The Cover-up Pays

We repeat the nauseous canard that “it is not the crime, but the cover-up” that gets you in trouble in Washington. But that too is often a lie, at least most of the time. Had Eric Holder told the truth about Fast and Furious, the New Black Panther case, or the AP/James Rosen case, he would not be attorney general now.

If Susan Rice had gone on television and confessed the details about the status and recent history of the security measures in Libya, or the true nature of the post-”lead from behind” misadventure, or the spread of post-bin Laden al-Qaeda franchisers in 2012, she might have been out of a job — either by dismissal or by the failure of her president to win reelection. Lying worked. Obama is president. She is national security advisor.

Had Jay Carney confessed that the talking points about Benghazi were doctored from the outset, it might have mattered in the 2012 election. Lying then and now worked.

Why Do Our Best and Brightest Lie?

There are both age-old and more recent catalysts for lying.

One, lying and plagiarism are forms of narcissism. I know fabrications are born out of feelings of inferiority that makes an otherwise fine historian like a Joseph Ellis or a good actor like Brian Dennehy make up an entire war career, replete with tales of personal gallantry. But they persisted in such seemingly destructive behavior because they assumed that they had reached a level of fame and stature that made them immune from the normal accounting laws of the universe. There is no servant running along our triumphant masters when they star on television, muttering to them “Respice te, hominem te memento,” or at least “memento mori.

Sic transit gloria? We would counter with vero possumus!

Two, lying more often than not pays. Take an ethical shortcut and the odds are small that one gets caught. Yes, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Fareed Zakaria were found out. But after brief anguished penance, they reinvented themselves and returned to the level of their prior stature. Perhaps some young journalist one day will do an Ambrose on them, and review all their previous work. But for what purpose? We know they have been dishonest once, and suspect the modus operandi was not a one-time occurrence. But we also know that the purified water in which they swim is not too toxic for liars and the dishonest.

Liars are good at what they do. Eric Holder certainly is. Again, like a shoplifter, why stop when you have mastered the craft? Does anyone think Patrick Fitzgerald is going to come out of retirement to indict Holder the way he did Scooter Libby for a crime that did not exist, and had it existed was committed by Richard Armitage — and known thusly to both Colin Powell and Fitzgerald himself at the outset?

Three, more recently postmodernism has blurred the divide from reality and truth. Tsarnaev is not quite a mass murderer, given his looks and youth. Major Hasan is guilty of work-place violence. For thirty years, the acolytes of fakers like Michel Foucault have taught our elites that truth is socially constructed — a relative thing, a power narrative fabricated by those of the right race, gender, and class to perpetuate their privilege. Howard Zinn could publish fantasies because who was to say that they were entirely wrong, and who would dare suggest that his myths were not put to a good cause?

Note that Maureen Dowd, Fareed Zakaria, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mike Barnicle, and Eric Holder shoot their sometimes false arrows at the right targets. Does it then matter that their missiles were occasionally plastic rather than of authentic Native American wood?

Much of what Barack Obama has weaved about his past girlfriend, his parents’ meeting, his father’s/grandfather’s war service, or his upbringing in Hawaii at one point or another is false. But why would I mention that if not for illiberal political reasons? And what a 59-year-old, rural white guy from the Central Valley calls “truth” may not be so for a young multiracial child coming of age in Hawaii, anguished at having door locks clicked by “typical white” people as he crosses the street.