheat to get what you want, why wouldn't you believe that everyone else is a liar too.

Too bad. I look forward to the day when the pendulum swings back and people decide to require integrity and honor again from themselves and from their public officals.