by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
David French of National Review Online responds to the hubbub over the Trump administration’s deliberate misstatements about the inaugural crowd size, along with Trump critics’ unwillingness to admit the string of misstatements that characterized the Obama administration.
Our politics is devolving into the pathetic spectacle of liars indignantly calling out liars for lying. Rule-breakers are outraged that other rule-breakers break rules. Norms that could be violated with impunity for “social justice” can’t be violated for “nationalism.” We stick with our tribe, through thick and thin — through truth and lies.
This conduct has a high cost. It leaves the public with no one to trust. For several weeks I’ve been one of many voices calling for an independent, bipartisan investigation into the totality of Russian efforts to influence the American presidential election. In response, my friend Glenn Reynolds raised a fair question: “Who do you trust to investigate? The news media? The national security bureaucracy? Congress? All of them have gone out of their way to prove themselves untrustworthy.”
Increasingly, we are reaching a point where we can “trust” political actors (and, make no mistake, the press is a political actor) only to be partisan. And to be partisan means trying to win every encounter, every news cycle, and every argument. Truth be damned. Fairness be damned. Law be damned. Partisans determine the “rules” only after they determine the desired outcome and then apply those rules if and only if they help the “good guys” win.
This weekend, I overheard a small group of Republicans trying to reassure themselves after Spicer’s press conference. “Yes, it was terrible,” one said, “but at least we’ve got Mattis and DeVos, so on balance we’re still ahead.” Here’s the thing — it’s possible (and it’s not asking too much) to have the truth and to have General Mattis at the Pentagon and Betsy DeVos in the Department of Education. It’s possible to defend a man and a movement without lying. And it’s possible to refuse to lie for a man or for a movement.