The Corner

Politics & Policy

Liars and Bull**** Artists

People say Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both liars, and that’s correct in the sense that they both make a general principle of avoiding the truth. To be precise, though, Hillary is a liar, while Trump is something a bit different: a bull**** artist. (I’ll use the abbreviation BSA to save on asterisks; we’ll need them later on.) One of the many ways you can tell: When Hillary is caught in a lie, she doubles down on it, but when Trump is caught in a lie, he casually switches to a different one.

A liar is usually trying to get himself out of something, whereas a BSA is trying to talk you into something. A liar has the soul of a cheap lawyer; a BSA has the soul of a used-car salesman. A liar is your creepy cousin; a BSA is your garrulous uncle. Liars are calculated, pettifogging, self-righteous; BSAs are spontaneous, audacious, grandiose, roguish. If you believe Sigmund Freud, that old master BSA, a liar is anal retentive, while a BSA is anal expulsive.

In the long run, liars destroy their souls with the constant need for wider and deeper concealment, and they end up nasty and sullen. None of this happens to BSAs, because they just don’t give a damn. That’s why the BSA type is more popular, though you wouldn’t want to be locked in a room with either one for four years, given the choice (a regrettably important caveat this year).

Here’s another way of looking at it. In 1979 the Village Voice published perhaps the only good article in its history: “Creeps and A**holes: Character Is Destiny,” by Susan Shapiro. (Content warning: The Voice does not use asterisks.) In brief, Shapiro’s heuristic is that all of humanity divides neatly into the two classes mentioned in the title. Using this scheme, Hillary is a creep, in fact an alpha creep, while Trump is an alpha a**hole. Unfortunately, to be a good president, you need elements of both, and that’s the dilemma that our republic faces today.

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