The Liar In Chief, The Russian Tyrant, And The Electoral College

It is clear that most Republicans have decided to accept that their new president is a pathological liar. The attitude now seems to be along the lines of: “Yes, heh, he does tell amusing whoppers, doesn’t he? Such a character.”

Some have even decided that this characteristic is quaint enough to emulate. The new vice president, for instance, chose to endorse one of his boss’s most egregious lies: which is to say, chose to lie with cheerful abandon himself. When asked whether Trump’s cynical untruth — that “millions of people… voted illegally” — was untrue, Mike Pence had this to say: “Look, I don’t know that is a false statement.”

Well, yes, Michael, you do know. You don’t always have to see something to know it with certainty. You have unimpeachable knowledge, for instance — even without looking in the mirror or feeling your head — that you haven’t in the past few minutes grown horns and a tail. In short: you’re a liar.

Dishonesty is contagious. Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC and once considered relatively decent, also decided he’d experiment with this same monstrous fib.

Now, what if lying isn’t just a quirky, adorable attribute, like stubby fingers or fake hair? What if it matters deeply, when it comes to, say, the safety and integrity of the republic? I ask you to entertain this wacky possibility, just for a moment, before shrugging it off as partisan neurosis.

I pointed out on Saturday that the president-to-be is likely to occupy that office primarily because of radical intervention on the part of Vladimir Putin and James Comey. Yesterday, Paul Krugman came to the same conclusion: “Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?”

Trump of course vehemently denies this: Russia’s helpful subversion of the American electoral process on his behalf. And, by sheer coincidence, this denial proves to be simply the latest in a thematic stream of calculated lies. You see, Donald Trump has been misleading the nation regarding Putin — and his relationship to that autocrat — for years. Let’s revisit some of those falsehoods, which seemed kind of innocuous at the time.

Trump has explained that he has “no relationship with” Putin; he has also stated, “I do have a relationship with him.” One of these has to be a lie, don’t you think?

Trump has insisted that he has “never met” Putin; he has also stated that he has met Putin: “Yes. One time, yes. Long time ago.” Again, both of these cannot be true.

Trump has reported that “he spoke to Putin directly and indirectly.” Here we don’t have a lie, just an oddly cagey revision: “Trump sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, who asked if he’d ever spoken directly to Vladimir Putin. ‘Yeah, I have no comment on that,’ Trump replied. ‘No comment.’ Reminded that he rarely shies away from questions, the presidential candidate added, ‘Yeah, but I don’t want to comment.’”

So, two lies and a nervous evasion. What precisely is Trump trying to hide here? This tyrant whom he has both met and not met; with whom he has both a relationship and no relationship — this same dictator has proven integral to the Orange Man seizing the White House.

Suddenly the act of lying doesn’t seem quite so quaint, does it. If you’d like to investigate this alarming business further, I highly recommend that you read these:

“Trump and Putin: A Love Story” (David Remnick, The New Yorker)

“Putin’s Puppet” (Franklin Foer, Slate)

“Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia” (Jeff Nesbit, Time)

Last week I wrote “A Plea To Concerned Republicans: Urge The Electoral College To Save The Nation From Trump.” That was even before we were presented with the CIA’s statement — delivered with “high confidence” — that Russia swayed the election to benefit the mother of all liars. This week, my plea has become that much more urgent.

You see, Alexander Hamilton was prescient here. He told us, in The Federalist Papers: No. 68, that the Electoral College was designed to protect the office of the president from “cabal, intrigue, and corruption.” Why? Because these are “deadly adversaries of republican government.” These pernicious influences can take many forms — corrupt Senators, criminal business partners, etc. — but Hamilton was especially concerned about one manifest danger: “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

What’s the single most terrifying possibility? The one that Hamilton warned against with special dread? The one that he insisted the Electoral College was crucially devised to prevent? That would be the catastrophe of a foreign power “raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union.”

The liar-elect — soon to be the liar-in-chief — has been revealed as precisely this: a creature raised by a foreign power (Russia) to the chief magistracy of the Union (the presidency).

It is time for those elected Republicans who are appalled and outraged by this situation — the most vocal here being Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham — to instruct the Electoral College to do its duty: that is, to prevent this Manchurian candidate from ascending to the highest office in the land.

 

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