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The Lies of Obama are more consequential than those of Trump

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/14/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 687 times Debate No: 103959
Debate Rounds (3)
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Major US media properties like New York Times, Washington Post, CNN etc. keep telling us that Trump is a liar. For example, NYT has a webpage titled "President Trump's Lies, the Definitive List".

Yet, the lies of Trump are trifling in comparison to those of Obama. Trump lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, about the percentage of Cuban Americans who voted for him, etc.

In comparison, Obama lied about whether Americans would be able to keep their health care plan, whether his administration would continue the secret surveillance of the previous administration etc.

I believe Obama's lies were the big lies about important matters, whereas Trump's lies are about unimportant matters that the media magnifies.

I would like to hear someone make and defend a case that Trump is a "bigger liar" than Obama was.


Thanks, realist2016.

Everybody lies and so all politicians are liars to some degree. I"ll advance that the relative forgivability of a political lie can be judged by the following characteristics:

MOTIVE: Who benefits by concealing the truth? Was the lie self-serving or protecting someone else? Was the lie used to cover up potential crimes or embarrassments? Was the lie used only to extend political influence or in the service of the common good or a higher principle?
DELIBERATION: Was the lie told in ignorance or misperceptions? Was the lie premeditated or reflexive? Was the lie told once or often?
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:Was the lie admitted by the liar? Voluntarily or under duress?
AMENDMENT: Was the lie corrected with the truth or another lie? Voluntarily or under duress?
HARM:What were the lie"s consequences? Intentional or unintentional? What damage to US lives, property, institutions, and interests?

By these standards I think we can quickly conclude that Trump is the greater liar. Certainly, much of his prevarication can be attributed to ignorance or lazy disinterest but a disturbing number of lies can be attributed to cover-up, self-promotion, populist provocation, or just plain ill-will.

Let"s apply these standards to the two subjects brought up by Pro: healthcare and the NSA.

There"s no doubt that Obama was mistaken when he promised "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan." In 2009, this statement was generically true. Everybody assumed that insurance providers would continue to offer coverage in the same states after Obamacare was implemented. But then Obamacare defined a list of essential services that must be covered- things like ambulance rides, prescription drugs, emergency room visits. After all, the whole point of paying health insurance is to cover just such unexpected, extraordinary costs and any health insurance that failed to provide these basics was simply ripping people off.

By 2012, a small number of insurers made it clear that they weren't interested in the profit margins available under the less-than-mercenary rules and were pulling out, amounting to less than 2% of the total market. If Obama had then changed his rhetoric the to "if you like your healthcare plan and your current healthcare plan isn't a worthless con, you can keep your healthcare plan," he would have been close to the truth, but he didn't change his rhetoric.

By 2013, Obama was forced to apologize, "I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me, we"ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this." [1]. Obama admitted the lie and did not repeat it thereafter. That Obama continued the lie in 2012, knowing that it was only 98% true is certainly condemnable. However, the lie was also told in pursuit of a worthwhile public good: curbing health care inflation, improving and increasing healthcare coverage. We can argue about whether the lie harmed Obamacare"s reputation, but whether the 2% who lost coverage paid more for a decent plan or paid nothing for no coverage, their lot was generally improved by Obamacare"s implementation.

On the other hand, Trump promised to "repeal Obamacare on day one" (a lie), and to replace Obamacare with "something terrific." Specifically, Trump stated his replacement would be less expensive, (The CBO projects that Trumpcare would have increased premiums by as much as 20% in the first 2 years), [2] would offer insurance for everybody and nobody would lose coverage, (14 million lose coverage immediately, another million/year over the next 10 years), [2] no cuts to Medicaid ($880 billion in cuts proposed), and remove state-by-state coverage (never brought up again after the election. [2]. However much Trump endorsed the House bill in March, calling it "incredibly well crafted," he distanced himself from his own policy by June, calling it "mean" and underfunded. [3] By July, he was supporting a Senate "skinny" repeal that amounted to little more than Obamacare minus taxes on the rich. [4]. When the latest Obamacare repeal was submitted this week, Trump refused to endorse the plan but also stated, "inaction is not an option." Trump being the exception apparently.

