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The Hollow Man and the Pathological Liar


There’s the apocryphal Indian story where the swami is asked what holds up the world.  When he answers, “A turtle,” the follow-up question becomes, “What’s holding up the turtle?”  And the swami’s answer: “It’s turtles all the way down.”

The Republican presidential ticket isn’t being held up by turtles.  It’s not held up by anything.  It’s nothing all the way down.  It’s nothing all the way down because one of the candidates is a hollow man, empty of any idea that might help the country move forward.  The other is a calculating liar, whose ideas can’t bear scrutiny by any rational means, despite Republican pundits identifying him as the philosophical center of their party.  So much for philosophy.  No wonder their party is losing in the polls.  You can’t keep fooling all of the people all of the time.  Hopefully, by the time people vote, it will be none of the people.

Mitt Romney has delusional thoughts of fixing the economy.  He constantly uses the term, “My plan,” yet his plan is invisible.  He hasn’t released the details because there aren’t any.  Ditto on every other major issue.  Last week when he wanted to demonstrate his smarts on foreign policy, he keep putting his foot in his mouth—as he has done repeatedly during the primaries and throughout his campaign for the presidency.  When was the last time someone said about one of his pronouncements, “That’s a great idea.  It might work.  It might fix the problem.”  No commentator ever says that because there’s nothing to praise, no idea to discuss, nothing to chew on.  Romney’s a total straw man—empty by any measure.

Paul Ryan was brought on board the Republican ticket because Romney is a blank screen (or—to use his boss’s term—an Etch-a-Sketch but changed so often that there’s no image).  Trickle-down economics; increase taxes on the middle class while they’ve still got a little blood in them.  Hasn’t Ryan looked any of the analyses of the consequences of tax cuts supported by the last two Republican presidents?  Was there ever a speech at a party’s convention as full of lies and distortions as Ryan’s?  Does he really believe that people will believe anything a candidate makes up?

Those days are over—kaput—ended on Monday when the airing of Romney’s comment about the 47% of Americans who voted for Obama revealed his true colors.  In a hastily announced mini-press conference, the candidate referred to his 47% remarks as “off-the-cuff,” indicating, still again, that Romney has no control of his syntax, no idea what words mean.  Psychologists say that “off-the-cuff” remarks reveal one’s true feelings.

Furthermore, as someone who voted for Obama four years ago, I resent being called a freeloader and a victim, someone who takes no responsibility for himself.  Though I’m retired, my Social Security (and my other retirement) funds are taxed at more than double Mitt Romney’s rate.  If there’s anyone who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, it’s Mitt Romney, who is convinced that the 13% taxes he paid (for the only year  we can be certain about) are perfectly legal.  Legal, perhaps—but irresponsible.  Totally self-serving and indicative of Republicans who believe that only Democrats should foot the bill for America’s responsibilities.

So it’s shades of Chauncey Gardener (the famous hollow man created by Jerzy Kosinski in his 1970 novel Being There): nothing all the way down. Empty rhetoric, bereft of any genuine ideas about how to solve America’s enormous problems (fiscal responsibility, education, the environment, the infrastructure, immigration, and foreign policy.)

To put it more inelegantly: Bullshit all the way down.

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C.  Email:



Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = Twitter @LarsonChuck.

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