Charles DeGaulle, in his classic book “The Edge of the Sword,” said the good leader dissembles.
Even Jesus did that.
“I have many things to say to you,” Jesus told his disciples, “but you cannot bear them now.”
Put another way, while leaders can be truthful, they don’t always tell the whole truth.
Consider the general who is sending his troops into a battle from which he knows only half will survive. What does he tell them?
This is especially true about American politicians because they are democratically elected.
If they tell the whole truth they simply don’t get elected.
Now we are finding this out about President Barack Obama.
Critics are hammering him because he told the American people that if they liked their health insurance, they could keep it. If they liked their doctor, they could keep their doctor.
This is still mostly true, but if the president had told the full truth, this is how it might have sounded:
“If you like your insurance, and it is provided by an large employer who is not cutting corners, and can afford not to cut corners, you’ll be able to keep your insurance. However, its cost to you, in the form of premiums that you help pay for, may go up. You can keep your doctor too, if your insurance company continues to include him or her in its network. And, of course, if your doctor retires or changes the nature of his or her practice, you’ll have to find another one.
“However, if you don’t have employer-provided coverage, but purchase a policy on your own, we are no longer going to encourage your insurance company to offer bare-bones coverage. You deserve better. Therefore, your insurance company may choose not to insure you, or might raise its prices, because it has to improve its coverage.
“The good news is, if you are an individual with a salary of approximately $46,000, or a couple earning about $62,000, or even a family of four earning $94,000, you may qualify for a generous government subsidy as you buy your own insurance. The end result is that you may get a better policy than you now have at a lower price.”
Now let’s face it, the above statement breaks every rule of the good sound bite. People would have tuned out the president by the time he started his second sentence.
That says a lot more about us than it does him.
It’s easy to blame the leader. But in a democratic society it should never be forgotten that we are the ones who elect our leaders.
Those who tell us more of the truth than we are prepared to bear simply don’t get elected.