An Example is Clearly Needed

Enough. This has got to stop somewhere.

I’ve had it with the casual dishonesty. Lying is a standard feature in American political life, and I for one am just flat sick of it. The profusion of malignant bullshit  in American political life is a national disgrace. They lie to each other, they lie to the people, they lie about having lied. They lie all the time-they lie, they obfuscate, they “can’t remember”-and the overwhelming majority of the time, they get away with it. They get away with it, because the laws are both narrowly written, and because anyone pressing a criminal charge against another politician had better be very sure to watch their own words-and rearview mirror- very carefully. Therefore, the status quo is maintained. Central to the effort to maintain this status quo is the importance of keeping up appearances, since even a cursory examination will start to reveal the awful truth-politicians pretend to tell the truth and we pretend to believe them. Which brings us to the point-if we are going to have public servants lie to us, they need to be very damn sure that they are going to do it well enough to avoid drawing our attention to it. Because, we must crush those overtly caught lying, just to maintain the fiction that lying is an aberrant exception in US political identity. They must be crushed when caught lying, if we are not to admit that we are a nation of liars.

Which brings us to DNI James Clapper. He was given the question in advance, chose to lie about it in testimony, AND declined an opportunity to amend his remarks. What are we supposed to do? Pretend we don’t notice? This is the most egregious example of bald-faced out-front lying to Congress that I can remember in recent years, and to tolerate this kind of flagrant dishonesty is to encourage it. An example is clearly needed; not the kind of sentence that Richard Helms wore as a badge of honor, but the kind that would truly strike fear and give pause to those considering lying to the Congress. Judge Sirica comes to mind, and the efficacy of his method in dealing with unrepentant criminals like Liddy cannot be denied: a twenty-year sentence has a way of punching through one’s sense of entitlement. And it’s not just that he lied; it’s that he’s still lying, and forcing us to notice.

It’s sad enough that the people of the US have become so accustomed to contemptuous dishonesty from their government that they expect it. And before one shrugs in overwhelmed resignation, and retreats into the belief that it has always been this way, no, it has not. Long gone are the days when the reputation of the US was such that a US president’s offer to provide evidence to back up his statements was dismissed as unnecessary, but not quite so far gone that they are beyond recall.

Clearly, an example needs to be made. I hereby nominate James Clapper for a starring role.

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