Lying With Impunity

Okay, so here’s what worries me. A lot.

In the most recent GOP debate, we were treated to outright prevarication. Lies. Blatant untruths. The fact that politicians of both parties will lie (this certainly isn’t the first time!) is not what concerns me; what scares the bejeezus out of me is the fact that they can do so secure in the knowledge that very few members of their target audience will know enough to know that they are lying.

Let’s take a few examples.

Take Carly Fiorina (please!). She said she wants to “bring back the warrior class — Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.”

In the real world, Petraeus left to head up the CIA, and subsequently resigned after a sex scandal. Keane served under George W. Bush, and resigned in 2003. McChrystal was ousted after Rolling Stone reported comments amounting to insubordination.

Chris Christie boasted about his relationship with Jordan’s King Hussein–“When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, ‘You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he’ll change his mind.” Small problem: Hussein’s been dead for 16 years.

Christie also criticized Obama’s “reckless incompetence” for allowing Russia’s “recent partnership” with Syria. That “recent” partnership goes back to 1971, when the USSR established a huge warm-water navy port in Syria. It’s been there ever since.

Several debate participants criticized the Obama administration’s “political correctness,” asserting that such “political correctness” prevented monitoring of social media and was the reason authorities missed “jihadist” postings by the female San Bernadino shooter. Except, as the head of the FBI has patiently explained, there were no such postings.

Factcheck has posted a lengthy list of GOP “misstatements,” ranging from relatively minor errors (as when Rick Santorum–who isn’t going anywhere anyway– said “10 years ago I put the sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program,” when he really sponsored a bill that largely codified existing sanctions) to more consequential assertions (for example, Lindsey Graham repeated the claim that the U.S. spends $350 billion “to buy oil from people who hate our guts,” although over a third of America’s oil imports in 2014 came from Canada, and another 9 percent from Mexico.)

A disquieting number of the misstatements made during the debate cannot fairly be labeled “lies” because those uttering them so clearly had no idea what they were talking about. (“Targeted” carpet-bombing? really?)

And therein lies the real problem. We have these embarrassingly unqualified candidates because we have large numbers of civically-illiterate citizens. People supporting Trump, Cruz, Carson, et al, apparently don’t know when they misstate facts, don’t know when proposals they are applauding (deporting 11 million Mexicans, only allowing Christian Syrians to enter the country, etc.) are impossible or unconstitutional or both.

I am convinced that the voters responding to the ignorance, nationalism and racism being delivered by the “clown car” candidates are a minority. Most Americans are better–and smarter– than that.

The question, however, is: who is more likely to vote?


  1. I don’t know who will vote if everyone thinks that the system is rigged. Good question and you’re preaching to the choir.

  2. We need a huge voter registration and “get out the vote” drive.
    How do we make that happen?

  3. What we need is action by the Justice Department to break up the news media monopolies, and then we need for Congress to rein in cable “news” and for the public to insist that some actual journalism be practiced.

  4. Jan, you make an excellent point. I would suggest: 1) People read the voter registration statutes for Indiana as they presently are written; 2) Organize to qualify people to register voters; 3) Make sure people have the right qualifications credentials, and other paperwork to register folks; schedule walk-around registration for door-to-door efforts as well as at gatherings such as holding registration “events,” churches, etc. 4) Make sure the registrations are by people at least in pairs; 5) Document everything; 6) Submit the registrations in timely fashion.
    As for a get-out-the vote effort, again: 1) Figure a schedule of early voting and places (I think it’s just City-County; My ignorance: do we have any other places at which to vote early?) 2) Have a weekly bus or van trip during early voting to take folks to the place or places to vote; and 3) Have as many people as possible available to drive such vehicles on election day.
    Finally, have some lawyers available on election day to answer some sort of “hotline” for problems anyone encounters. (For early voting, lawyers should be available, too.)
    In the meantime, there could be Civics Lessons—The Good Professor could give one or a few, as could others—to provide information about what offices are up for election, etc.
    I volunteer to do some of the stuff once we get into the spring.
    No one would—or should—be asked their political leanings. I don’t care for whom the person intends to vote. Also, it is illegal in Indiana to place conditions on or offer inducements to vote. I would cringe if someone wore a New York Yankees cap or jersey, but even fans of the Evil Empire have the right to vote.
    After the election, if there is need for a challenge, we have a paper trail on our machines (last I knew) in Marion County.

