The Candidates On Lying To The Public

Presidential Questions

In November, Americans decide whether Barack Obama or John McCain becomes the 44th President of the United States. In the series "Presidential Questions," CBS News anchor Katie Couric asks questions that move the candidates well beyond the usual sound-bites. Some questions concern policy. Others are more personal. All will give you a better sense of who these men are - and what has shaped them. What follows is Couric's question - and the candidates' full answers.

Couric: Describe a situation when you think it's appropriate to lie to the American people.

Obama: I don't think it's appropriate to lie to the American people. I mean … you can put together a hypothetical where there is a national security emergency that is imminent. And you don't want to provide, for example, the location of our troops. You don't have to lie in those situations. You simply say, "we're not answering questions."

I don't think it's appropriate to lie. And I think that one of the things I want to change about the culture of Washington is, not just the "big lie," but also the "soft lie." The fudging, the manipulation, the spin. If we can restore a sense of trust between the American people and their government, we're going to go a long way to changing the country for the better.

McCain: I can't imagine it, to start with, because … I just think that the one thing you have to have, as president, is your credibility. I guess you could draw a scenario where Americans were facing a threat to our very existence and you had to not have them panic or something. I'm thinking out loud here. You know ... but frankly ... I don't know of any reasonable or logical scenario where you would feel compelled to lie to the American people.

Couric: What about in a national security situation?

McCain: Yeah. I was trying to imagine that. But if you deceive the American people and you want their support, and you want them to beat back this national security challenge, and you don't tell them the truth about it then I think they become disillusioned. That's happened in the past.

Couric: Vietnam, for example

McCain: Yeah. the Vietnam War. "The light is at the end of the tunnel," and it turned out to be a train. I think one of the reasons why America came out of the Great Depression is that Franklin Delano Roosevelt went on the radio all the time and had the fireside chats and said "here's what we're facing but here's what we're going to do." And every time the great presidents including some I really admire have not told the American people the complete truth, then they've paid a price for it.