In the USA, anybody can sue anybody for anything. Politicians will have more money and lawyers so even if you are right you will lose. And if you are wrong you will lose big time. Could even lose everything and be in debt too.
Just don’t use real people in your novels. Don’t even model your character on real people. You may well be sued if your character even resembles someone real. Like say the cousin you hate or your boss.
– Jedidiah Manowitz
Mostly what you had to say was absolutely right. But you left out one major exception/alternative: You can NOT libel a dead person–politician or otherwise.
Here’s just one reference regarding the issue (just the first of many available).
Pick on dead folks and they won’t fight back…
You CAN be sued by the family or an organization associated with the dead person’s name. While those lawsuits might be a long-shot, you’d still have to defend yourself if sued and that can be very expensive. Families can sue for “infliction of emotional distress” and organizations associated with the deceased person’s name can sue for “Economic Damage From An Injurious Falsehood.”
Again, those types of lawsuits can be difficult for the plaintiff to win but the legal fees alone could bankrupt a writer.
– Angela Hoy, Publisher