Why (things like) Paul Ryan’s marathon lies matter (to me.)
I remember when I first had the thought.
My wife (to be) and I were sitting on her sofa, watching the tugs go up and down the East River, discussing I-don’t-remember-what, and I thought, “This is like talking with my best friend Nick, only we can smooch too.”
I knew at that moment I wanted to marry her.
Since then my wife has regularly distinguished herself with the acuity of her vision, most recently this morning as we (continued to) talk about Paul Ryan’s career as a marathon runner. My wife, nailing it:
We all know politician lie. We practically presume they’re lying unless proven otherwise. We even like it when they lie, so long as they’re telling us the lies we want to hear. Politicians (and their lies) exist in another reality.
The reason Ryan’s marathon-boasting is so annoying (and why it may well stick) is because it’s a (much) more familiar sort of lying. We’ve all met guys like Ryan, and they all tell the same sorts of lies. At trade-show he’s the guy with the really impressive (and more importantly, bigger than yours) sales figures. On the dock, he’s the guy who caught a bigger fish then yours (Of course he caught it last week, last month, last year, strictly catch and release), at the anchorage, no matter how big a storm you were in, or how fast a passage you made, his storm was bigger, his passage was faster.
This guy is compulsive. No matter what the endeavor, he’s superlative. Gung ho and A+plus all the way. He *has* to be at the top of the heap, even if it means lying. He can’t help himself.
Why would Ryan tell such an inconsequential, avoidable fib, just to make himself look good? For the same reason Clinton serially cheated on his wife. It’s a compulsion born of a petty species of male vanity and a defect in character that makes neither of them able to resist, regardless of the risk.
When I run my 9/11 counter-factual, it starts here:
We were warned.
Six years later Bill Clinton’s presidency was subsumed by the revelation that Clinton had been carrying on an affair with a 22 year old Whitehouse intern. Whatever Bill and Hilary Clinton’s understanding of their marriage was or is, his affair was reckless beyond any countenance.
He provided (Hilary’s words) “the vast right-wing conspiracy” with the ammunition they needed, and his presidency and the nation was dragged down in the ensuing morass. He disgraced himself, not just for the affair, but for having been so stupid. Al Gore, running a campaign forced to distance itself from his discredited administration, lost the 2000 election by the barest margin, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Bill Clinton’s political calculus, was, (apparently) correct.
Today he is an esteemed elder statement of the Democratic Party, and is now praised by his former enemies as moderate and wise steward of the nation. His wife ran for the Senate and won, now serves as the Secretary of State, and (should Barrack Obama win in November) is the (nearly) presumptive presidential nominee of her party in 2016.
In short, Bill and Hilary Clinton have survived, thrived in fact.
But our nation has paid a terrible price for his defects and her complicity.