But Themistocles feared the worst. He suspected that when — not if — the Persians returned, it would be with a more massive army and navy. Thus, for Athens to survive, it too would need a much larger navy. The city would have to build many more triremes if it were to match its foe’s fleet.
Yet the Athenians were in no mood to spend money. So Themistocles resorted to subterfuge. He lied. He told his fellow citizens that a small nearby island posed an immediate threat. For this, they were willing to open their purses — and the ships were built.
The result was that when the Persians returned, Themistocles was able to defeat them at the battle of Salamis. By most accounts, this, and the courageous Spartan stand at Thermopylae, saved Greece, and Western civilization, from falling under an Asian yoke.
Why am I telling you this story? It is because many people — including myself — have been mystified by Barack Obama’s ability to get away with an unending series of lies. How could the American people have reelected him, or continue to hold him in high regard, when he is so challenged by the truth?
The answer, I believe, is that Obama’s lies are also regarded as justified by many people. These too are thought of as noble, and therefore as are needed to save us from a dreadful fate. Most liberals, in particular, assume they have a duty to protect us from ourselves. Because like the Athenians, we do not know what is good for us, they must lead the way.
Sometimes lies can help, but Barack Obama is not Themistocles. Contemporary liberals do not know what is best for us. They think they do, but their misplaced faith in large government is creating far more problems than it solves. The fact is that they, and specifically Obama, are making things worse, and in many cases, much worse.
Let us take an example. In attempting to pass ObamaCare, our president assured us that costs would go down and that people could keep their own doctors. Now, of course, as this program is being implemented, we are learning that these pledges were false.
But anyone who was paying attention back then was aware of this. So why did so many liberals suspend disbelief? The reason is simple. It was because they were committed to government-provided health care. For them, this was an article of faith and therefore any tactic employed to bring it about was acceptable — including lies.
The same scenario is again unfolding with regard to the budget deficit. Where months ago Obama agreed that spending would have to come under control lest an ever-expanding deficit sabotage our economy, now he tells us that spending is not a problem.
He also tells us that he has met the Republicans halfway, even though he as not proposed any significant spending cuts. Instead, a man, who boasted that he had not raised taxes continues to seek new ways to increase government revenues. This, he says, will reduce the deficit, even though the numbers tell us it will not.
Why then the drama and the deceit? And why are the president’s supporters so ready to believe? The answer again is that they too have faith in a much larger government. They thus forgive what they could easily detect as lies because they regard these as noble lies.
I say “forgive,” but I actually mean “embrace.” These lies are believed necessary and therefore are not considered “lies,” but good strategy. As a consequence, the opinions of these true believers will only change when a disaster forces them to do so — as, unfortunately, it soon may.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.