What Happened to Honest Abe?

Popular Economics Weekly



What happened to honesty in personal behavior and in politics is a good theme to discuss on this Presidents Day that commemorates our two Presidents most touted for their honesty—Washington and Lincoln? They were celebrated for their honesty, whereas today we have a President and his subservient political party that not only tolerates, but enables the most dishonest president in history.

We are not just talking about President Trump’s 16,000 plus documented lies—many of them done for mostly propaganda purposes; but the dishonesty manifested during the impeachment hearings and trial, when Republicans parroted Russian propaganda tropes that Ukraine opposed the Trump election, and was behind the Democratic Party hackings rather than Putin’s Russia.

Why didn’t Republicans question whether Trump’s call for Ukraine and China to aid in his reelection by digging up dirt on his political opponents was somehow ethical and allowable for a President seeking reelection?

What has happened to Republicans that abet Trump’s propaganda machine which is based on outright lies, when young American children were brought up on stories of Presidential honesty; whether it was Abraham Lincoln the honest politician, or George Washington’s honesty in confessing to cut down the cherry tree as a six-year old child?

“Honest Abe’ was a nickname Lincoln adopted early in his career as a lawyer. In his Notes for a Law Lecture his entire series of notes speaks to honesty, integrity, and to do what is right.  Lincoln wrote, “resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.”

The honesty of George Washington has become almost mythical, and a beacon that we all learned as young school children.  The cherry tree tale was probably a children’s tale, but Thomas Jefferson once said of Washington, “his integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity or friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was indeed in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man.”

Why wouldn’t Republicans want to live up to their standards? It is in essence an admittance that Republicans cannot maintain their power and privileges without the aid of outright lies that other authoritarian regimes use to maintain their power with propaganda machines that also suppress truth and promote ‘alternate facts’—because their power and privileges were not always honestly acquired.

It only took America 244 years to go from “Honest Abe” and “I cannot tell a lie” to 16,241 false or misleading claims, said USA Today recently. How can we recover from such blatant dishonesty, unless we keep telling our children at the earliest age that “honesty is the best policy,” and building character the only road to a truly successful life?

Harlan Green © 2020

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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