  5. Oh—and publicize this information so people will know where and how to register and where and what they need to vote.
    Whoops, forgot a biggie: If people do not have the proper ID to vote in Indiana, there should be a similar organized effort to provide those folks with the documents and the means by which each can request her or his records.

  6. I have repeatedly watched the long lines at movie theaters overnight here with the premier of the new Star Wars movie; all young, voter-age adults. Are they as interested in what is going on around them as they are in what is happening in their fantasy, outer-space mind-set? Can they multi-task their brains to be as interested in saving this city, state and country as they are to keep an eye on the other-worldly Darth Vader? Would they stand in line to register to vote..or to vote if they are registered? Did they watch the “Lying With Impunity” debate as closely as they watched the movie last night? Do they know their attention and their actions are needed to save themselves and that they cannot protect us from the living Darth Vader in the form of Donald Trump if they ignore reality?

    And yes, I do remember Sheila is a Star Wars fan. Myself, I prefer Stephen King’s scary books and movies; they distract me briefly from the lies and distortions coming from the Republican party. I need the distraction; like Sheila, I worked through the Mayor Bill Hudnut administration in a division which was part of the the Mayor’s Office and monitored federal funds into multi-service, senior and health centers throughout Marion County. We worked in a Republican administration that didn’t need lies to obtain votes; Bill Hudnut was elected four times, a total of SIXTEEN years in the Mayor’s Office with steady assistance and improvement for residents. He was the Mayor of the People we needed then and need even more at this time.

    A few days ago I received a newsletter from Democracy For America containing a poll allowing me to vote for the Democratic candidate of my choice – the first (probably unofficial) poll I have been asked to participate it. The results arrived yesterday; more than 271,000 cast votes, Bernie Sanders received 87% of them. All of this with only social media providing his truthful campaign platform; reported to be 1% of media time vs. Trump’s 81%. Can we maintain this level of support with so little access to information and slay the living, lying Darth Vader in the form of Donald Trump. He is the primary source of lies and the primary target for annihilation.

  7. Can someone enlighten me on the new state ruling of candidates needing 500 signatures to appear on the ballot in each of the counties of Indiana. This is for national as well as state candidates I believe. Why is this the case?

  8. We are deluded if we think this is serious debate. It isn’t. This is TV/media entertainment. Trump knows it and is good at it. Bush may or may not get it, but he makes for terrible entertainment. Facts don’t matter much in this story line, ratings/polls do. The big unknown seems to be the question of what happens when reality TV meets an election.

  9. Sheila, your statement : “I am convinced that the voters responding to the ignorance, nationalism and racism being delivered by the “clown car” candidates are a minority. Most Americans are better–and smarter– than that.”

    I certainly hope you are correct about them being in the minority, but their followers are the ones that are yelling the loudest and may just outnumber the sane Republican voters.

    As I mentioned a day or two ago – I believe Republicans will vote for one of their crazy candidates before they would ever consider voting for a knowledgable and experienced Democratic candidate. They refuse to recognize that they have been manipulated by the plotocrats and faux media.

  10. Our pervasive media over serves us sports drama, for sure. We are issued home teams in every sport imaginable and our tribal instinct is to accept them, root for them through thick or thin, brag about their imagined strengths and blame their weaknesses on the officials.

    It’s everyplace you look because billionaire owners have millionaire players to support and media attention pays those bills for them.

    If sports don’t float your boat then soap operas, TV evangelists or “reality” shows are there to give you dreams to root for.

