Pundit Wire

Clinton and Corbyn: The Fine Old Art of Dissembling

At the No More War event at Parliament Square in August. A Creative Commons stock photo. You don’t hear the verb ‘to dissemble’ so much these days, although Edgar Allan Poe knew just when to use it. Its synonyms include pretend, deceive, feign, masquerade, sham, bluff, pose, and counterfeit. It’s all about projecting a false if not dishonest impression, with a view to misleading.

Dissembling may have drifted towards desuetude, giving way to the more robust idea of ‘lying’, but the practice is alive and well. This week sees momentous examples from two ambitious politicians on either side of the Atlantic, both with a problem. How to deflect public attention from what they have really been doing, as their doings look embarrassing when subjected to closer scrutiny?

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Bernie has it. Trump has it. Joe has it. Does Hillary?

I respect and admire Clinton. So do many of Biden’s potential backers. They’re just imagining the damage that could be done when billions of dollars’ worth of attack ads drill “Hillary thinks the rules don’t apply to her” and “Hillary thinks she’s above the law” into voters’ brains. Accuracy will be irrelevant. They will be attached to a narrative “out there” purporting to connect the dots between Whitewater files that rematerialized, misremembered Bosnian sniper fire, Benghazi and, now, documents that weren’t classified that she didn’t send on personal email and didn’t scrub from her personal server.

What Biden has, what nervous Democrats fear Clinton lacks, is authenticity, the new It factor. The old It was ideological (Do they hate big government or racism as much as I do?), positional (Are they with me on guns or climate change?), demographic (Do they care about people like me?) and personal (Who I want to have a beer with?). The new It is ontological: Who’s real?

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Ruthless

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.48.16 PMIn her August 16 column in the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus paraphrases Carly Fiorina from 2008, saying something positive about Hillary Clinton… But then in addition I see quotation marks and the words, punctiliously noted from seven years ago, “That’s off the record.”

Wow, reminds me of the Wild West days of Spanish journalism of the early 1990s, when scribes would quote embassy officials of various countries, “…and he said, off the record [sic], ‘yes no maybe…’” I remember helping one journalist find someone to quote back then, and then never being forgiven (me!) because of the offending violation of basic rules of decency.

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There They Go Again

unnamed-3This thing called the “international community” rises to clown-like behavior when Haiti has elections. They always did, and I hope they’ll give it up one day.

After six murders, scores of beatings, and one third of the ballots trashed in the streets, Haiti’s legislative elections August 9 were pronounced “a success” by the UN, Brazil, France, Canada, Spain, the United States, the EU, and the OAS. Read: “Good enough for Haitians.”

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Bulldoze the Lincoln Memorial?

Lincoln MemorialThe state Democratic parties of Iowa, Georgia, Connecticut and Missouri have recently voted to remove the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their traditional Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners. The reason is that Jefferson and Jackson were both white males who owned slaves.

As Andy McGuire, Iowa Democratic chairwoman declared: “It is important to change the name of the dinner to align with the values of our modern-day Democratic Party: inclusiveness, diversity and equality.”
The Democratic parties of at least five other states are considering the same change.

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Trumpery

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_3_(cropped)The American Heritage Dictionary defines “trumpery” as follows:
1. Showy but worthless finery; bric-a-brac.
2. Nonsense; rubbish.
3. Deception; trickery; fraud.

In all, not a bad word to describe Donald Trump’s campaign for president.

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Republicans have the best bullies

mk_trump_72015_539_332_c1It’s too soon to know how badly Donald Trump damaged himself by belittling John McCain’s war record on July 18 in Iowa. After all, George W. Bush wasn’t hurt in the 2000 South Carolina primary when his operatives rumored that McCain had an illegitimate black child, nor was W hurt in the 2004 election when his Swift Boat surrogates defamed John Kerry’s war record, nor was McCain’s campaign for the 2008 Republican nomination derailed by his reputation as a bully and hothead.

Trump himself has until now been helped, not harmed, by insulting his GOP rivals as losers, clowns, dummies and lightweights. But his McCain slam gives other candidates an opening to mime indignation. For them, it can’t come a moment too soon, because Trump was on the verge of owning the machismo brand.
Photo by L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via Reuters

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“Have you no decency, sir?

Donald_Trump_March_2015So Donald Trump says that Sen. John McCain, who was a POW for over five years during the Vietnam War, who was tortured horribly during his confinement and who refused an offer of early release is “not a war hero.”

I am reminded of what a lawyer named Joseph Welch said over 60 years ago to another blustering bombastic bully who, to the shame of the GOP, was also a Republican: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

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