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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:
Context — November 25, 2016, 11:26 am
Rudolph Giuliani and the politics of personality
Appreciation — June 26, 2014, 8:00 am
From Johnny Cash to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
Rank of Italy, Argentina, and Libya in annual per capita pasta consumption:
A barn owl in Wiltshire failed to deliver two wedding rings and instead fell asleep in church.
In the United States, legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was advanced by the House Ways and Means Committee after 18 hours of deliberation, during which time the Republican members of Congress passed around candy.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."