There are differences between lies.

Just as there are mortal and venal sins, there are different types of lies. People respond differently to them.

Just as there are mortal and venal sins, there are different types of lies. People respond differently to them.

When Al Gore said “I invented the internet”, he was telling a lie to make himself appear to be more intelligent than he was.

Truth-lovers would not forgive his lie for several reasons. First, it made his vain intellectual pretensions obvious. Secondly, it insulted our intelligence because the lie was so obviously false. Thirdly, it had no chance of helping anyone. That lie cost him one of the small, crucial percentages of votes that lost him the election.

When John Kerry told the lie for thirty years that “I spent Christmas in Cambodia”, he told a different kind of lie. It was a lie to mislead people. It was, worse, a confusing lie. “I spent Christmas in Cambodia” was told to make people think that he was participating in an unknown widening of the war, and offended two groups.

People who supported our troops were disgusted at the lie and worked harder against him because of it. The second group, who sympathized with the Communists, were disgusted because, rather than working to stop the war he openly criticized, he was, by saying he was in Cambodia, helping to widen it. No one from the far left or right could trust him.

When Hillary Clinton said “I made a hundred thousand dollars in a few weeks by trading cattle futures.”, no one believed her. Her arrogance was magnified when she attempted to justify it by saying “I learned how by reading the Wall Street Journal.”

When the lie was thus compounded, she lost permanent believability with those who value truth. Again, a small, critical bloc of voters was permanently lost.

The lies above were especially damaging to the tellers of the lies because they were simple and impossible to forget. They were also told by people who had absolutely no charm.

President Bush is frequently accused of lying. Unlike Gore’s lie, Mr. Bush’s words and actions are utterly consistent. Unlike the cattle futures lie, what Mr. Bush is saying does not appear to be making him personally richer, though there is an obvious benefit to war profiteers.

And, Mr. Bush’s words and deeds are costing him a lot of political clout, yet he stands by them, giving himself more credibility than if he disavowed them.

Helping his plausibility is the fact that no more airplanes have crashed into American buildings. In the case of the WMDs, any misstatements of fact are so buried in conflicting intelligence reports that no one can be certain if a lie was told.

One lesson is that politicians should never lie to look smart, appear idealistic, or get rich. If a politician is to lie effectively, the lie must complicated, preferably by having elements of truth mixed in with it.

If more of us simply refuse to vote for the most blatant liar, more elections will be swung toward truth.