The truth is that Trump has no healthcare plan. He's willing to lie and flip-flop for the opportunity to attach his name to anything that takes the Obama out of Obamacare, even risk grevious harm to millions of Americans. NSA in the second round

Debate Round No. 1


I would like to thank Levi Smiles for accepting the challenge and a thought provoking reply. I would summarize my opponent"s post to the following points:

1) Smiles introduces an interesting concept of "relative forgivability". And the criteria offered are motive, deliberation, acknowledgement, amendment and harm.

2) Based on the above criteria, Smiles concludes that Obama"s lie about healthcare is more forgivable than Trump"s.

I will firstly note that the debate has been framed on the criterion of "consequentiality" rather than "relative forgivability". My question was whether Obama"s lies have had more impact than Trump"s lies, not whether who is a better candidate for forgiveness?

Remember that the Democrats needed 60 votes in the Senate for cloture and that is exactly what they got aided by defecting Republican Senators, and it is quite possible that without the comfort offered by this lie, the number of 60 would not have been reached [1].

If we accept that Obama"s lie was necessary to bring about his health plan then definitely Obama"s lie that changed the nature of a major sector of the US economy was consequential to the extreme.

It is incorrect to say "In 2009, this statement was generically true. Everybody assumed that insurance providers would continue to offer coverage in the same states after Obamacare was implemented." The basic idea for the plan was extending coverage by throwing the healthy and sick into the same pool. This immediately implies that the premiums for the healthy would rise, and they would no longer have the plans they previously had.

Also this is not how insurance works in an market economy "After all, the whole point of paying health insurance is to cover just such unexpected, extraordinary costs and any health insurance that failed to provide these basics was simply ripping people off." Insurance firms offer coverage for future events that are important to premium buyers as otherwise they would not have customers.

"if you like your healthcare plan and your current healthcare plan isn't a worthless con", come on! Even the worst critics of the situation prevailing before Obamacare said that the insurance firms were conning their customers. Bureaucratic and expensive, sure. However the vast majority of expensive treatments were paid for by insurance firms according to the terms of their policies (usual lifetime limit of $1.5 M).

Obamacare dictates that insurance sellers and buyers could not enter into contracts they previously entered into voluntarily. This is a huge change from the previous situation, the result of a very consequential lie.

Obama"s lie qualifies by Smile"s own criterion of "deliberation". It was repeated no less than 30 times. [2]

Trump"s lie on the other hand is more likely an exaggeration as the repeal is still possible. Nor has his claiming that he would repeal (which anyway is Congress" business) changed the insurance market, it is where it was. It is not a consequential lie.

As I wait for Smile"s defense of Obama"s NSA lie, here are some other significant lies by Obama.

A) "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." fall 2007 [3]
We can agree that the corrupt influence of money in US politics is now a major problem. There was hope in 2007 when both McCain and Obama agreed to accept public financing. As soon as Obama realized he would far outraise McCain he promptly went back on his word[4]. His campaign especially attracted money from entities like Goldman Sachs who gave him $683,490 [5] to $195,870 [6] for McCain.

B) "This will be the most transparent administration ever", followed by TPP negotiation in secret from the public while available to representatives from corporations [7] There was a reasonable fear that the negotiations would result in too much power being given to corporations [8]

C) "This [Bush] administration puts forth a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide". And then he went on to expand the domestic spying program [9]



Thanks Realist2016-

Please note, the notion of forgiveness ought not to be misconstrued as a reframing of the debate or tangential to question of consequentiaity. Rather, I am addressing Pro"s use of the comparative "big" (i.e. Trump"s the bigger liar) which is inclusive of consequence but not congruent. The relative forgivability of a transgression is a relevant metric for evaluating the size of the lie- big, bigger, biggest. I addressed harm & impact primarily but there"s more to Pro"s use of the word "big" to describe lying than consequence alone.

