One thing is certain: The next president of the United States will be flexible with the truth

Published on 2016/09/13
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“I feel great, I feel great”, was how Hillary Clinton lied about her pneumonia, moments after coming dangerously close to collapsing. And the smile on her face as she did so was as artificial as ever. She even got her campaign team to announce that she was just a bit “overheated”. This was, unfortunately, not the first time the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate has been untruthful.

While Germany’s media is extremely critical in almost everything they say about Donald Trump’s campaign, they treat Hilary Clinton with kid gloves. And this despite the fact that everyone has known for some time that she can’t really be trusted. Throughout her recent e-mail scandal, she lied not just once, but again and again. A few months ago, Trump’s supporters ran a campaign ad featuring a series of untrue statements from Clinton and situations in which she was confronted with her lies. You can be fairly sure that lots of voters will see Clinton’s “I feel great” statement as further proof that she just can’t be trusted.

And Trump is no better. If anything, he’s even worse. He is also guilty of repeatedly lying – e.g. as he announced that the father of Ted Cruz, one of his opponents during the primaries, was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, despite knowing full well that this was not the case. Trump also claimed that he watched Muslims dancing on the streets of New York City on 9/11 (clearly confusing what he saw with film from the Gaza Strip). After his recent meeting with Mexico’s president Nieto, Trump told reporters that they “didn’t discuss whether Mexico would be paying for the wall.” Nieto quickly took to Twitter to clarify that he had told Trump at the very start of their meeting that there was no way Mexico would be paying. Trump also claimed that he donated one million dollars to veteran groups and raised a further six million dollars from his supporters (which he only actually did months later, once it became clear that no money had been donated at the time of his statement). He said that he had personally met Putin during a TV appearance and again during a Miss World event in Moscow. A few weeks later he revealed that he had never met Putin…. Anyone who has read Michael D’Antonio’s biography of Trump (“Michael D’Antonio, Never Enough. Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success), knows that Trump has spent most of his life bending the truth. For example, he has repeatedly made false statements about the extent of his wealth. I am quite curious to see what happens when he is forced to publish his tax returns.

Some people might say: “So what, all politicians lie.” Jean-Claude Juncker, in my opinion one of Europe’s most unpleasant politicians, went as far as to say that politicians have a duty to lie: “If it gets serious, you have to lie,” he said after – yet again – misleading the continent’s population during the euro currency crisis.

I think anyone who says, “all politicians lie” blurs the lines between some pretty important distinctions. No, we shouldn’t take a “one size fits all” approach to the truth. Of course: everyone has lied at some point in their lives – you, me and every politician, too. But we don’t brand everyone in our daily lives as a “liar” as a result, just because we’ve all told a lie at one time or another. We should apply the same standards to politicians, distinguishing between notorious liars and those who have stretched the truth a bit one or twice.

Even before her e-mail scandal, it was clear that Hillary Clinton belongs to the group of politicians who are principally at odds with the truth. And the same applies to Donald Trump. Sadly, one thing is already clear – the next president of the United States will be a follower of Juncker’s philosophy: “If it gets serious, you have to lie.”

About the Author

Dr. Rainer Zitelmann is one of the leading experts for the strategic positioning and communications of companies.