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Category: Politics

C.O.D.
Politicians have always had something of a reputation for dishonesty. That was before, though. The lying politicians of old were known for a more circuitous sort of dissembling. They did not traffic in blatant, easily disprovable lies. Instead, they used a subtler style which conceals untruths in a cloud of tangled wordage that sounds plausible but means nothing. “Bafflegab,” my father used to call it.

We still have that kind of politician, of course. In fact, a good armor of meaningless bullshit is vital to anyone who runs for public office. It can be false or true. That’s the beauty of bafflegab. It’s main function is to obscure, and its only real deception is that it actually means something.

Now, however, such distinctions don’t seem to matter. We have entered a whole new age of political lying. As 65% of us know, this new age was ushered in by our newest president, who utters clearly demonstrable falsehoods every time — every time — he opens his mouth. For the remaining 35%, this doesn’t matter as long as he hates the same people they hate. The GOP, which believes its hold on power relies on the continued fealty of this minority, has mostly followed the President’s lead — and taken up the bald-faced lie as a weapon against his enemies.

It is a sin, I am told, to tell a lie. God doesn’t like it, it’s morally repugnant, it’s completely unprincipled. That’s why it’s so curious that the Republican Party, a group that has historically bragged about its high principles of personal conduct, its emphasis on morality, and its rock solid belief in God, would so effortlessly transition to unapologetic lying as a political style.

The purest of the Republican pure, the most righteous defenders of righteousness, belong to the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus, if you don’t know, is a fraternity of Congressmen (okay, Debbie Lesko of Arizona is also a member) in the House who espouse libertarian or very conservative beliefs. Interestingly, this group has been among the most ardent defenders of the President — and the most consistent liars in D.C. Indeed, they are so pure that they attack members of their own party, especially those who have been caught telling the truth.

Ohio 4th District hero Jim Jordan is a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus and one of the its leading sources of misinformation. (The 4th District, incidentally, is a bit of a lie itself — gerrymandered as it is to resemble a C-clamp that carefully avoids touching nearby Columbus.) Jimmy (as he is called by his towel-snapping bros in the FC) is the most angry and unrelenting in his pursuit of proof that doesn’t seem to exist. Benghazi malfeasance, the deep state, and fake news have all come under his pitiless examination.

I mention Jimmy here because he has come under scrutiny for some possible untruths he has told about his past tenure as an Ohio State wrestling coach. Several of the athletes under his care have charged that Jimmy knew of rampant sexual misconduct by school officials and did nothing to protect them from it. What kind of misconduct? Well, the kind ol’ Denny Hastert (disgraced Speaker of the House and himself a retired wrestling coach) was guilty of — and apparently some even creepier stuff. How bad was the wrestling culture at OSU? A recent headline quoted one witness to those events who called it a “Cesspool of Deviancy.”

A Cesspool of Deviancy. That is some deathless headline copy right there. Apparently, Jimmy lived in his own little houseboat, docked there on the edge of the cesspool, and (he now says) never smelled a thing. That’s in spite his super-acute nose for other things stinky and indecent.

In fact, he claims to smell the deep state and fake news at the center of this fuss about his behavior at Ohio State. As usual, there’s not much evidence for any of his propositions, only the deeply held suspicions of Jordan, the Freedom Caucus, and the President that something must be going on.

A Cesspool of Deviancy. I admit that headline was my main reason for writing this rambling essay about lying in our current politics. A Cesspool of Deviancy. That image could stand in for the whole Trumpocracy we are now witnessing, from the corruption and self-dealing to the selling out of our national security to the cruel mass abduction of brown-skinned children — all founded on the non-stop, bald-faced, so-sue-me lying that now permeates Republican Washington.

Perhaps the deviancy we’re seeing is only away from the norm of old-fashioned obfuscation and toward the new style of intentional falsehood. That seems like a big change to me, though. Bafflegab was something I could dismiss and ignore. What do I do with an outright lie that insists it is true?
Truth is Irrelevant, if that Helps
Trump supporters, when explaining their enduring faith in our President, often point to the way he “tells it like it is.” This rationale has long been a source of wonder to me. Until recently, that is.

