What makes a good liar? It’s a harder question to answer than you might think, partly because it’s a harder and more complex thing to accomplish than you might think.
Let me begin by acknowledging that I do not have a satisfactory answer to the question. Nevertheless, as an aficionado of the sport, I admire from afar expert practitioners. And I was reminded just a few days ago that we have in our midst a grand master of mendacity. In his speech in Milwaukee on Friday, Barack Obama demonstrated once again his effortless, masterly deployment of deceit.
Again, I do not say that we groundlings have been vouchsafed all the inner workings of the mechanism. But one thing is clear from Obama’s performance: brazenness is key. If you are going to lie, don’t be shy. Capitalise on the public’s inherent goodwill — and its poor memory.
Another useful gambit: accuse others, preferably in violent terms, of precisely that of which you are yourself guilty.
Watch this: ‘What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly, lying. Just making stuff up.’ Nice!
As in, ‘if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor’?
‘Nobody In My Administration Got Indicted,’ said the Big O, but consider Eric ‘kick ’em when they’re down’ Holder, the only Attorney General in history to have been held in contempt of Congress. Consider also Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official whose shameless ‘I take the Fifth’ performance before Congress was its own humiliating indictment. Or consider Hillary Clinton herself, whose list of possible felonies would have kept the the DOJ busy for years were it not for her best buddy, the disgraced James Comey, another Obama apparatchik who should be lawyering up.
The irony attending Obama’s charge — ‘In Washington they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team’ — revolves around the fact that most of the criminal referrals and shadowy behaviour concern people who worked for him, as the names Andrew McCabe, John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, and Glenn Simpson (just for starters) suggest. Those indicted on team Trump were either set up — Mike Flynn, George Papadopoulos — or were charged with wrong doing about matters having nothing to do with the President: Paul Manafort is the most obvious example.
Brazenness. A habit of accusing others of that of which you are yourself (which I suppose comes under the category of brazenness). The truly accomplished and successful liar needs something else, something that if can influence but not sully control: I mean the cooperation of the Zeitgeist, which potency in our time means the cooperation of the media. Obama accuses Trump of lying. The media lines up to declaim it from the rooftops. He berates Trump for his incivility, his tone, his incitements. But haven’t the media poisoned the atmosphere with their nonstop attacks on the President? He is unfit for office; is ‘literally Hitler’; he, the father of a Jewish convert and grandfather of Jewish children, is an ‘anti-Semite’; he is ‘racist,’ ‘xenophobic,’ ‘Islamophobic.’ And yet it is somehow Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, not the media, that is coarse and rude and mendacious.
How does that work? As I say, I cannot claim to understand the alchemy of this process. I merely call attention to its wondrous and seemingly magical operation.