Is the real reason Lance Armstrong’s televised confessions failed to “redeem” him in the public eye just a lack of charm?
But by the standards we have come to expect in these things it was relatively candid, blessedly free of self-pity. He’d told a lot of lies. Now he was telling the truth. Yet if he was expecting this confession to stanch the flow of vitriol, it appeared to have the opposite effect.
Because if there is one thing we expect of professional cyclists, it is that they will compete fairly and stay clear of drugs. And if there is one thing we expect, no demand of our public figures, it is that they will tell the truth.
Oh really. Listening to all this high dudgeon, I was carried back to last September’s Democratic convention, and the rapturous reception given to Bill Clinton, the former president and noted perjurist in the matter of Jones v Clinton.
That may have been the most famous of his lies, but it was hardly the first. Clinton was well known as a liar — an “unusually good” one, according to Bob Kerrey, the former senator — long before he ever reached the White House. As early as 1992, the question posed by his candidacy, as defined by Michael Kinsley, was not is he a liar, “but is he too much of a liar?” By the end the lies and abuses of power had piled up so high that Christopher Hitchens was forced to title his scathing account of the Clinton presidency No One Left To Lie To.
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So let us drop the pretense that we’re all so scandalized by Armstrong because he lied. Granted, he lied about cycling, rather than mere financial dealings or affairs of state. But the reason he is in such obloquy, and Clinton and Mulroney are not, is not because his lies were worse, but because he’s not as good at it: because he is not as charming — shall we say manipulative? — as they. Frankly, when it comes to conning the public, he is not in their league.
Anyone can pull a con like Armstrong’s. You just lie and keep on lying until someone catches you. It takes a master to keep the con going even after you’ve been caught.