The first ballots in this election will be cast in only a few short months, Fox Business News waxed quixotic during last night’s GOP presidential debate coverage. The thought comforted me for about a second. Then I remembered that while the February 1 Iowa caucuses draw swiftly nigh, we still have a goddamn year before the last ballots in the general election are cast, and the despair I’m feeling now is about to become my brain’s semi-permanent wallpaper.
That’s because we’re nearing the end of Funny Lies Season, and the beginning of Escalating Scary Lies Season (alternately: Proud Idiot Season), a season that will last for the next three hundred and sixty-something days and drive me well beyond the brink of insanity.
There’s something cartoonishly awful about the months way before the primaries, before the crazies just trying to raise their own profile and speaking fees run out of money and energy and the only people left are the those boring and pleasant enough to be truly dangerous. Funny lies told by funny liars.
Carly Fiorina, for example, is such a funny liar that last night, she said she did not meet Vladimir Putin in a green room. Less than two months ago, on a network late night talk show program, she said the opposite. She invented a genre of improv I’m now calling “abortion fanfic extemp” during an earlier debate wherein she invented a Planned Parenthood sting video that didn’t exist and then spent two weeks saying that she was vindicated by evidence proving her wrong. This weekend, she lashed out at Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd when he asked her why she wasn’t offering any specific plans: for example, she says she has to cut the tax code to three pages, but has not detailed how that will look. Todd asked why she didn’t have the plans on her website, and Carly took a while to explain that plans are bad, and that’s why. “The plan exists!” she said last night, more than once. It’s just that nobody who isn’t on Carly Fiorina’s team has ever seen it, which is kind of funny. My plan, which exists.
Last night, mumbling zealot Ben Carson, ostensibly accompanied by the invisible and crudely drawn Jesus figure that is always leering behind him, It Follows-style, tried to tie black unemployment to the existence of a minimum wage. The former neurosurgeon claimed that every time the minimum wage has increased, so has joblessness, a statement Politifact has rated as “false.” For the last week and a half, he’s insisted to a skeptical press that he really did stab a guy, really did get offered a full scholarship to West Point, and really did attack his mom with a hammer. Funny lying, like the kind a child sociopath might do before they’re old enough to reach the knife drawer.
Last night, Ted Cruz forgot how to count to five.
Donald Trump is a funny liar, full of bombast and short sentences, a pink roasted turkey of a man being sporting a dollop of butter hair on his head. It’s not so funny when he rails on national television about the way the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 5,600 page-long agreement that, to borrow his words, “nobody’s read,” will allow China to sneak in and China all over America. Donald Trump, apparently, includes himself in people who haven’t read the agreement; China is not one of the countries participating. Of course, this is far from the first wrong thing Donald Trump has said. His Politifact page is truly a thing of beauty.
The irony that a man whose supporters claim he’s a straight shooter who speaks the truth registering zero “true” statements on Politifact is so delicious it’s sustaining. But his icy relationship with the truth gets less funny as the primaries approach, and his lead over his rivals holds.
Less amusing still was John Kasich’s implication during last night’s debate that if a big bank failed, depositors would lose their money. I’d forgive a layperson for not knowing that the FDIC insures deposits in many types of non-stock consumer accounts for up to $250,000. I wouldn’t be too hard on a non-politician for not knowing that if, say, Chase Bank failed and you had a checking account with $10,000 dollars in it, you would not be out those $10,000 because of the FDIC. But John Kasich was once a managing director at a branch of Lehman Brothers. Him forgetting about the FDIC is like a nurse suddenly forgetting how to wash her hands.
Marco Rubio, who the media has now soothed itself by declaring the likely nominee, was the most sensible and least crazy man on that stage. Marco fuckin’ Rubio. A warmongering, climate change-denying, anti-gay, frothing pro-lifer (so frothing that he is opposed to both stem cell research and abortion in the case of rape or incest). A man who calls himself “pro-family” because of his tax plan, who also has voted against bills supporting equal pay for women. A man who once answered a question on the age of the earth by saying “I’m not a scientist, man.” A man who doesn’t lie so much as believe things that are demonstrably wrong, and then continue to believe them in the face of evidence to the contrary. A year of listening to that will be much more grating than a debate that, by the end, seemed to bore even the moderators. If this arc holds, soon we’ll be done with Trumps and Fiorinas and Carsons and entering a time when the truth is daily subjected to boring violence, delivered by the polished and practiced.
Things are only going to get worse.
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