Ebola: What would George Washington do?

As a nervous nation watches the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis, many Americans have concluded that the country’s top health officials seem more concerned with stopping the spread of panic than stopping the spread of the virus. But Americans’ fear is only growing, and one reason is that too few people believe what the president of the United States says anymore.

A recent poll asked Americans this question: “How often does Barack Obama lie to the country on important matters?” Not about sex. Not about whether he really likes baseball. Not whether he still cadges an occasional cigarette when Michelle isn’t looking. But whether he dissembles on important matters. The dismaying answers: 37 percent said “most of the time,” another 24 percent said “some of the time” and 20 percent said “only now and then.”…

To Jim Rees, this “honesty is the best policy” line is George Washington’s essence. In his book, “George Washington’s Leadership Lessons,” Rees wrote that Washington penned some 20,000 letters in his life, “and it’s hard to find a lie—more than that of flattering a friend who didn’t deserve the compliment—in a single missive.”

Unlike most historians, I happen believe the veracity of the famous story of a young George Washington admitting to his father that he chopped down a cherry tree because he “cannot tell a lie.” Jim Rees thought it apocryphal – but useful to teach children anyway.