[GOP tax bill is the culmination of Donald Trump and company being able to lie blatantly to the American people without shame, guilt, or impunity (for now)]
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“Politicos of the Lie.” This article’s title is a play on M. Scott Peck’s important 1983 book, People of the Lie. For those unsure of the word, politico simply refers to a politician and, loosely, to one who works in the business of politics. (Hey, I had to look it up somewhere along the line, too.) I could have titled it “Apparatchiks of the Lie,” but it didn’t have the same ring.
You might know Peck, a psychiatrist, from his more famous books, The Road Less Traveled series. In People of the Lie, he lays out his findings, as a psychotherapist, about the basis of evil in certain persons and how it is manifested in pathological self-serving lying and narcissism.
“Another reaction that the evil frequently engender in us [is] confusion. … Lies confuse. The evil are ‘the people of the lie,’ deceiving others as they also build layer upon layer of self-deception. …
“It is necessary that we first draw the distinction between evil and ordinary sin. It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people, rather it is the subtlety and persistency and consistency of their sins. This is because the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it … their absolute refusal to tolerate the sense of their own sinfulness. …
“A predominant characteristic … is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. … Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection. … When they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world’s fault … They project their own evil onto the world.”
(Peck, M. Scott, MD; People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil; 1983.)
Sound like any politico you know? Donald Trump is the epitome of these three characteristics: 1) He lies to confuse the electorate; 2) He refuses to acknowledge any mistake or sin, no matter how small; and 3) He scapegoats through projection, so transparent even his followers see through it. But they don’t care.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “All politicians lie.” Yes, all politicians likely have lied at some time in their careers, just as all of us have likely sinned at some time in our lives. But the key factor here, as Peck points out, is the “persistency and consistency” of the lies and the refusal to acknowledge them.
His political opponents love to declare that President Obama was a liar. Consider one of their prime examples:
“If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan.”
(Obama, Barack, D-Ill., U.S. president; town hall meeting; Central High School, Grand Junction, Colo. [and many other instances]; 8/15/2009.) (referring to the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare)
I laid out my response to this accusation in a previous article. Here are the CliffsNotes. Obama was not lying. At worst, he made a mistake. Furthermore, he was only half-wrong. His mistake was not accounting for normal turnover. A new job could certainly bring a new insurer and different eligible providers. President Obama was half-right in that so-called grandfathered plans and their existing policyholders did not have to change anything.
Barack Obama ultimately acknowledged his promise went too far. In a Nov. 7, 2013, NBC News interview, he offered this apology: “I am sorry that [many Americans] are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me. … We’re going to do everything we can [for] folks … in a tough position as a consequence of this.” (Ersin, Tom; “Nobody Knew That Repeal and Replace Could Be so Complicated”; GraniteWord.com; 9/28/2017.)
There are many more false accusations from the right about Barack Obama lies. To be fair, he did tell a few as president. The New York Times has compiled a comprehensive listing of President Trump’s and President Obama’s lies while in office. They determined that Obama averaged about two falsehoods per year. (Leonhardt, D. & Philbrick, I. P. & Thompson, S. A.; “Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s”; The New York Times; 12/14/2017.)
Republicans, however, have made an art form of lying to confuse, mislead, and bamboozle the voting public.
Many experts trace the modern-age roots of blatant, pernicious Republican lying to the rise of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and his engineering of the 1994 GOP takeover of the House of Representatives. Gingrich was the prototype that paved the way for a Trump presidency.
Newt was the serial philanderer who lambasted Democrats for philandering. Newt was a loud voice for repealing Obamacare (clearly because of its eponymic nature) and its individual mandate, after arguing for a form of the mandate just a few years earlier. And Newt denied climate change was anthropogenic (caused by humans), in time for his 2012 presidential run, after jointly pleading in a public service announcement with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for all Americans to help fight global warming.
“As the New Republic observed in a recent analysis, Gingrich is one of the inventors of the GOP right wing’s current style of ‘say-anything politics,’ in which both facts and principle are subordinate to short-term expediency. This is, in short, the politics of the big lie.”
(White, Jack; “Why Newt Gingrich Is Beyond Satire”; The Root; 12/9/2011.)
Newt is credited with helping to kill comradery between congressional opponents. You’ve heard the stories of when congressional members of opposing parties used to play tennis and attend each other’s family picnics? Gingrich, as Speaker of the House, discouraged that. He preferred his members to cut social contacts with the other team. It was much easier to lie about them that way — you didn’t have to face them afterward.
Newt Gingrich popularized the demonization of opponents instead of respectful disagreement:
“[Democratic policies would bring to America] the joys of Soviet-style brutality and the murder of women and children.”
(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., U.S. House representative; floor speech; U.S. House of Representatives; 1983.)