    Oh yeah, there’s that cute blond on TV who said something about Syria and something else about bad cops. Bad cops! They’re on our team! Blame it on the officiating.

    Good fans don’t hear lies. They hear dogma. They hear what makes their dim world seem real.

    Is there hope for democracy? Barely at best.

    Republicans were smart to fill the clown car to the very limit. Clowns trade places in the headlines every day and in the end fans don’t remember who said what only that Republican faces are on the box and they’re talking about stuff.

    I wish someone would give me something that holds up to even casual cognitive scrutiny that legitimizes the clowns, so I keep asking but nobody responds. We want what we want because Republicans told us to.

    Swing voters and turnout are our only hope. As there are so few swing voters left in the stands turnout is the last man standing. Republicans know this and are counting on keeping people at home or as a last ditch effort outside of the polling place.

    They hate democracy. They love their home team.

  11. At what point in time did truth enter the equation? Give a dog a bad name and then kill it. That was the mantra from 1620 unto this day. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. Worked then. It’ll work again.

    Imagine how this nation would look if Pilgrims adapted native ways instead of supplanting them with the same things that had ruined their homeland. Now they’ve ruined the whole world. But the dragon flies won’t mind. ( For those who may doubt this, evidences recently surfaced which indicate human presence in the Americas stretching back hundreds of thousands of years.)

  12. “I don’t know who will vote if everyone thinks that the system is rigged.”

    I know more than a few intelligent people who don’t vote because they feel the system is rigged and their vote won’t matter. (I feel this way, but vote my useless vote anyway. It might matter someday.)

    I know a few more intelligent people who don’t vote because they feel like neither the Republicans or the Democrats represent them, and to vote otherwise is a waste of time. They’re not entirely wrong either.

    It’s very scary.

  13. I watched the debate and you would think the Republicans were running against President Obama. The Republican Marketing Campaign is to blow the dog whistle about Obama. I did not, I say again, I did not hear one comment, or firm proposal on the economy, pollution or income equality. The line is Obama has wrecked the country, but I suspect they could not provide any specifics. It was all about how I will be tougher with Putin, or who will bomb ISIS more.

    These Republican candidates are a hollow collection of zeros. The winner is proclaimed by who bellowed the loudest.

    JoAnn, I was also happy to see the result of the Democracy For America poll – A total sweep for Bernie. Feel the Bern.

  14. Lies and misrepresentations in order to secure votes from an ignorant and/or unwary electorate too busy with the latest version of Star Wars or its digital gadgets to be attentive to details in political debates are apparently destined to be the norm rather than an anomaly these days, but, thankfully, there is a backlash brewing among those of us who are awake. My local newspaper here in Florida, a Republican paper in this 2 – 1 Republican county, editorializes this morning (via an earlier editorial imported from the Kansas City Star in re the latest Republican “debate”) as I will briefly quote from in the following.

    The piece is entitled “GOP’s schoolyard brawl” and starts like this: “Carly Fiorina projected herself as Margaret Thatcher. Jeb Bush projected himself as mostly ineffective. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump argued with one another like junior high school kids who think they’re the smartest ones in the room. Yes, it was another entertaining debate of the GOP’s best and brightest. You know, the people who are vying to be the next leader of the free world. . . . ”

    The imported editorial as re-editorialized then proceeds to put all of the Republican candidates down as Little Leaguers in a major league ball game. I watched the whole dreary exchange (aka Republican debate) and thought Jeb’s biggest mistake in a night of fumbling was in telling Trump “You can’t insult your way to the presidency,” this from a candidate with single poll digits to a candidate leading with 42 percent in the polls.

    It is clear to me that while Trump may not be able to insult his way to the presidency that he nevertheless may insult his way into the nomination by a major political party for the presidency, and that is scary enough to keep the thoughtful awake nights as one contemplates a Trump in the Oval Office with access to the red button that starts an atomic war, a button only a president can push, among other such opportunities to commit mayhem.

