If the revelation that an ambitious politician is saying one thing to an audience and something else to another comes as a shock to you, you may want to come out more.
Although the extent and amount of their lies leads to speculation that politicians are born with a particular laryngeal function that facilitates speech from both sides of the mouth, it is only because of the very public nature of their work that their falsehood gets so much attention.
The phenomenon is actually ubiquitous. The benefits of instrumental falsehood – the deliberate narrative of lies to advance one’s own interests – are so great that only a few sacred figures in human history have been able to resist temptation. And even then, we learn that history probably lied about their truthfulness. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
So it’s not exactly shocking to discover, in a new book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told other GOP leaders at a conference call a few days after the January 6 Capitol riot 2021. that he would tell then-President Trump that he would be sued for his role and should resign.
It was embarrassing for Mr. McCarthy that although he vehemently denied that he had said the words, it turned out that someone had an audiotape. But even though this lie was quickly exposed, we do not know if the more material – what he actually said during the call – was sincere.
It is very possible that Mr. McCarthy fully intended at the time to give Mr. Trump the full force of his disapproval. He would not have been the first critic to get cold feet in the volcanic presidential presence. The French have a term, “the spirit of the stairs,” which describes a line that occurs to you after you leave an assembly. Mr. McCarthy could have channeled the spirit into the Oval Office waiting area.
But it says something about the unease in the soul of the Republican Party itself that so many of its prominent members say one thing behind Mr. Trump’s back and another to his face.
Democrats talk a lot about the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. But the continuing bigger and more consequence lie is the fundamental dishonesty at the heart of the relationship between the Republican Party and Mr. Trump himself.
It may not come as a shock to you, dear reader, to learn that the burning desire of a large part of the Republican Party’s top leaders, its large donors, business leaders who are desperately longing for a Republican recovery, and many of the party’s most prominent supporters in the media and elsewhere, are for Mr. Trump to break the habits of his life and walk away quietly.
It is a desire expressed as fervently in private as it is diligently and deftly avoided in public. But the big lie in this double relationship requires that they broadcast more, minor, cascading fictions.
With the exception of a few demented types in Congress and the media, they do not believe the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump. They do not believe the January 6 riot was a legitimate act of protest or a work done by federal agents, provocateurs. They fear that a Trump-led Republican ticket will give them a lose-lose proposal in 2024: Either he continues his well-established pattern of losing the party election – the midterm elections in 2018, the parliamentary elections in 2020, the Senate in Georgia in 2021 – or he wins and condemns them to even more, potentially even more chaotic four years of his characteristic leadership.
The prayerful, desperate hope for most of them is that he somehow does not line up again in 2024, a wish that seems less and less fulfilled every day. Some of them hope, with or without malice, that he might be too old or somehow physically unable to run again.
Of course, they say none of this where it can be heard and passed on to the man himself. They dare not risk his anger or retaliation from voters for whom the man, not the party, is what matters.
But the Republican Party is too important a political institution to continue to be a tool for this great deception. The mess the other party has made of the land in 15 months is too extensive to risk the chance of further damage. There are too many talented Republicans who uphold high conservative ideals while embracing the populist values that give energy to the party’s base, understand the need to abide by the US Constitution, and believe in the importance of a Republican victory more than the satisfaction of Their own self – complaining that it was willingly again chained to the vanity of a cynical opportunist.
Will anyone at least tell that truth?
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