A choice between two inveterate liars?
A recent Commentary article titled “A Choice Between Two Inveterate Liars” maintained, as the title indicates, that both Trump and Clinton (Hillary) are inveterate liars. The article proceeds to give examples to show there is an equivalency of deliberate deceitfulness. But the examples fail to demonstrate equivalency by failing to distinguish between deliberate deception for some perceived gain and the simple bungling and mishandling of facts. It is in the first case that the Sir Walter Scott quote applies and not the latter: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
The difficulty with establishing a lie from a falsehood is the imputation of intent. A liar, to be a liar, must be deliberately telling falsehoods. Getting things wrong or all fouled up is not sufficient. Joe Biden – so we tend to believe but can never know – is not a liar. He comes across as a charming bungler.
But for the author, Noah Rothman:
… you only had to watch a selection of moments on the Sunday morning news programs in to understand the full measure of these candidates’ compulsive need to distort the truth.
The author then proceeds to give some examples from the referenced Sunday interviews:
Sunday’s cavalcade of mendacities began when Hillary Clinton demonstrated precisely why she is so allergic to holding press conferences: she just can’t help herself. “Director [James] Comey said my answers were truthful and consistent with what I said, with what I told the American people,” Hillary Clinton told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. That’s not what the FBI director said. In fact, he said precisely the opposite.
Then Mr. Rothman equates the above with Trump’s interview with Stephanopoulos on that same day:
“You made a lot of headlines with Russia this week,” Stephanopoulos later said. “What exactly is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?” “I have no relationship with Putin,” Trump replied. This admission contradicts a 2013 interview with MSNBC host Thomas Roberts in which Trump insisted, “I do have a relationship [with Putin].” On Sunday, Trump insisted that he would not know Vladimir Putin “from Adam,” and that they’ve never met or interacted. Except that in 2014 at a speech at the National Press Club, Trump gushed over his relationship with Putin. “I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently, and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin,” he said. “I got to know him very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes.’”
Well, it is pretty pathetic to get all tangled up with facts from one’s personal life – but for what perceived gain? All he did was embarrass himself – although one could quibble about the meaning of a “relationship.” Do Trump and Hillary have a relationship? Or Hillary and Giuliani?
Here Trump’s “lies” just make him look foolish – like President Obama’s claim to have visited 57 states. Moreover, having a “relationship” with Putin, one way or another, in this context, is hardly a matter that, unlike Clinton’s security breaches, needs to be covered up one way or another.
Now, Hillary has to keep on lying, as in the Sir Walter Scott quote. In fact, lying is so ingrained (“compulsive,” “inveterate”) that she keeps on lying when she doesn’t have to. And that is what distinguishes the sleazebag liar with a carpetbag of misdeeds to cover up from the Trump-the-grump version of the Bidenesque.
No. The choice is not between two inveterate liars, but between an inveterate liar for whom winning for The House of Clinton by gulling the voters and out-slicking her opponents means everything and a sometimes bungling, garrulous, overly combative candidate who, at least, is motivated by what he thinks is good for America.