[O]ne wonders why the Obama people think this will have deep political resonance. The idea that they can make voters who live outside the political steam baths believe that a man running for the presidency would stand in front of 67 million people and literally "lie" about a proposal to change the federal tax code is ludicrous.(Yes, everybody knows politicians running for high office would never lie about their policies. Such a thing has never happened, and could never happen, and how cynical are you, dear reader, for supposedly remembering all those times it has?)
Thrill at the arbitrary reference to fascism!
The Obama campaign's resurrection of "liar" as a political tool is odious because it has such a repellent pedigree. It dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s.(Calling a liar out for being a liar is also common and, we must point out, the morally correct response to actual lying, an approach followed by teachers, juries, nuns, our greatest philosophers and most of the rest of the civilized planet. When I catch my child in a lie, I would not be impressed by her declaring that me pointing it out is just like what Hitler would have done. However, my child is also intelligent enough to recognize a non-sequiter when she sees one, which has already permanently disqualified her from working for Fox News or writing a column for the Wall Street Journal.)
(Continue reading below the fold.)
No one will be seated during the breathtaking "look at all the people calling people liars instead of just blithely accepting whatever they are told" scene, featuring a special appearance by history's greatest monster, Paul Krugman!
It began with the charge that Bush lied about WMD and became almost banal in its repetition after that. In a September 2008 piece on the GOP convention, "Blizzard of Lies," the New York Times' heir to Reston, Wicker, Krock and Safire blew the floodgates: "they're all out-and-out lies"; "the blizzard of lies"; "a grotesque lie" and "the McCain campaign's lies." The Obama campaign is saying "Romney lied," because Paul Krugman made it the coin of their realm.(Actual evidence that the Bush administration strongly fudged the WMD evidence used to sell a second war is now common knowledge, of course, but it does seem a bit quaint now to look back at the 2008 GOP convention as a den of lies, given that 2012 saw a lie used as premise for film clips, banners, and indeed an entire convention theme; none of this is meant to detract from the obvious central theme, which is that Paul Krugman is uncouth.)
You have to be at least a little entertained by a column that has, as core premise, the notion that politicians apparently never lie and there is therefore never a time when anyone should say so. This appears to make Daniel Henninger, the author, the most gullible person to ever have graced our political landscape—and, God help me, I am not going to bother looking back on past Henninger columns to see how often he himself has declared the other side to be lying about something, because I Just Do Not Give An Actual Damn. But the larger question, and the one the entire village is apparently struggling mightily with, is what ought to be done if someone in politics was, in fact, a gigantic liar. According to Henninger, the answer is a flat nothing. It cannot happen, and even if it did calling it out would be akin to 1930s fascism, so there. We must accept that Daniel Henninger actually believes both of these things, and is not simply bullshitting us for momentary partisan purposes, because to suggest that he is merely bullshitting us and does not believe his own column would be ungentlemanly.
Without going through the entire litany of this campaign season, however (Mr. Henninger can look the full list up on the internet, if he so desires), a few examples should suffice to enrage and/or confuse him. The first: apology tour. It has been an omnipresent element of the Romney stump speech; it also never actually happened. Fact-checkers are hard pressed to even find something that it could have vaguely referred to. It was objectively declared to be a lie many months ago, to no effect.
The second is even more clear-cut. The entire we built it theme of the Republican convention, which was based, both on Henninger's Fox News and in the convention hall itself, specifically on a clip of the president intentionally edited in such a way as to obviously mislead. There was absolutely no question about it; you could look at the full clip, look at the re-imagined version, and see that the edit was made intentionally so as to suggest the president said something he did not say, period. That edited intent was then made into a core thing. Interviews were shown explaining how outraged various people were by the thing that was never actually said. Short films were shown purporting to rebut the thing that was never actually said. The retorts appeared on handmade-looking signs, and were blasted from speaker after speaker, at the podium. The thing that was never actually said was made the theme of the convention, and the motivator for the participants, and a stump theme, and a talking point, and the fact that anyone could, and did, see the full clip and know exactly how the edit was made and what the resulting misrepresentation was did not matter one damn bit. It was a lie. It was a known lie, a blatant lie, an easily checked lie, a frequently checked lie, a discredited lump of hackery in a cheap suit, but none of that had the slightest impact in how the party sold it. Or how Henninger's own network sold it. There is absolutely no question whatsoever that we have been witness to vigorous lies.
Outright lies, too, and not just the usual political omissions and misdirections, as when a certain Karl Rove picks for column fodder the same "how outrageous that the president would call the nice Mitt Romney a liar" premise that Henninger does, and the Wall Street Journal feels no particular need to point out that Karl Rove's organization has as sole reason for existence the promotion of Mitt Romney and candidates like him.
Nevertheless, we must still take Mr. Henninger at his word; he knows of no lies, and believes calling them out would be worse. He has never heard of the Swift Boat Vets, whose core premise was debunked by actual journalists before the election they tried to influence, but whose leadership has gone on to lie about a great many other things and people because being proven to be a fraud does not have any impact on your ability to perpetrate future ones. Certainly, no president or candidate for president would ever lie about anything—surely, the last century of American history has taught us at that, has it not?
I am afraid I am going to have to say something that Mr. Henninger will find even more uncouth, though. I not only believe there are liars in politics, and that lying in fact ought to be punished by, at the least, pointing the damn thing out, but I also believe that there are people in politics who are simply—and forgive me, here—profoundly goddamn stupid. Perhaps they are liars, telling tall tales for partisan gain, but it is equally likely that they are just so very dim that they believe their own nonsense. They believe an obvious lie is true, or that an obvious lie is at least moral, because their dimwitted ideological id can simply parse the situation out in no other way. That it makes perfect sense that there be, say, a Worldwide Science Conspiracy to trick us all into thinking that the summers are getting warmer, or that of course numbers that do not add up would add up perfectly if you only accounted for the unspecified ideological magic needed to get them there. No, I long ago came to suspect that many people in Mr. Henninger's line of work were, in fact, simply fucking dumb. It would be cruel to call them liars—but morons, now, perhaps that is the more dignified diagnosis? There is nothing morally wrong with being a moron. We should pity those politicians, and pundits, and columnists, but at least we would grant them the dignity of accepting that they believe the bullshit they say.