“People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz.”
(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., U.S. House representative; as cited in Cummings, Jeanne; “Gingrich Out to Save America”; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; 1/16/1994.)
“There is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion.”
(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., former U.S. House speaker; Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor; 11/14/2008.)
“I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren] are my age, they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”
(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. House speaker; pre-campaign speech; Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas; 3/27/2011.)
“[I don’t know] whether he needs large amounts of rest [or] whether he needs to go play basketball for a while.”
(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. House speaker; Fox News’ On the Record; 9/25/2012.) (Newt, dog-whistling references to President Obama)
Newt has carried on his efforts through to the current day. Not surprisingly, he is one of President Trump’s greatest champions.
After Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) clinched the Republican presidential nomination for president in late May 2012, it was just him and incumbent President Barack Obama left to duke it out. Mitt had also pursued the nomination in 2008 but lost to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Romney, though not as blatant as Newt Gingrich, carved out a long-term, solid reputation as a flip-flopper, another form of GOP “say-anything” politics.
Consider these comments from his fellow Republicans:
“I don’t know how to respond to some of [Gov. Romney’s attacks] because his position may change tomorrow.”
(McCain, John, R-Ariz., U.S. senator, 2008 presidential candidate; post-campaign news conference; Burlington, Iowa; 12/28/2007.)
“[Mitt Romney is] making up things. … I don’t know, maybe you have another word for it. The only word I know in Arkansas, we kind of kept it simple there: We called it dishonest.”
(Huckabee, Mike, R-Ark., conservative writer and Fox News commentator, 2008 presidential primary candidate, former governor, ordained Southern Baptist minister; campaign event; Iowa; 12/29/2007.)
“He spent more time on the road to Damascus than a Syrian camel driver.”
(Huckabee, Mike, R-Ark., conservative writer and Fox News commentator, 2008 presidential primary candidate, former governor, ordained Southern Baptist minister; Do the Right Thing; 2008.) (referring to Mitt Romney’s numerous policy “conversions” on the road to the 2008 presidential election)
“[Mitt Romney is] assuming that the American people are stupid. … Someone [like Romney] who will lie to you to get to be president, will lie to you when he is president.”
(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. House speaker; post-campaign event news conference; 1/1/2012.) (Newt: the pot calling the kettle a pot)
“I think that the notion that Mitt Romney has been on both sides of many issues is not a surprise anymore to anyone in the country, whether you are Republican, Democrat, Indiana Independent. I think it’s baked into the cake at this point.”
(Schmidt, Steve, 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign chief strategist; MSNBC; 10/17/2012.)
With members of the same party like these, who needs enemies? Even Newt Gingrich says Romney is a serial liar.
To no one’s surprise, Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for president. This was during the height of Trump’s birtherism campaign promoting the lie that Barack Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya. To his credit, Romney (almost) never repeated those lies. To his shame, Romney also never repudiated those who promoted the lies, when so many of his supporters were cheering on Trump’s thinly veiled racist conspiratorial fairy tale.
Yesterday, the House and Senate passed President Trump’s long-awaited tax bill. Donald will sign it soon. Embedded in this bill is a pack of some of the biggest, boldest lies ever told by a president and his Republican congressional leaders.
There has been much written about the falsehoods used to sell this bill to the American people and a few recalcitrant Republican senators. Not a single Democratic legislator bit — not out of obstructionism but out of a genuine moral concern for the country. Democrats voted against their personal interests to protect the people. The biggest story surrounding this bill is how well-known the lies are about it. Polls indicate people think it’s bad for the country by a 2-1 ratio. Here are the lowlighted mendacifications:
The tax cuts are aimed primarily toward the middle class. They are not. They are aimed primarily at the rich and corporations. Here’s the statistic you need to know: 83 percent of the tax cuts go to the top 1 percent of the income spectrum. Many experts estimate 9 percent of middle-class families will see a tax increase immediately. All will see an increase eventually; that’s because the business tax cuts are permanent, but the middle class tax cuts expire.
The tax cuts will pay for themselves. They will not. They are projected to add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. The vast majority of economists agree that any GDP growth or tax revenue increases will barely dent this debt increase. Moreover, supply-side (trickle-down) economics historically have never worked.
The bill reforms the tax code. It does not. There was never any serious attempt to simplify. Most individuals’ taxes will likely be more complicated. Whatever happened to filing our taxes on a postcard?
