The Corner

Lying: Does It Matter?

At this point, few people deny that Hillary Clinton lies, regularly. Her supporters are apt to shrug and say, “Yeah, so what?” Their attitude is “Lie back and think of Roe v. Wade.”

Donald Trump is as regular and as shocking a liar. Consider three episodes, only.

For many years, Trump posed as his own spokesman, calling himself John Miller or John Baron (or Barron). Under this guise, he would brag to reporters about his sex life, or adulterous life.

He admitted this in a court case. But this year, perhaps forgetting that he had already admitted it, he denied it.

At the same time he was denying it, some of his supporters were celebrating it, saying, “Ha, he goofed on the press, how cool!” They loved him more than ever. But they were not on the same page as their man: who was denying it. Though he had admitted it before.

There’s an old line: “I cannot tell a lie because I don’t have a good enough memory.”

During the recent GOP convention, Trump talked about the location of that convention. “I wanted it to be here. And they had lots of choices. I wanted it to be in Ohio. I recommended Ohio.”

The Republicans’ decision to hold their convention in Cleveland was announced in July 2014. Did Trump determine or influence the decision? This is a small thing — relatively small thing — but isn’t it telling?

Episode No. 3: During a GOP primary debate, Trump said of Vladimir Putin, “I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates. And we did very well that night.”

“We did very well that night” is a typical Trump touch. As is the lie. Trump was interviewed in the U.S., Putin in Russia.

Now Trump is saying that he has never met Putin.

Perhaps Trump is a fantasist, more than a proper liar. Ted Cruz has expressed this view. He says that Trump could say one thing and then the dead opposite, and pass a lie-detector test each time. Others say, “Nah, he’s a knowing, calculated liar.”

I don’t know. I’m not a shrink. But I do know that many people are all too casual about habitual lying in their leaders. They are blasé to a fault.

No one should expect the Trump army to care about Trump’s lies. The Fifth Avenue principle applies. Trump said that he could go out and shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and his supporters wouldn’t budge. That is absolutely true.

But what about people like Paul Ryan and Tom Cotton — those sterling individuals — and all the conservative writers who are supporting Trump, and excusing him, and rationalizing him? Does Trump’s lying matter at all? Is it one more thing to be overlooked or spun? “Lie back and think of Hillary”? “Lie back and think of the Supreme Court”?

Character has long been fundamental to conservatism, but it has been ditched this year, and that is no light or unconsequential forfeit.

In the Democratic party, the Clintons have been corrupting, for 25 years. Trumpism has corrupted the GOP and the Right, grossly.

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