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A Public Presentation of My Thoughts About Lying

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This Fourth of July, when we traditionally wish the U.S.A. a happy birthday and, once again, kick ourselves for not having brought a present, how natural it is that we pause to reflect on life as we know it in these now still somewhat united states. And in the hurly-burly of our modern a-go-go fast-paced routines of getting and spending and, of course, being a productive member of society, it's easy to forget that we are surrounded -- still! -- by a religio-corporate government, and its vast media army of chorus boys, make-up girls, and baby-crushers, who lie to us all the time.

About -- well, you name it. Or, since you're a busy person, I'll name it: Global warming (they say the jury is still out, while in fact the jury has been dismissed with the thanks of the court, and has long gone home). Iraq (they said it was a threat to us; it wasn't). Elections (said to be open and fair; aren't). Corruption ("a few rotten apples," no. "Entire orchard infested with maggots," yes.) "Signing statements" (announcement of intentions to violate the law presented as legitimate exceptions to the law), the "death tax" (saving "the family farm" which is never actually imperiled), the badness of increasing the minimum wage, the goodness of cutting taxes during "war time," the "importance" of a flag-burning amendment...

Wait here. I have to bang my head on the desk.

Thanks. It helps, a little.

The point being, Republican lying is so ubiquitous, so relentless, and so shameless, a certain amount of habituation sets in. One's eventual response is as though to the weather. You have to endure it but, really, you sort-of think, there's nothing you can do about it.

But there is something you can do about it, darn it. You can exploit it. Their unregenerate lying offers us a number of potent opportunities curled up, like the other six or seven dimensions, within these secret, wonderful secrets:

1. PEOPLE WHO LIE REPEATEDLY CAN, AND NEED, AND SHOULD, NO LONGER BE BELIEVED ABOUT ANYTHING. That these people have lied, egregiously and incessantly and traitorously, and that the lies have been proven to be what they are (i.e., untruths, which is to say, lies), is now indisputable, on-the-record, and in-the-bag. And, of course, when confronted with the indubitable truth of their lying, they deny it with new lies. By now even one's children (regardless of their politics), one's dog (regardless of its breed), and one's Roomba (even the older models) all know this to be the case.

The Republican relation to the truth has been therefore permanently ruptured. As in any other relationship, when the partner lies over and over, you get to the point where you can't believe them even if you want to, and then to the point where you don't believe them even when you should.

That's where we are in our "relationship" with these criminals, and that's great news for anyone even remotely concerned that a George Bush, a Bill Frist, or some other similar-type individual will -- via the sheer law of averages alone -- somehow say something truthful in defense of their (indefensible) actions or statements. They won't, of course, but if they do (although they won't), it will not matter. We're entitled not to believe them when we think they could be telling the truth, and we're entitled not to acknowledge it when we know they're telling the truth. Their future truths have been forever contaminated by the fait accompli of their past lies.

Some rich person -- not Warren Buffett, but someone who still has money -- should hire a sky-writing firm to inscribe this in letters of purest vapor across the length and breadth and heighth of the land: "People of good faith need never take seriously anything said by the right ever again, or at least until further notice."

From the mountains to the prairies to Pat Robertson white with foam, Republicans have forfeited their right to take part in what hitherto has been touchingly called "the national conversation." This means you, David Brooks and Sean Hannity and Bill Kristol and Peggy Noonan, yes, you too, Michelle Malkin and Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer. (Jesus, what a roster. Can we please finish that time machine, so we can send these people back to the 1760s, where they can froth away as Tories to their hearts' content?) They, the right, are to remain silent. Or they can type and yak their little heads off. But no one else need bother listening. Their credibility is on that truck, over there, being carted to a landfill. And they have only their (lying) selves to blame.

2. THE PATTERNS OF THEIR LIES REVEAL THEIR HIDDEN CONCERNS. In the sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (i.e., The Honourable Schoolboy, which is my favorite!) John Le Carre has George Smiley explain that, while the discovery and unmasking of a "mole" in MI 6 was a disaster, it has its hidden benefit: Now they can trace the mole's actions and reports out into the world or back into the archives, to uncover new things -- secrets, betrayals, hidden schemes, other moles -- they'd never have otherwise suspected. Thus, like scar tissue strengthening a wound, does an injury morph into an unexpected advantage.

