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Friday, May 04, 2018


Were you lying then or are you lying now?

by Tom Sullivan

If the Fourth Estate insists on debasing itself every day at White House briefings, the least reporters can do is ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders one simple question. Every. Single. Day. Were you lying then or are you lying now?

It is the courtroom question Charles Laughton so famously put to Marlene Dietrich in Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

“The question is whether you were lying then or are you lying now... or whether in fact you are a chronic and habitual LIAR!“
Pretty much anytime an official from the Trump administration takes questions from the press, the question is appropriate. The question is appropriate for citizens entitled to better from officials sworn to put the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law before their personal interests. Integrity may be hard to measure, but a modicum is not unreasonable to ask.

The press should by now be tired of being Trump's chumps. But it has taken decades of chronic and habitual lying by those now in power to be laid low by their own lies, and with little help from a national press in a defensive crouch against strategic charges of bias. Now that "fake news" is a meme, perhaps "fake president," "fake CEO," and "fake billionaire" ought to be next?

How pathetic is it that Fox News, the infotainment network, is the one pushing back against the flood of lies?

Meagan Flynn writes at the Washington Post:
Fox News host Neil Cavuto ripped into President Trump’s trail of conflicting and false statements in a monologue on Thursday, targeting Trump for everything from the Stormy Daniels payment to his exaggerations about illegal voting during the 2016 election.

Speaking directly to the president on his show, “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” he questioned why Trump lambastes the news media for “fake news” when his own statements are often contradictory.

“Now, I’m not saying you’re a liar,” Cavuto said. “You’re the president. You’re busy. I’m just having a devil of a time figuring out which news is fake. Let’s just say your own words on lots of stuff give me, shall I say, lots of pause.”
Charles Laughton he's not. But when Fox News is no longer a safe space for Trump and his lackeys, they are "in a heap of trouble."
“Let me be clear, Mr. President,” Cavuto said. “How can you drain the swamp if you’re the one who keeps muddying the waters?

“You didn’t know about the $130,000 payment to a porn star, until you did,” he continued. “Said you knew nothing about how your former lawyer handled this, until you acknowledged today that you were the guy behind the retainer payment that took care of this. You insist that money from the campaign or campaign contributions played no role in this transaction. Of that you’re sure. The thing is, not even 24 hours ago, sir, you couldn’t recall any of this.”
Trump is a symptom, albeit the most obvious one, of a party habituated to lying to the public without fear of consequence. Nancy LeTourneau points to yesterday's statement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on judicial appointments. He was speaking to Hugh Hewitt:
“Well, we’re going to continue to confirm judges all year. You know, the Congress doesn’t stop with the elections. It goes until the end of the year. We’re going to do six more next week, which will bring us to 21. I’m processing them as quickly as they come out of the Judiciary Committee, and the administration’s sending them up rapidly. I don’t know what the final number is, but my goal, Hugh, is to confirm all the circuit and district court judges that come out of committee this calendar year. All of them.”
That is McConnell now. This was McConnell then, during the final year of the Obama administration:
“The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” McConnell said in a statement.
This morning the New York Times Editorial Board calls out two more Republican luminaries for admitting now what they lied about then:
Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida and former presidential candidate, told The Economist recently that the big corporate tax cut that he voted for late last year was passed under the false pretense that businesses would use their tax windfall on their employees. As Mr. Rubio accurately said in the interview, “There’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” Mr. Rubio later walked back his assessment of the tax bill, writing in National Review that he thinks it “has been good for Americans.” But it was refreshing to see him clearly acknowledge, even once, what many economists and voters have long known. Sure enough, what we have seen so far is that companies are buying back stock, which benefits a small group of well-heeled investors, while giving their workers modest bonuses at best.

Then there’s Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s first health and human services secretary, who was ousted from the administration for blowing tax dollars on private plane trips. Last year he said, contrary to available evidence, that the provision in the A.C.A. that requires people to be insured was driving up the cost of health insurance. On Tuesday, Mr. Price did a 180 in a speech at a health care conference in Washington, noting correctly that, in fact, it was Congress’s decision to eliminate the health insurance mandate that “drives up the cost” of insurance. This is hardly a bold statement — most experts agree — but it was newsworthy coming from Mr. Price, who was a key supporter of Mr. Trump’s efforts to repeal the A.C.A. What was less surprising was that Mr. Price reverted to the party line a day later, saying that getting rid of the mandate “was exactly the right thing to do.”
But these admissions are but glimmers of truth, momentary flickers of humanity before the demons inside regain control. There is no Dana, only Zuul.

American voters should be especially wary, the Board warns, of election-year promises from politicians with long histories of lying to the public. The tragedy is the American public has been complicit in the emergence of lying as the default mode of governance, as well as a press acting as carriers of the contagion, rather than as antibodies against its spread.

Ryan Cooper observes at The Week that an American government "being suffocated under a tsunami of cash" now enjoys corruption on par with Brazil and Romania. But that corruption is as much a product of ideology as it is money and rank dishonesty:
Almost all of this is about individual corruption, but it also has a sharp right-wing political complexion. It involves de facto bribery of government employees of both parties (in the form of future jobs, consulting gigs, speaking engagements, etc) by the wealthiest institutions in the land. Virtually all of those are seeking conservative political outcomes: deregulation, legal loopholes, tax subsidies, and so on. Only a few left-leaning institutions (like unions) can even promise that kind of payoff, and none are remotely in the same league as big business money-wise.
But it is the American people, us, who bear the ultimate responsibility for tolerating the daily spew from the propaganda arms of the right and the regurgitated falsehoods the "access" press presents as news. Unless we demand the truth, we settle for far, far less.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.