    If we Democrats are forced into participation via the Lakoffian framing of the “politics of fear” used so effectively by Republicans from George Bush (WMD) onward, then try this one on for size. How would you like to have any one of these Republican candidates within 10 miles of that button? What is our collective tolerance for risk (as stock brokers ask putative investors)? Such a prospect exceeds my tolerance to a point of total intolerance, especially when there are alternatives, like voting for Democrats across the board, which I intend to do.

  15. When King George and Jefferson Davis tried to lead the country towards the aristocrat right we thumped them soundly. When Hitler and Mussolini tried to lead the world to the oligarchic right we thumped them soundly. There is trend here.

    We can, IMO, limit the next thumping to the polls but only if we play our cards right. If we don’t take that stand here and now there’s no telling what escalation would lead to.

  16. In the news today: Putin praised Trump. Trump praises Putin. Republicans must believe that America is the new USSR.

    And to think we were worried about them conquering us militarily.

  17. To Jan and Mark – all these activities are done, by the parties and candidates. Choose your party and candidate(s) and volunteer. The appparatus is in place. Don’t reinvent it. As for get out the vote: again the parties have plans in place. Volunteer. Finally, all 3 parties have teams of lawyers on Election Day. MOST IMPORTANTLYcall the party of your choice GHQ and volunteer to serve as
    a clerk, judge or inspector at the polls. Also volunteer to be the precinct chair or vice hair. There are more than 500 precincts in Marion County. We need 9 people in each precinct. In addition there needs to be many ward chairs.
    Thanks to the county GOP early voting only happens at CC bldg. Another way to limit turnout.
    As to proper ID – again thanks to the GOP and Todd Rokita – extra effort is needed to obtain proper ID. Be a volunteer to aid those.
    MJane – the 500 signatures are for federal offices, by Congressional District.
    Remember, only two elected officials have been prosecuted for election
    fraud. Not thousands of minorities. Two Republicans.
    Lots of education needed about the mechanics of elections. Many volunteers needed.

  18. I have to agree with Ginny – this comedy is entirely media-driven. Even MSNBC and/or Maddow are selective or distort things solely for ratings. They don’t care and their jobs depend on not caring.

    If you pay close attention to the commercials during network news, or the ads in the NYT and its ilk, you’ll notice that they’re all for things like electric scooters, retirement communities, and centrum silver. The only way to reach the 18-35 crowd is through social media; and two or three viral memes that were anti-Trump and anti-Cruz would completely change the poll numbers.

  19. I am an editor for two Union newsletters and I’m wondering if you will let me reprint this in my January and Jan/Feb issues?

  20. A dose of Trump for Trump. Besides his outrageous statements and conduct, does anyone else notice how Trump raises his head back to look down his nose on his listeners? He even does it to talk show hosts while lowering his eyelids to give others his self-satisfied look of “I’m always judging you and I’m better than you”. He’s supposed to be a personal friend of Barbara Walters, but he even did it to her during his interview last night.

    As for the issue of lying, if these candidates hear some of this misinformation and disinformation on right-wing news outlets, they repeat it as fact. That got Mitt Romney in trouble on several occasions, most notably his claim that 47% of folks depend on government assistance. You’d think they’d be smart enough – at a minimum – to check the information before embarrassing themselves on camera. But, like you, I don’t think they care. They think most voters don’t follow local, state, national, and international affairs closely enough to know the difference between facts and fiction. They’re right. For example, even though I’m a news junkies, I’d never heard of some of those generals Fiorina named. It IS up to journalists to set the record straight. Thank God for the fact-checkers. I hope journalists use them in addition to their own research to fact check candidates AND to share the results of their research with the public at large.

  21. A short while ago I received a message from my ex-daughter-in-law asking if I had seen the post on Facebook saying Hillary stated she wants to bomb the desert till it glows? I responded with the truth but she is a staunch Republican and daughter of one of this city’s local 1%. Doubt she will believe anything I said; I learned this with her comments about all those victims of Katrina all being lazy blacks who didn’t work, lived on welfare and were looting and killing in New Orleans. All that family’s multi-millions can’t buy common sense or the ability to believe the truth. It isn’t only the uneducated Republicans who believe the lies; the wealthy have the same mind-set.

  22. Along with Sheila’s original post, what we believe and act on always has consequences. If we believe the facts, and we integrate them properly, we end up with all kinds of constructive things to do, some questions and more to think about. When we believe nonsense and act on it, that leads down very different rabbit trails with all kinds of different outcomes, many of which are not just dysfunctional but destructive.

    I just read about the nonsense in Virginia where a teacher conducted a calligraphy lesson in which students were asked to copy Arabic. The strange weirdness from the public that ensued was something to behold. The ignorant reaction gave rise to accusations of “indoctrination” to someone accusing the district of giving away “the Lord’s time” and the shutting down of the district out of fear of vandalism and other angry white people terrorism. Now, there is ignorance in action with it’s destructive consequences. You can read the story at

  23. Lord, Stuart, sometimes I get so tired. The WISH TV news reported that story this morning as the original complaining mother stating the translation said that Muslims pray to the same God as Christians. Other parents had their own view of the translation which the news also reported was a lesson plan from a textbook “Religions of the World”. I “think” they decided to use a different lesson plan from the book hoping to calm down irate parents. Unless and until we see the book or the calligraphy with translations, we will never know the truth. Personally; I don’t care and I see it as another southern illiterate, snake-handling, holy-roller rant like Kim Davis in Kentucky.

    We are dealing locally with three rural schools systems shutting down early for winter – or Christmas – break (I have heard both terms) due to threats being posted that students will be harmed. Whoever posted the threats only got the kids one extra day added to their break; probably a hoax but authorities are taking no chances. Happy Holidays, y’all

  24. I guess that’s Islamic terrorism once removed. But what the heck. Blame it on ISIS, not on ignorant angry white people. Never directly on the contagion of ignorant angry white people. They might feel bad.

  25. Wayne—I am not sure the parties really are doing this. At least I have not discerned any such actions with committed enthusiasm. We have to do tings independent of parties—or were they called factions by the Framers? The irony was that, as Madison and Hamilton decried factionalism, they (1) created a system that weighed inherently toward a two-“party” model and (2) were organizing themselves into what would become a two party model. People must try to act independently of the two “major political parties”—as they are described in Indiana Code—to act on an independent basis. That was what was beneficial about the League of Women Voters—and not networks who profit from commercials for dog food (or, to be fair, cat food)—when that organization sponsored the Presidential debates. Also, I debated in high school and college. These are not really debates.

  26. Parties are sort of a practicality. We went many decades with two with more benefit than disruption IMO. I personally don’t think that they are a significant source of the problems today.

    Our problem is the media centered culture that they are forced to operate within today. Republicans proved to the detriment of the country that celebrity is the be all and end all today. My worry is that the only way to fight that fire is with the same fire.

    We need to get back to democracy and the path today goes squarely through the Democratic Party. Will it always? I doubt it. That party is also learning today and some of the dysfunction that the GOP found useful will be employed by Democrats too.

    So we are required to be less team oriented and more individual oriented. Personal principles rather than party platform.

    Our culture needs to evolve to re-adapt to a changed environment.

  27. @Mark and Pete,

    Mark: “People must try to act independently of the two “major Political parties.””
    Pete: “Our culture needs to evolve to re-adapt to a changed environment.”

    You’re both right. We have to shift our thinking from the West to the East. From Clausewitz to Sun Tzu.

    The U.S. is involved in a DOMESTIC NETWAR and it is being executed by the Republican Party. Donald Trump is only prematurely forcing the issues. I’ve mentioned the following to all of you before:

    “Go, a product of the East, may offer more insights than chess, the favorite of the West. So Western strategic thought, as epitomized by Clausewitz and Jomini, may have to give ground to Sun Tzu, the great Chinese strategic thinker. One key difference between the two is that Clausewitz tended to downplay the importance of informational factors, believing that the problem of “friction” would vitiate any advantages won by means of a “knowledge strategy” (See Handel, 1991). Sun Tzu, however, held that information dominance was crucial to victory, tactical or strategic, and that control of information could create a condition of “entropy” in the opposing camp.

    Sun Tzu also held that the key to victory lay more in position than maneuver, arguing that the possession of key points (not “fronts” but points) could lead to victory even in the ABSENCE OF BATTLE. This idea runs counter to Clausewitz’s view that victory could only be won through an unflinching willingness to engage in bloody fighting for territorial dominance.

    In the information age, Sun Tzu may thus provide a more appropriate foundation for the development of a new strategic paradigm. Just as in many areas of activity, a “Pacific Century” is emerging, so key advice for strategic thinkers may be, “go East” (as opposed to Horace Greeley’s advice to go West).

    In our view, a new paradigm for conflict is needed that incorporates the various IMPLICATIONS OF THE INFORMATIONAL AGE. Broadly put, conflict may be moving beyond attrition and /or annihilation to a new phase in which “information dominance” (Arquilla, 1994) may allow for victory through DISRUPTION. In the future, it may be likely that forces disrupted cannot fight with any degree of effectiveness. Certainly the Persian Gulf War provides an example of a very large, well-armed military that was almost completely disrupted because of strikes at its key COMMUNICATION NODES.”

    “The Advent of Netwar” by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt ” (Prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense by the National Defense Research Institute of the Rand Corporation, 1996) p. 101

    We’re engaged in a domestic VIRAL netwar. The Racist Extreme Right, now in control of the Republican Party, is totally invested in Clausewitz. The Pro-Democracy forces cannot match up to them if they use Clausewitz because it will only create another Civil War or a Race War. So we have to continue to back off, refusing to SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER.

    Our only chance is to switch to Sun Tzu and his instructions in the Art of War. In that way we can fight back and still have a chance of saving America without “bloodshed.” We all have to take advantage of the Sun Tzu Art of War site: It’s by far the best.

    I’m one of the nine featured speakers at the 1st Annual Conference on Sun Tzu’s Art of War because I understand Sun Tzu and have successfully disrupted, while in Dallas from 1964-1991, the likes of Ross Perot, Ariel Sharon, Robert Strauss, and President George Bush in their disguised political moves.

    Sun Tzu is about formation and movement. That’s why I have never lost. In 1980, I formed the first mixed sports management firm: VICTORY SPORTS MANAGEMENT with probably the greatest defender in the history of the NFL.

    Donald Trump and his “Tea Party” can destroy, but it can’t win and, consequently, in my book are losers. What happens if the NFL players strike against the mounting racism? General strikes are what brought France to its knees in the late 30’s. Are we big enough fools in the U.S. to create that same scenario again? I hope not.

  28. With due respect, you’re missing the point.

    The Republicans aren’t running to represent specific political thinking. They’re running to substantiate an entire alternative epistemology that doesn’t subscribe in the first place to the very idea that facts exist.

    This sounds like a sarcastic characterization, It’s not. This is literally the case. They’re all running to say that facts are matters of personal belief; that a sincerely held belief makes something factual; that a system of beliefs such as Creationism deserves parity with empirical facts; and that empirical systems of thought are nothing but belief systems , i.e. religions.

    In short, for them there is nothing except belief. The more forcefully they pronounce a belief, the stronger they seem to people who misunderstand and resent the “elitism” of fact-based thinking. These people dislike being told facts such as, for example, climate change is real, or homosexuality isn’t a choice. They like it when their leaders exercise this belligerent anti-empiricism because it’s a vengeful blow against the frightening authority of facts in the hands of social engineers who want to tell them how to live, think, and worship.

    There’s no such thing as a lie for people for whom there’s no such thing as a fact. The most committed among them will follow the ones who lie to them the loudest and the most shamelessly.

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