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How do I lie to thee? Let me count the ways.
There were so many last night at the Republican National Convention—and I don’t mean just the usual convenient, half-apologetic, hey-what-do-you-expect-it’s-politics lies that conventions have been delivering by the bushel ever since the Anti-Mason Party convened the very first national political convention in America in 1831 (to nominate William Wirt, a Mason).
Nor do I mean the sort of standard, jingoistic, chest-thumping lies that all powerful nations have to feed themselves to keep the dreadful business of nationalism staggering forward until it collapses in a heap of Soviet-style self-contradictions and inanities.
No, I mean really imaginative, mind-boggling, pure-evil-genius lies, almost exquisite as an example of the genre. The bad news for America is that after a night of alarming drift and dysfunction, the Republican Party is back on its game, presenting a lineup of political professionals in the tried-and-true Donald Segretti-Lee Atwater-Karl Rove ratfucker mode. This dream team relentlessly hammered home the three or four agreed-upon talking points—over and over and over again—and thereby crafted a shiny new assault-rifle clip of meretriciousness.
How shall I count the ways?
The biggest lie by implication, the one that the mainstream media has focused on, was tossed out last night by the new Blue-Eyed Mr. Death of the right, Paul Ryan. In a meticulously crafted bit of legalese, he managed to blame President Obama for the GM plant shuttering in Janesville—an act that completed the long, sad deterioration of another small American city into a festering ruin, all under Ryan’s utterly indifferent watch. (Take a look at Danny Wilcox Frasier and Charlie LeDuff’s superb Mother Jones photo essay.)
The plant actually closed down in December 2008—when sitting president George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and the entire Republican Party were still advocating that the American auto industry curl up and die. But Ryan suggested that Obama had broken a “promise” made when, during a campaign stop in Janesville in 2008, the candidate expressed the “hope” that the plant would remain open for another hundred years. (Later on last night, in a brazen MSNBC interview, the same point was made by Ryan’s tag-team pal, Scott Walker.)
But never mind. This was hardly the most outrageous lie last night. We also got to hear amazing lies of omission, lies of commission, lies with statistics, the Big Lie, and any number of small, needling, sociopathic lies that even the Republican handlers probably can no longer discern from reality.
Some examples? Sure. How about Senator John McCain, in the most grotesque speech of his life, asserting that “an American president always, always, always stands up for the rights, and freedoms, and justice of all people”—or at least did, until Barack Obama.
How about Senator John Thune condemning “the arrogance of a president whose first instinct is to condemn achievement.” That’s right, Barack Obama goes about “condemning achievement.”
How about Ohio businessman Steve Cohen, a prime-time speaker, condemning the president’s “war on coal”? Or Tim Pawlenty asserting that Joe Biden is not “a real vice president”?
Want sloppy, uncaring, historical lies from the party that talks incessantly about its love of the American past? Well, here’s Mike Huckabee sounding off on the “Founding Fathers of our great nation” and crafters of our “magnificent Constitution,” many of whom “died to pass on that heritage.”
Sorry, save for Alexander Hamilton, who was shot dead in a duel because he considered the sitting vice president to be a devious, lying asshole, all of those Founding Fathers died peaceful deaths. (Something tells me that today’s G.O.P. leaders would’ve been fighting duels almost continually if they had been around in 1804.)
Want a geopolitical lie? Here’s Condi Rice claiming that “our friends and allies” abroad, “from Israel to Colombia, from Poland to the Philippines,” no longer “trust us.” A domestic lie? Here’s New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez claiming that Democrats “have not even passed a budget in Washington, D.C., in three years.”
Martinez, easily the most obnoxious speaker on a night that was a nonstop battle for that distinction, also strongly implied that to request Mitt Romney’s tax returns is to “demonize the American dream.” No doubt that was the implicit dream of our Founding Fathers as they fell dying on the battlefield: a world in which nobody would fight a fossil fuel, condemn achievement, or close the Janesville GM plant.
More from Kevin Baker:
Political Asylum — November 9, 2012, 3:59 pm
A dispassionate president disavows the liberal idea.
Political Asylum — November 8, 2012, 6:03 pm
Can the G.O.P. genuinely change its attitude toward minorities and women?
Political Asylum — November 5, 2012, 9:42 pm
An election-eve elegy for the country???s former guardians of sanity
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature