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Everyone always makes a big deal about when any politician says something that someone else finds out isn't exactly the truth. Whether it's the US presidential candidates telling us how their tax cut plan won't go bankrupt, or how the surplus should be spent, or various other things, the fact of the matter is the rules of public discourse and campaigning will virtually require any candidate to misrepresent the truth.

Why? In the words of Jack Nicholson, you can't handle the truth.

The American public doesn't want to hear of the Ponzi scheme that is Social Security, and that the very success of that program and Medicare will be what tears it apart as tens of millions of Baby Boomers age and demand their entitlements. Americans don't want to hear that driving their SUV down the highway may make it so New York City is underwater in the next 50 years, and that no matter how much oil you think there is, there's still a finite amount, and you surely don't want to burn all of it. We don't want to hear that we're not investing enough in education, the environment and creating long-term, sustainable programs that will enable us to prosper.

Policiticans are forced to promise mutually incompatible goals--saving entitlements while cutting taxes, promoting corporate greed while protecting the environment, preserving personal freedom while restricting free speech through regulating the entertainment industry. They won't really be able to work towards opposing ends, so they will have lied. We have demanded nothing less than that. Any politician who attempted to tell people that they might have to actually sacrifice something if they want something else wouldn't make it very far at all, despite our moral leaders who tell us that all of the time.

Furthermore, once they get into office, lying will be not only expected but necessary. For instance, the President has to lie. If asked point blank about a covert operation, the exposure of which would cause the loss of many lives, I hope the President does lie. If he or she is negotiating with a world leader and tells too much, who knows what chaos might ensue. The president and many of our nation's leaders are trusted with secrets that may involve lying to prevent their disclosure and possible dire circumstances. It's okay, really, it's just a side effect of dealing with an imperfect world.

So next time you're criticizing a politician for making pie-in-the-sky promises, stop and think if you could handle anything else.

I think politicians lie because they are motivated by profit. Think about the way the system is set up: Really, you only stand a chance of being elected to any high-profile office if you can afford massive campaigning. This means you are either extremely independently wealthy (in which case you've already passed the test -- you must have been pretty profit-motivated to have accumulated that much wealth) or you're receiving massive campaign contributions from corporations who then own your ass.

The bottom line is, there is a very effective filter in place to prevent anyone whose integrity isn't for sale from running for office (or, if they do choose to run, the system just keeps them from participating fully. Look at what happened to Ralph Nader when he tried to join the debates).

I agree with almost everything mrichich said: Politicians could never tell the truth and still get elected. But I think the problem isn't only that people don't want to hear the truth, it's also that no one in office would tell you the truth even if you did want to hear it.

To everyone who can vote, I say: Who cares who you vote for for president? Bush and Gore (and Jean Chretien and Stockwell Day) are crooks. But vote in your local elections. This is where the possibility for real change exists and the candidates haven't yet been bought and paid for and you have a chance of finding someone with some integrity left. Change has to come from the bottom up.

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