Replacing Rumsfeld: Why Is It OK that the President Lied?

White lies?

Since when is it OK for a president to lie to reporters?

Wasn’t it just last week that the president told reporters that both Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were staying on their jobs for the next two years?

It was an important question. The president didn’t duck. He didn’t give one of those mealy mouthed, we’ll see answers. He said yes, they’re both staying. And even as he said it, they were getting ready to get rid of Rumsfeld.

He must have known that. He hadn’t talked to Gates yet, but Gates was being vetted for the Defense job at the time. Surely, the president knew that.

Excuse me, but it doesn’t add up to an honest answer.

Am I the only one who’s wondering why it is that the president is allowed to intentionally mislead people, and no one says “boo.”

I know I’m not supposed to say this (my conservative friends get so bent out of shape when liberals accuse the president of “lying” but if the shoe fits….) but is it because we’re so used to it?

Does it just go without saying that politicians “lie” – excuse me, don’t tell the truth, that is, mislead, and it’s OK. Pretty pitiful, wouldn’t you say? Part of the whole disgusting world of negative ads, grubbing for money, trading on power, selling influence. If so much didn’t depend on it, it would be the kind of business any decent person would wash their hands of.

I recall another president who mislead people about his sex life, and my conservative friends went ballistic.

Is it somehow worse to lie about your sex life than about who is going to be defense secretary? Or are we all just so used to presidents lying to us that we accept it without blinking?

I wanted you to move on to another question, the president explained to reporters, as if that is a reason for lying. Sure he did.

But isn’t there something wrong with that?

There were a hundred ways that the president could have answered the question that would have left the door open to a replacement, so that he would not have lied. He didn’t choose any of them.

Corruption was the second reason, after the Iraq war, for the Republicans’ loss. But corruption doesn’t just mean taking money or coming on to young boys. It means not having any credibility because you don’t tell the truth. About things that matter. It means losing the confidence of the people who elected you. Which the Republicans have done.

Everybody was making the right noises on the day after the election. Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi talked about working with the president. The president invited her to lunch. There were all the correct shouts and murmurs about bipartisanship. If you believe it, I’ve got a beautiful bridge to show you.

If the president couldn’t get his agenda through when his own party controlled the House and the Senate, does anyone honestly expect that he will accomplish more with both houses narrowly in the control of the other party, while the president is the lamest of ducks, his popularity in the toilet, not to mention the fact that every other senator (and even the occasional House member) is now running for president?

I don’t want to rain on the parade, but it sure sounds like a recipe for paralysis to me. That’s not politically correct, but it’s probably right. Shall we tell the people, or just assume that they’re not smart enough to figure it out?

The most you can expect is that Democrats will be demanding some change in policy on Iraq, and will use such occasions as confirmation hearings for a new defense secretary to explore what that new policy will be.

The president has now given them their first opportunity to hold his feet to the fire.

That’s fine. But what’s so troubling about it, maybe just to me, is that he gave it to them by breaking his word while barely acknowledging that he never planned on keeping it; or that he owed anyone an apology; or that he had any obligation to tell people the truth in the first instance.

All of which may have more to do with why he lost the election in the first place than Mr. Bush wants to acknowledge

Click here to read Susan's response to your email.

Click here to link to Susan's new book, "Soulless."

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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