National Security

Obama"s 2007 speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center specifically targeted the 4th amendment violations of Bush"s warrantless wiretapping:

"This Administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom.

That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war; no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it's not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works." [1]

There are no falsehoods here. Obama promised to end warrantless surveillance but Bush fixed it before Obama could. In 2013, Obama introduced further FISA reforms and improved accountability [2]. We might fault Obama for not making more reforms but we can't accurately claim that Obama ever promised to end mass surveillance altogether.

On the other hand, Trump appointed Michael Flynn to the National Security Advisor post in the full knowledge that Flynn was an active secret foreign agent on behalf of dictators hostile to US foreign interests. As journalists unmasked the truth over the past year, Trump lied and continues to lie about his deliberate breach of National security.

Obama advised Trump of Flynn"s Russian connections on Nov. 10th. [3] Flynn himself told Trump he was under investigation in Jan.4th. [4] On Jan. 24th, acting Attorney General Sally Yates presented evidence to Trump"s counsel that Flynn had lied about the contents of his Dec. conversation with Russia"s top spy recruiter, Sergey Kislyak. [5] Yates was fired 3 days later, ostensibly for refusing to enforce Trump"s travel ban. On Feb 8th, Flynn flatly denied discussing the removal of sanctions Kislyak. [6] Trump, with full knowledge he was lying, defended Flynn"s full access to the US"s most secure state secrets for 5 more days. On Feb 10th, confronted by reporters on Flynn"s lies, Trump replied, "I don"t know about that. I haven"t seen it," [7]

Even though Flynn admitted to working as a foreign agent on Mar. 8th, [8] Trump has never apologized for or even acknowledged his conscious exposure of state secrets to hostile foreign interests. Trump himself met with Kislyak on April 14th, 2016 but later claimed, "[I] don't speak to people from Russia." [9]. Trump invited Russia"s top spy into the Oval Office on May 10th, carefully omitting his name from the guest list and his face from pictures of the event. There we know at least that he shared code-word level secrets from Israeli intelligence. [10]

When FBI Director James Comey refused to back off from the investigation into Flynn"s deception, Trump fired him too and lied about his reasons. [11]

At present, we know of 14 Trump insiders with business connections to Putin"s regime, 5 of whom have been caught lying about private meetings with Russian agents- Sessions, Flynn, Manafort, Trump Jr, and Kushner. All 5 failed to disclose their Russian contacts in their security clearance applications. Trump used to brag about his relationship with Putin but he denies all that now. [12]. It may be a long time before we understand the true nature of Russia"s influence over Trump, mostly because he lies to conceal his associations, even to the point of compromising our national security.

RE: campaign financing

Not a lie. As Pro"s own link confirms, McCain withdrew first and was already spending private funds on the general before Obama"s nomination. The campaigns did meet but since McCain wouldn't address 527"s or prior spending no agreement was possible. [13]


You can't bluff in poker if all the cards are on the table. All trade negotiations (not just TPP) are conducted with as much secrecy as possible to preserve US negotiating positions. The TPP was not unusually secretive and Obama would have compromised US interests by increased openness. [14]. That"s also why Trump is renegotiating NAFTA in as much secrecy as possible. [15]. Obama was not less transparent on trade than other admins.

Out of space. I'll post links in the comments section. I'll reply on healthcare & address the big picture in the final round.
Debate Round No. 2


Smile, thanks for your reply. I will break my post into parts to make it easier to follow:

1) Politicians are adept at spin, that we understand well. Not surprisingly the issue of domestic spying was energetically spun by the Obama administration. Obama"s lie was that by his words he gave the impression of being critical of the actions of the Bush Administration while himself expanding the domestic spying program. I can write reams to refute this spin, but instead I will just note that when Snowden blew the whistle, the NYT editors (usually very big Obama fans) wrote that "Obama cannot be trusted anymore", before adding the qualifier "in security matters".

