Look, we get it. Politicians want to make their big announcements on their own schedule, suiting their own needs. They don’t want others to force their hands.
That is especially true when election opponents suspect they are running for one office while casting a covetous eye on another. Maybe they’ll lose votes if word gets out or perhaps they’ll need to spend more money than they want. The pressure is real.
But, if they can’t be forthright, smart politicians at least know how to dance around the question. They may mislead or dissemble or filibuster. They may answer a different question than the one asked. But they don’t flat-out lie.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand flat-out lied. As the New York Democrat’s 2018 re-election campaign neared its end, she bluntly denied she would run for president and pledged to serve her full term. It was unnecessary and unfortunate.
At her Oct. 25 debate with Republican challenger Chele Farley, Gillibrand and the moderator had this exchange:
Question: “Can you tell New Yorkers, who plan to vote for you on Nov. 6, that you will, if re-elected, serve out your six-year Senate term?”
Gillibrand: “I will. …”
Question: “Just want to make this clear, you’re saying that you will not get out of the race and you will not run for president? You will serve your six years?”
Gillibrand: “I will serve my six-year term.”
A similar exchange occurred the following day, while meeting with the Buffalo News editorial board:
Question: Are you really not running for president?
Gillibrand: I’m really running for Senate.
Question: But you’re not going to?
Gillibrand: No, I’m focused on my Senate race …
But this week, to the surprise of no one, Gillibrand announced that she is, indeed, running for president. With that, the only way she could promise to serve her entire term is if she plans to lose.
It’s too bad that she and so many other politicians feel they need to conceal their ambitions from voters. Americans only benefit when able, experienced people of either party want to serve the nation. But such is politics.
We know that lying is endemic in Washington, especially these days and especially by President Trump, who seems to revel in it. But that can’t become the standard.
Gillibrand’s lie may seem minor, but that’s what it was and she could have done better. It’s a poor way to start.