Is there really a difference between a lie and a misrepresentation?
Let’s consider some examples.
President George W. Bush lied when he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He was hot to trot to invade Iraq and deliberately and aggressively made an unsubstantiated case to do so.
President Bill Clinton lied when he said, “I did not have sex with that woman.” I’m sure Hillary thought otherwise.
Bernie Madoff lied when he promised exorbitant returns to investors. He never had an investment strategy, he falsified investor reports and used their money to fund his lifestyle.
A lie is am outright fabrication; it has no basis in fact.
Misrepresentations, on the other hand, are insidious. They are part of a pattern of deliberate attempts to disguise unpleasant facts, and are usually designed to achieve an ulterior motive. A motive could be benign or harmful.
Remember when former Mayor Villaraigosa promised he would use a trash fee hike to hire 1,000 additional police officers? Only 366 officers were hired as the mayor siphoned off most of the money for other public safety expenditures. Controller Laura Chick openly criticized the mayor for deceiving the public, although she than admitted the use of funds for other hiring was technically legitimate.
Villaraigosa deliberately did not disclose all of the facts to the residents in order to win approval for the fee. 1,000 cops means 1,000 cops – not additional equipment and overtime for the LAPD.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy plans to use funds from construction bond proceeds to purchase I-Pads for LAUSD students. School system lawyers claim this is an appropriate use of the funds. Does anyone really believe the bonds would have been approved if the voters knew up to $1 billion would go to cover the I-Pads and software? In the minds of voters, construction means bricks, mortar and steel – not plastic and electronic components.
Now, on a national scale, President Obama has engaged in a grand misrepresentation. He stated, in no uncertain terms, that Americans could keep the insurance they already had prior to implementation of ACA. However, regulations were written by Health and Human Services that undermine the president’s assertion, probably with his knowledge. Now millions are learning they are losing their coverage they thought was grandfathered. Many will now face much higher premiums.
The president’s objective was probably well intended. Opening up healthcare to all citizens is a noble objective, but withholding key facts is anything but.
This will only heighten the deep divisions facing the country. The United States is a democracy. People are free to disagree over any change to our laws, but honest disagreement will be replaced by pervasive mistrust when our leaders, at both local and national levels, attempt to manipulate outcomes by avoiding full disclosure.