2) Con offers Trump"s behavior with Flynn as an example of his lying. The greatest damage done to the country by the Bush & Obama administration were the wars they started. There was a continuity in the influence of the neo-cons in these administrations. There is a reason why the neo-cons were so violently opposed to Trump before the elections & continue to be so today. Trump was the end of the Neo-con hold over foreign policy of the last 16 years.

While in 2008 in theory there was a change in administration, the influence of the neo-cons continued undiminished, with officials like Nuland (wife of leading neo-con Robert Kagan) instrumental in effecting a coup against a democratically elected President in Ukraine by mobs that included Neo-Nazis.

Trump has got rid of the neo-cons in the government, their last great hope Bolton too fizzled out, & the response has been hysterical war-mongering in the media against Russia, a narrative that dovetails nicely with the idea that the Democrats lost the elections not because their free trade agreements had devastated the Midwestern working class, but because "Trump colluded with Russia".

Trump has been hugely beneficial to the country in terms of foreign policy, as with Hillary you can expect that right now the US would continue arming Al Qaeda in Syria (or Al Nusra as they call themselves), would declare a no-fly zone over the sovereign country Syria (as Hillary said she would) which would be blatant violation of the UN Charter possibly leading at an armed confrontation with Russia, would bomb other countries like Libya (another Hillary initiative) reducing them to anarchy where Al Qaeda surrogates flourish, etc.

So any actions & words of Trump with respect to Russia & foreign policy in general marks a sharp break from the past administrations & is hugely consequential for the country, in the positive direction.

3) All this hysteria about Putin & "14 Trump insiders" is completely counterproductive. The US is the most powerful nation on Earth, however it is not able to accomplish its goals by itself.

Right now it is engaged in the longest war in its history in Afghanistan with no end in sight. Why can"t it win? Because Taliban has a supply of weapons & other support from Pakistan. Why can"t the US get the Pakistan to stop? Because US currently requires Pakistan as the land route to supply its forces in Afghanistan. Basically Pakistan has the US over the barrel in Afghanistan.

The alternative for the US is the northern supply route through Russia, but thanks to the idiotic Congress" sanctions against Russia, that option is gone. Anti-Putinism has resulted in the US facing certain defeat in Afghanistan in the long run.

North Korea has been allowed to expand modernize its nukes & missiles over the last quarter century, with each administration kicking the can down the road & leaving an even bigger problem for the next administrations & the country.

North Korea actually shares a border with Russia & China. China wants to keep the North Korean issue alive to weaken the US. Russia, with its second strongest military in the world, could have been a great ally in taming Kim, were not for the anti-Russia hysteria sweeping through the media & Democrats.

4) Con referred to my link wrt campaign financing. I will let the link speak for itself "Obama campaign strategists made a calculation: They decided they could raise so much from private contributions that they were better off avoiding the public system" we see it as a Full Flop [a complete lie]." Also McCain & Trump are different persons.

5) "All trade negotiations (not just TPP) are conducted with as much secrecy as possible to preserve US negotiating positions."

The secrecy was from the American public. The American government & the American public are supposed to be on the same side, rather than counter parties. The counter parties (countries like Vietnam & Japan), & the corporations knew what the negotiations were.

The Obama administration conducted the negotiations in secrecy from the American public because it did not want trade unions etc. to have time to build awareness about the TPP & organize public resistance.

To conclude, Obama"s lies have been far more negatively consequential than Trump"s.

Thanks for participating and reading.


I think Pro has diverged somewhat in R3
from the question of the "bigger" liar into partisan angling. Tempting as it is to engage on politics, those questions can and ought to be separated from Pro"s thesis. A lie is not less of a transgression because it accords with our political outloo. The truth does not become false just because it contradicts our philosophy.

