FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Master Class in Lying

by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON

Mitt Romney might be the most brazen political liar since James Polk.   Polk, who was the 11th U.S. president (1845-1849),  lied through his teeth–to Congress,Johnson (Vietnam) and Bush Jr. (Iraq), but Polk had the same audacious, “lying is part of what I do,” disposition as does our current Republican candidate.

If one has any doubt about Mitt Romney’s mendacious temperment, the first presidential debate should have put it to rest.  According to one analyst, Romney let loose with “27 myths in 38 minutes,”  finishing with a big grin after most of these prevarications.  He produced trumped up assertions, false statistics, and wild exaggerations about taxes, energy independence, job creation, the deficit, medicare, “Obamacare,” and military spending.

Should Dante Alighieri came back to life today and produced an updated list of lost souls for the “Inferno” section of his Divine Comedy, Romney would certainly earn a spot in the 8th rung of hell.  That is where Dante placed, among others, the “falsifiers, those who attempted to alter things through lies or alchemy.” Their punishment was “based on horrible…diseases such as rashes, dropsy, leprosy and consumption.”  I suggest that, come the second debate, we all keep a sharp eye on Mr. Romney’s nose and fingertips for signs of leprosy.  By the way, there seems to be a suspicion that Romney  also cheatedduring the first debate. The debate rules say that the candidates can not use “prepared notes.”  However, a video of the debate shows that he had put what looks like a white piece of paper down on his podium, or maybe it was just his handkerchief.

The second debate, scheduled for the 16 October 2012,  will be partially about foreign policy.  On Monday 8 October 2012 Romney gave a speech on foreign affairs.  It should be kept in mind that between the 8th and the 16th he might completely change his positions.  The man has such a flip-flop record that this is quite possible.   However, assuming he doesn’t do that, let’s take a look at just how truthful are his foreign policy statements.

As Robert Parry points out in Consortium News, Romney lied when he said Obama “has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.”  Obama has in fact signed three (South Korea, Panama and Columbia).  He also lied when he said that Obama was “silent” during the suppression of demonstrations in Iran after the reelection of president Amadinejad.  Obama spoke out on multiple occasions.  By the way, one might not approve of NAFTA style trade agreements.  I certainly don’t.  But that does not make Romney’s lies about Obama’s actions acceptable.

Parry goes on to detail how Romney’s accusation that Obama’s foreign policy is “weak” is  groundless.  After all, he is talking about the man who wages war in Afghanistan, helped bring down the dictatorship in Libya, and took down Osama bin Laden.  Parry explains that Romney credits a lot of this to the U.S. military as if Obama had nothing to do with it.  Once more, Obama’s foreign policy has much about it that can be criticized.  Why do it through sheer falsehoods?  Perhaps because Romney actually has no problem with Obama’s actions, but does not want the public to associate them with the president.

Then there is Romney’s sudden embracing of a Palestinian state when just a few weeks ago he described such a goal as “almost unthinkable to accomplish.”   At that time the reason he gave for his position was that Palestinians are not interested in peace.  That was an outrageous lie.  It is hard to believe that he has now  changed his mind.  More likely he is attempting to preclude any charge that he has abandoned the search for peace, even as he asserts that Obama has not displayed leadership toward that same end.

When it comes to the Arab Spring, Obama allegedly missed “an historic opportunity to win new friends and share our values in the Middle East.”  Who would these friends be?  Those fighting against “evil tyrants and angry mobs who seek to harm us.”  This is so much gobbledygook.  Most of the evil tyrants are our longstanding old friends and the angry mobs are the only hope for any governmental improvement.

Parry points out that the real difference between Romney and Obama is that Romney is much more the militarist.  He has embraced neocon advisers, given carte blanche to Israel and verbally attacked Russia as “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”  All of this suggests that between Obama (who is certainly no saint and has plenty of blood on his own hands) and Romney, it is the latter who is more likely to get the nation into yet another war.  As Juan Cole has observed, “… wars and lots of other conflicts are not a foreign policy vision, they are a nightmare.”

So, does this serial falsification work?  Can it actually help get a mythomanic elected president?  It seems that the answer is yes.  According to a Pew Research Center poll taken after the first Obama-Romney debate,  “It’s official.  Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney…erased President Barack Obama’s lead.”  According to a graph of the poll results Romney’s picked up five percentage points to come even with Obama.  64% of voters “thought that Romney was more informative than President Obama.”

The liar is more informative!?  How is that possible?  Well, you start with a lot of ignorance. The ignorance is not a function of lack of intelligence, but a function of lack of accurate contextual knowledge.  As a consequence the level of understanding of the average American about government policy on national issues such as  healthcare, energy independence, job creation, the deficit, military spending and even taxes is considerably lower than their average IQ.  It is even worse when we get to foreign policy and its formulation.

Into the resulting knowledge vacuum comes the misleading statements and assertions of politicians, so-called experts, and media spokesman of all descriptions.  Fox TV has made millions of dollars selling advertising that accompanies biased opinion passed off as fact.  In the end what the majority of Americans think they know about both domestic and foreign policy is based on media hear-say.  Romney’s assertive and stylized lying fits well into this scenario.  And his style also passes for strength and self-confidence.

Romney’s lying is so pervasive, so ever-present, that one starts to wonder if it is pathological.

There is a mental illness characterized by habitual lying.  It goes by the name of Pseudologia Fantastica.  Here are some of the characteristics of this ailment:

The lies told “are not entirely improbable” and “upon confrontation, the teller can admit them to be untrue, even if unwillingly.”  In other words, the liar is aware that he or she is lying.

The lies told cast the teller in a favorable light.

The tendency to lie is a long-lasting one and not the product of the moment.  It reflects an innate trait of the personality.

Well, Romney fits this pattern when it comes to the first two traits.  It is hard to tell about the third.  We will have to await the in-depth biographies that are certain to hit the market in short order.  However, there is no doubt that the man has an easy facility for lying.  One doubts if it keeps him up at night.

When the powerful lie it is a problem for all of us.  That is because we do not usually act on the basis of what is true.  Rather we act on the basis of what we think is true.  When it comes to foreign policy, what the powerful and the media tell us is what most of us accept as true. This distinction between what is true and what we think is true is critically important.  If what we believe is true approximates the reality outside of us, then our plans and actions usually work out.  If, however, what we think is true is off the mark, we can end up walking right off a cliff.

In the last fifty years Americans have been walking off cliffs quite regularly, with the result that millions have been killed and maimed.  They have done so in large part because they have a hard time knowing when they are being lied to, especially about foreign policy.  If the Pew poll cited above is any predictor, nothing is going to change any time soon.  Elect Mitt Romney and that walk toward the cliff might turn into a run.  Reelect Obama, and the cliff will probably remain our self-destructive destination,  but perhaps the pace will be more measured.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA.

Clearance Sale of Vintage
CounterPunch T-Shirts!

We’ve marked down some of CounterPunch’s most popular t-shirts to only $8.00,including the CP shirt featuring Alexander Cockburn’s own scrawl.

More articles by:

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail