Tom Purcell, 2/29/2016 [Archive]

Why We Want Our Politicians to Lie

By Tom Purcell

Three studies provide insight into something we all know to be true: Politicians lie.

The Daily News reports that politicians are good at yarn spinning "because they convince themselves they are telling the truth." That was the finding of a lying study at the University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy.

A second study, conducted by Millikin University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, finds that the more long-winded the point a politician is making — both off-the-cuff and in prepared statements — the more likely he or she is spewing a mistruth.

I know what you're thinking: Of course politicians lie. When negotiating with thugs around the world we want our politicians to outwit them, and that usually requires deception. When waging war, we want to hear the good news, not the gory details. And during elections, we never vote for the candidate who tells the truth. We want the candidate who tells the most colorful yarns.

The truth is lying is one of the great cottage industries in America. We all do it.

When a lady asks you if you like her new haircut — one that gives her the look of the Chihuahua in the Taco Bell commercials — do you tell her the truth (as I made the mistake of doing only once) or do you smile and say she is more gorgeous than ever?

The fact is she wants to be lied to and your level of skill is a measure of how much you care for her. My old comedian friend Chris Ciardi has a great line about that. He got home late one night half in the bag. His wife demanded a reason. He told her it was best he get a good night's sleep and in the morning he'd come up with an excuse they both could live with.

We expect the same from our politicians. Did anyone believe President Obama really would bring hope and change to Washington — that he didn't want to pit red America against blue America but be the president of the United States of America?

Did you really believe that if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor — or that the average American family would save $2,500 a year on health insurance premiums?

President Obama may not have believed he was being truthful when he said these things. But he seemed to believe the falsehood that ISIS was the JV team that we had contained.

There's a reason politicians lie to us — we want them to.

That was the finding of another study on lying at Britain's University of Strathclyde. It found that voters not only expect to be lied to, they sometimes demand it — which is why our politicians conceal, deceive and mislead.

Our politicians know many Americans are ignorant about many issues. They know voters disdain complexity and want promises that resonate.

They want to believe the reason they are struggling is because some rich fat cat is hoarding all the cash — and that taxing the bejesus out of the rich will solve all of their problems.

Politicians know that we prefer Santa Claus, not the high school coach who makes us do wind sprints.

They know we want more free government goodies and less government spending — and that we want fatter Social Security checks and reduced withholding taxes.

The politician who can promise the most somethings for nothing is the one a growing majority of voters will go for.

That means our next president may give incredibly long-winded answers to simple questions and actually believe the nonsense he or she is spewing is actually true.


© 2016 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Sean McClanahan Mysteries," available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at

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