What had stumped me was the disconnect between their perception and the mountain of evidence showing that almost everything he says is not true. What was even more perplexing was that his supporters seem to know that he regularly gets his facts wrong. How can that be?

I have finally solved that conundrum, and now that I have, in retrospect the explanation seems so obvious. When Trumpers say he tells it like it is, they are not talking about the factual basis for his declarations. Instead they are agreeing with his conclusions. This is not about evidence, then, but about a confirmation of what they feel is true.

In this universe of “truth” dictated by feelings, the mainstream news has to be fake. That's the only way to explain why the so-called facts contradict what our feelings tell us. The team of career prosecutors investigating Trump must be part of a secret deep state conspiracy. Why else would they keep investigating collusion and criminality that we know don’t exist? Of course immigrants and elitists are working together to destroy America. Why wouldn’t they?

I’m still not sure where these people’s feelings come from. Perhaps changes in our culture have made the Trumpers uneasy. When the majority of their fellow citizens have come to accept ideas they find troubling, even threatening, we should expect them to freak out. Add to this their frustration from generations of unfulfilled political promises (unless we count Obamacare, which for some reason they don’t), and we might get a glimpse of their rage. We should not be surprised when that rage seeks out some way to feel righteous — even if it has no basis in fact. I don’t really get it, but I have to acknowledge that it exists.

Even if I can’t fully empathize with their anger, however, at least now I can stop trying to make sense of their thought process. There isn’t one. It is their emotions we need to contend with, not their tortured logic.

I wish I found that realization more comforting.
President Idiot
I may have been premature in my blog of October 11 last year. “President Moron” was the title. As I explained in that piece, it was not I who was calling our president a moron, but rather his hand-picked Secretary of State, the estimable Rex Tillerson. Who better, I suggested at the time, to judge the intelligence of his boss than someone who worked closely with him on matters of great import?

The answer could only be someone who had worked even more closely with the President over a longer period of time on a broader range of issues. His Chief of Staff John Kelly, for instance, might be able to give a credible, informed assessment of the Commander in Chief’s mental state. We learned this week that General Kelly has provided that assessment (repeatedly, according to sources), and for the record he considers the President to be an “idiot.”

Again, this is not my opinion that I am reporting. It comes from a person close to the President who was also hand-picked for his position by his boss. It is that person’s opinion we are talking about here. He is an ally and a servant of the man he is judging, and he thinks that man is an idiot. I don’t have any regrets about the “President Moron” blog. I was citing the most reliable information available when I wrote it. Still, I don’t like having to update such findings. I try to be accurate in such matters just in case someone’s feelings may be hurt somehow in the course of my eagerness to inform others.

Perhaps I worry too much. “Moron” and “idiot” are often used interchangeably in ordinary discourse — to mean deeply stupid. My guess is that Kelly and Tillerson, though they apparently had differences on matters of style and policy, would surely agree that the President is deeply stupid. However, it is possible that they were actually quite careful in their choice of words. There was a time when psychologists parsed IQ scores in differentiating between idiots and morons. Under this now-outdated system, idiots (whose IQs ranged between 0 and 24) were classed lower than morons. A moron’s IQ might go as high as 70.

As I say, psychology has moved on from these unfortunate classifications, but they might still be useful today in answering this question: Just how stupid is Donald Trump? If his two close associates were using their words precisely, then we can say that General Kelly thinks the President is a lot stupider than Secretary Tillerson does.

But who to believe? Is he a moron or is he an idiot? In the interests of even-handed reporting, perhaps we should split the difference. In that old rating system there was a third category between the other two that described those whose IQs ranged between 25 and 50. Such people were referred to as “imbeciles.”

So, I will henceforth refer to Donald Trump as “President Imbecile.” Just to be fair.
To Summit Up
Kim Jong Un is
A dingy despot
He keeps The Button
On his desktop

He’ll discuss those nukes
With Donald Trumpfish
Whose expertise
Is Forrest Gumpish

A lunatic
An ignoramus
What could go wrong?
Ask Nostradamus
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon