The Corner

Politics & Policy

It’s Not Just an Implausible or Morally Wrong Lie. A Stupid One, Too.

Charles C. W. Cooke finds Donald Trump lies like a child — offering nonsensical excuses such as the suggestion that former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields was carrying a pen when he approached her, which could easily have been “a little bomb.” David French notes that in a campaign subculture of perpetual lying, “those who care about reality are mocked as suckers — as losers.”

There’s one other odd aspect about the Trump campaign’s lies worth noting. Let’s observe that a lot of — all? — politicians lie. Let’s observe that there are times when lying may even be necessary or morally right. As former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden writes in his new book, Playing to the Edge:

The CIA is asked to do things that no one else is asked to do, indeed things no one else is allowed to do. I know of no other federal bureaucracy, for example, that has an office dedicated to disguises or another one called “flaps and seals” (the latter to access materials without leaving a trace).

The CIA (and our government) determined that the end (knowing what’s in sealed envelopes) is worth the means (immorally or illegally opening messages not meant for their eyes).

When you see a politician lie, you can generally see the reasoning or motive behind it, or the end that they’re trying to achieve. When a pro-choice politician says federal funding for Planned Parenthood is a matter of “protecting women’s health,” it’s because they don’t want people to know or think about the fact that PP performs about 327,000 abortions in a year. Similarly, when PP defenders say the organization provides mammograms (it doesn’t), it’s because they want you, the public, to think of Planned Parenthood in a warm and fuzzy way, and not in the least bit associated with a controversial topic like abortion.

But for some of Trump’s lies, the benefits are almost impossible to discern. When Trump asks of Fields, “How do you know those bruises weren’t already there?,” whom does he help? Does he think that the American electorate has a strong majority who believe women frequently create bruises on themselves to falsely accuse others of abuse?

Keep in mind, Corey​ Lewandowski already made a glaring, easily disproven lie, publicly telling Fields, “You are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.”

When Trump suggests she’s lying about the whole encounter, and never felt any real pain because “wouldn’t you think that she would have yelled out a scream or something?,” or when he describes her as “grabbing” — how does that benefit him, or Lewandowski or his campaign? Unless you see Lewandowski as the key central Jenga block keeping the entire tower from collapsing, why is it worth Trump going all-out to defend Lewandowski and insisting Fields changed her story when she hasn’t?

There is no massive pro-Lewandowski constituency in the GOP electorate or the electorate at large. To the extent the public knows of him, he’s “that guy who grabbed that reporter and now faces battery charges.” The insistence that Lewandowski did nothing wrong, and merely intervened to save Trump from a delusional self-harming woman who might have been carrying a bomb, is not just wildly implausible or morally wrong lie; it’s a stupid lie.

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