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) cares about the debt and the ACA. She does not. She allowed herself to be manipulated into a horse trade for her vote, but she got no horse in the deal. The ACA’s individual mandate is eliminated with no offsetting fix. This means 13 million people will be thrown off health care coverage, and everyone else will see their premiums rise by 10 percent. At the last minute, Collins knew she had been double-crossed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but she voted for the bill anyway. Jennifer Rubin says, “It is hard to think of a lawmaker whose reputation has been harmed more than hers.” Although, Bob Corker has to be running a close second.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) cares about the debt. He does not. After stating for months that he would not vote for any bill that raises the debt by even one penny, he ultimately went along to get along at the last minute — plus, at the last minute, they threw in a real estate provision that will give him (and Donald) a boatload more money in tax savings.
Tax cuts will create new jobs and raise wages. They won’t. Most economists agree that corporations are currently sitting on record amounts of money. If they were going to raise wages and expand, they would have done so already. Ultimately, corporations will reward executives and buy back their stock with the extra money.
The tax bill will cost President Trump a lot of money. It does the absolute opposite. He claims to be working for the people against his own financial interests. But anyone with a brain can see he’ll come out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead.
President Trump pledged to eliminate the carried-interest loophole (which benefits rich hedge fund managers and participants). This was a public relations lie. It never came up.
Congressional Republicans were under pressure to please their rich-people donor base or they would lose their support. Oops, that one is true.
“The infuriating part of this is that none of the snake-oil salesmanship, the debt creation, the procedural sleights of hands, the heightened income inequality, the secret deals, and the contempt for voters was necessary. A revenue-neutral corporate tax reform coupled with a payroll tax break for middle- and lower-income Americans was entirely possible — with wide bipartisan support. But that was not what Republicans, their donors, and the fleet of lobbyists wanted.”
(Rubin, Jennifer, conservative opinion writer; “The Most Infuriating Falsehoods About the Tax Bill and Those Who Told Them”; The Washington Post; 12/18/2017.)
All 48 Democratic caucus senators, including the three richest senators overall, voted against their own interests for the good of the country and the people. This one is true.
Donald’s Orwellian Strategy
Donald Trump is the biggest Politico of the Lie in politics today. He has taken Newt Gingrich’s say-anything brand of Republican politics to dizzying heights, “the likes of which this nation has never seen before” (— hyperbole courtesy of The Donald).
Like Gingrich and Romney, Trump is a skillful flip-flopper. He ensures that his support base will always be able to agree with one of his positions on an issue, and repress the others.
He lies to confuse the electorate. He knows that muddying the waters is a powerful tool to fool the vast pool of people who do not obsess over the news and fact-checking.
He refuses to acknowledge any mistake or sin, no matter how small. His supporters see this as strength, though critically thoughtful people realize it is a colossal weakness. Still, it’s great for water-muddying.
He scapegoats through projection, so transparent even his followers see through it. But they don’t care. Again, they see strength as in, he’s a “counterpuncher” who fights back. Yes, he fights back against reality. It has become a given that whatever President trump criticizes or attacks, he, himself, is guilty of.
The overwhelming reality is that Donald Trump has made lying acceptable, normal. He’s desensitized the populous to prevarication and mendacity. And he’s given all of his supporters, including Republicans in Congress, permission to lie as well, with apparent impunity (for now).
Look at the GOP’s false selling points for the tax bill. Look at the meetings with Russians. Look at Fox News: calling Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s Russia probe “a coup in America”; calling the FBI a “KGB-type operation.” Look at Trump’s seven forbidden words for the CDC. Look at Donald dropping climate change from the U.S. list of global threats — and the EPA website. Look at his false promises to Kentucky that he will bring coal back. Look at his laughable false promises to drain the swamp.
Look at Vice President Mike Pence’s obsequious, mendacious, pabulum-filled tribute to the president at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. No kidding — It sounded like a North Korean General’s tribute to Dear Leader. Then Dear Leader spoke, and every word out of President Trump’s mouth was part of a perjurious stream of self-serving, self-adoring bull feces.
Truth is the foundation of everything. Without it we are lost. We don’t demand perfection. Barack Obama averaged about two falsities per year of his presidency. And when he realized his errors, he generally stopped saying them. Donald Trump has told about 124 blatant lies in his first year as president:
“Trump is different. When he is caught lying, he will often try to discredit people telling the truth, be they judges, scientists, FBI or CIA officials, journalists, or members of Congress. Trump is trying to make truth irrelevant. It is extremely damaging to democracy, and it’s not an accident. It’s core to his political strategy.”
(Leonhardt, D. & Philbrick, I. P. & Thompson, S. A.; “Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s”; The New York Times; 12/14/2017.)
“Lies confuse. The evil are ‘the people of the lie,’ deceiving others as they also build layer upon layer of self-deception.” This is one of the reasons we’ve never seen con artistry like Donald Trump’s. He has learned to sell his own fiction until he believes it.
It’s authoritarian; it’s Orwellian. ■
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