That Trump is the most prolific liar in presidential history is not in question. Nearly every editorial board and presidential historian in the nation has characterized Trump"s disengagement with the truth as unprecedented. [1] Bush biographer and editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly George Edwards plainly states. , "He is by far the most mendacious president in American history." [2]

Pro"s go-to source, concurs. Politifact has documented more lies told by Trump in his first six months in office than Obama"s 8 years. [3][4] A compendium made last year of all US politicians with 50+ fact checks rated Trump the biggest liar at 70% false and Obama the most honest with 74% true. [5] Trump earned a new one today for lying that his latest healthcare plan would continue to cover pre-existing conditions [6]

Pro quotes the NYTimes saying that Obama can't be trusted on national security but fails to note the same editors came to the same conclusion about Trump over his Russian spy cover-ups, [7] or further, that they called out Trump for corrupting the very institution of America: "Trump"s incessant lying is obscene. It is a collapse in morality; it is an ethical assault." [8] Similarly, Trump dismisses the Times as failing and "fake news" while simultaneously granting that paper more access and interviews than any other media.

And that"s really what makes Trump the bigger liar- there is no core principle, no unassailable truth.

Trump lies about healthcare: lies about the successes of Obamacare, lies about having a plan that would be cheaper, lies about cutting Medicaid and essential services. He even lies when he says he wants to replace Obamacare: he wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with Obamacareby another name. [9]

Trump lies about 3 million illegal aliens voting in the election, corrupting Americans" faith in free & fair elections. [10]

Trump lies about the Muslim ban being a ban on Muslims, requiring an appeals court to call the POTUS a liar in open session. [11]

Trump lied when he said Obama wasn't a US citizen and was probably a Muslim. [12] Trump lied when he accuse d Ted Cruz of Canadian citizenship [13], when he said Cruz"s father was seen with Oswald just before Kennedy's Assassination, [14] when he accused Cruz of distributing nude photos of Melania. [15]. Trump lies about his rivals past limits of moral outrage and never apologizes for the harm his lies cause.

Trump lied about giving millions to charity when in fact he"d never registered the Trump Foundation as a charity, and hadn't put in any of his own money since 2008. [16] Trump has admitted spending the money on personal portraits, on reimbursing himself for celebrity galas and on bribing DA"s investigating Trump University. [17]
Remember all those times on Celebrity Apprentice when Trump promised to donate to someone"s favorite charities? Turns out none of that money came from Donald Trump. [18] The Washington Post documented at least 5 instances of Trump boasting of donating to charities who never received any money.

Trump consistently lies about crime being on the rise in the US- stating the murder rate is at a 45 year peak, [19] exaggerating black on white crime by 500%, [20] exaggerating crime by illegal immigrants. [21]. Although the last year has proved the second safest since 1990, people who believe Trump feel far less safe. [22]

Trump lied when he promised to immediately terminate DACA [23], and lied again when he finally rescinded the order in Sep 5. Now he says dreamers are not at fault & has promised to sign a DACA bill. [24]

Trump lied when he said he"d build a wall between the US and Mexico and he"d get Mexico to pay for it. Having failed twice now to find funding, Trump now says, "the wall will come later". Trump lied when he said the Mexican President complimented Trump on border security, no such conversation ever took place. [25]

Trump lied to soldiers when he tweeted his Govt. will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military, [26] but 2 months later no such ban is in effect. Trump is now waiting for a Pentagon report next year. Trump has made no apology to those active duty soldiers he pretended to fire.

Obama lied in office for what he thought was the greater good. Unlike Trump, it's pretty hard to find times when Obama lied about political rivals, or covering up some meeting, or pretending to do something he didn't. Trump's lies corrupt US institutions, unravel American norms, mostly in a desperate attempt to keep from being held accountable by those institutiom's
Debate Round No. 3
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Posted by ILikePie5 2 years ago
God Bless You!
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