“I wouldn’t call him a dictator, no.”
—-Vice-President Joe Biden, answering a reporter’s question about whether soon-to-be ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is a dictator.
President Mubarak is a dictator. By what measurement would we conclude otherwise? He has been in power, via rigged elections, for 30 years. The country is under so-called “Emergency Rule.” He can have anyone tortured, arrested or killed that he wants. H just shut down the Internet, on his orders alone. He has no opposition in the government; he can dictate whatever policies he chooses. What powers of a dictator doesn’t Mubarrak have?
Yet Joe Biden, the internationalist among President Obama’s key advisors, says otherwise. Here are the various ways this short statement is so unethical. (Not all of them can apply at once.):
1. When high elected officials utter obvious lies like this one, it undermines trust of the entire government by raising the natural question, “If they will lie about something so obvious, even when they know it can’t be believed, how can I trust them regarding things that are no so obvious?” How indeed.
2. In the alternative, if something is obvious to everyone but we take Biden’s word that it is not obvious to him, this undermines trust in the competence of those in charge of our government.
3. If indeed Biden is telling the truth, then he is displaying an unethical, irresponsible, dangerous level of incompetence.
4. Or, perhaps, he is being coy, saying, “I wouldn’t say he is a dictator”—because Egypt is an important ally and if he somehow wiggled out of his current fix we don’t want him ticked off at us. If Biden leaves that part out, as he did, however, he is being deceitful…and sounding like he’s willing to lie or too dumb to be a heartbeat from the presidency.
5. He’s just blatantly lying to the press, the public, and the world.
Whichever of these applies (1, 2, and one of the remaining three), it is remarkably silly, unethical statement.
Even for Joe Biden.