Similarly, Republicans reveal the very areas of their insecurity with every lie they concoct. When Ann Coulter calls liberals "godless," the secret revealed is the right-wing insecurity about assuring that "people of faith" remain loyal to the Grand Orc Party in spite of the increasing torrent of news detailing the party's obviously ungodly behavior, including but not limited to theft, killing, torture, taking the Lord's name in vain, and lying.

A year ago, Dick Cheney said to a purportedly "live" Larry King, "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." It was, of course, a lie. Cheney could have muffled the matter entirely with something like, "These things are impossible to read from afar. You and I, Larry -- no matter how live you appear to be -- don't know the real underlying reality of the actual blah blah of the contingency of the blah" and, even in spite of King's famous dogged insistence on pressing the tough questions and getting at the truth, he'd have successfully avoided the issue. Instead, he lied -- not with the statement that the insurgents were failing, but with the "I think" part. From that statement alone, Cheneyologists and other interested parties could have deduced that he didn't think that at all -- and that it worried him.

Memo to Dems running in November: take note of how they traduce you. That is where to apply the counter-pressure. Of course, you can reject this advice, and disdain it as "letting them dictate the agenda." But in refusing to address the lie, you're letting them dictate the agenda anyway. Rather, think of it as "letting them reveal their insecurities, and acting accordingly."

In fact, you already know this. It's the Karl Rove Jiu-Jitsu Special, or "swift-boating" -- take the enemy's strong point and attack it head-on with lies. Next time they do it, don't make John Kerry's mistake, and allow it to slide for a time so as not to dignify it with a response. Its dignity (and yours) aren't the point. Instead, shove it down their throats -- not out of "self-respect" or for the sake of your reputation, or even in the name of truth, but because their lie shows exactly where their throats are most vulnerable.

3. THE CO-ORDINATION OF THE LIES REVEALS THE CONTROLLING HAND OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE. The truth, being objective, will always occasion "coincidences," as many people naturally, legitimately all arrive at the same assertions. Not so lies, which are artificial, subjectively-constructed creations. When they come out at the same time, about the same thing, it's the opposite of coincidence. Thus, when, say, a Republican senator, and a columnist for The Weekly Standard (and what better name for a publication that changes its line to suit the agenda? "What's our standard this week, Fred?" "The Constitution is a living, breathing document that can be changed to not apply to Gitmo." "Got it! Thanks!") and an excrescence like Rush "I'm Not A Doctor, But My Doctor Plays One in Drug Stores" Limbaugh...

Where was I? Oh, yeah: when all three of these "disparate" personalities all assert the same Party Line, you know it's come down from on high. (Remember that hit single from last year, "The Democrats Are Criminalizing Politics"?) Jon Stewart and The Daily Show crew can't be the only ones to point this out.

Therefore, Dems: Jump on it. Publicly announce your expectation that all the usual bloviators and gas-bags (cite them by name; include a bibliography) will say exactly the same (lying) thing. They have to. They've been commanded to by the Executive Committee of the Grand Old Presidium.

"That's how they did it in the Soviet Union," you say at a press conference or on Meet the Press or, if you've had your shots and there are paramedics on call, on Fox. "They had a one-party totalitarian system there, too, just like the Republicans today." Etc. Yes, you heard me. Et damn cetera, baby.

Of course, taking advantage of these secret opportunities hidden within Republican mendacity requires a Democratic party -- or at least a few dang Democrats besides us amateurs here on the blogs -- willing to open up a mouth. You have to be willing to call a lie a lie -- not nervously (like Howard Dean), not sadly (Al Gore), not even indignantly (John Kerry), but firmly and contemptuously, with just enough anger to give it some zing. They throw the lie at you, like a Molotov cocktail. You catch it, throw it right back at them, and pause for the explosion.

Then you can get on with the good part: You can tell the truth.'