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Thursday, June 8, 2017

SIGH ...

Chris, I think you are so overwrought that it is eroding your ability to read.  I did not say that it was unusual for a president to lie.  I mean, seriously, after all these years of reading this blog, do you really think I believe that?  I said it was unusual for a former Director of the FBI to say under oath that he believed the President could be expected to lie.  And if you do not think that is unusual, you have not been paying attention.


Chris said...

Uhm...Thanks for the insults Professor Wolff. [What would I even be overwrought about? A hearing that led to no new information?]

I've asked you many times to not put words in my mouth or twist my meanings, but you seem to have a penchant for 1) calling me out every time I comment on this blog 2) and then either not comprehending what I said or twisting what I said into some alternative meaning - hence my recent lack of commentary on the blog.


I said I feel like I'm in bizzaro world because THIS IS NEWS. Nothing I said contradicts this claim:

"I said it was unusual for a former Director of the FBI to say under oath that he believed the President could be expected to lie."

I never suggested it was usual, nor did I allude to such a thing. I said I feel like we are living in bizzaro world BECAUSE THIS IS UNUSUAL (I.E., IN AGREEMENT WITH YOU)!

"And if you do not think that is unusual, you have not been paying attention."

And if you think I think it's unusual, you're not paying attention to what I actually said. Maybe you're overwrought...?

Thanks for the principle of charity professor. I really appreciate it....

Ed Barreras said...

On the lies of pliticians it's useful to consult Politifact, the one attempt I know of to empirically catalog such things. They have T***p saying things that are mostly false, false, or pants-on-fire lies 70 percent of the time. Hillary Clinton is virtually the inverse: 75 percent of her statements are true, mostly true, or half true. Also, Only 2 percent of Hillary's statements are pants on fire lies; for Trump, it's 16 percent. And a sizeable plurality -- 33 percent -- of T***p's statements are deemed false. So it seems he really is an outlier liar.

Ed Barreras said...

I just looked up Bernie on Politifact. His distribution basically matches Hillary's, except they have 0 percent of his statements as pants-on-fire lies, whereas Hillary, again, is at 2 percent.

Jared P said...


For the life of me, I can't figure out why you think you've been mischaracterized, or, relatedly, how it was that Bob (if I may) was supposed to realize that yall agree. Here's what you said:

"I feel like I'm in bizzaro world. For as long as I've been politically conscious I've operated under some basic principles, one of which is "all state actors lie". Ever since Trump was elected the news media, and anti-Trump commentators act shocked and chagrined that Trump lies. Do they think Clinton didn't? Obama? Bush? Reagan? JFK? Nixon? Washington? Jefferson? Which one of these people didn't lie?

How is this 'news'? How is this 'shocking'?..."

The only part you and Bob agree on is that we're in Bizarro World. But you two seem to believe it for entirely different reasons--your earlier comments suggest that you think we're in BW because non-news is getting treated as news (by Bob, by the media).

That is an imminently reasonable reading of your earlier comments. Bob isn't being uncharitable. You are doing a lot of post-posting wriggling, quite frankly.

Unknown said...

A person who lies most of the time is unlikely to be a successful politician. Trump is a notable exception--at least for now. A good politician is skillful at telling a misleading truth. After all, to get elected, you need the votes of as many people as possible, and if it isn't possible to please all of them, it's usually necessary to keep that inconvenient fact under wraps. Equivocation is the key--a skill practiced with various degrees of success since at least the time of King James,the Jesuits, and the Gunpowder plot.

I've lived in DC for more than half a century--in the military (where I rose to the exalted rank of Sergeant), with the Dept. of Justice, and in private practice--and the only time I've seen anything like this was Watergate, in 1972-4.

Chris said...

If I came to this blog in 08 and asked "why is it suddenly news that Goldman Sachs are not Job Creators" or if I came to this blog anytime in the past 2 years and asked "why is it suddenly news that police brutality exists disproportionately in black neighborhoods"? I'm in a sense asking an ideological question, I'm not doubting the claim being made. I agree with Wolff that IT IS UNIQUE FOR THE FBI DIRECTOR TO CALL THE PRESIDENT A LIAR AND THAT BECAUSE IT'S UNIQUE IT IS NOW NEWS, but I'm asking now a deeper question, how is that we live in a world where this CAN BE news? Where all of us know these people are professional liars, but somehow this moment constitutes news.* Basically, I agreed with everything Wolff said, then pushed the question one step further. Instead of reading my comments that way, I was attacked and misunderstood - violating a minimally decent principle of charity.

*Adam Curtis recent documentary 'HyperNormalisation' opens with the claim:
'We live in a world where the powerful deceive us. We know they lie. They know we know they lie. They don’t care.'

(This is fundamentally what I'm asking about, this is what make us live in bizzaro world.)

s. wallerstein said...

While it is different for a politician to lie to the voters and to lie to his or her peers, as is the case of Trump lying to Comey, I would imagine that in an atmosphere of personal ambitions, huge egos, rivalries and general Machiavellianism such as characterizes all governments at the top levels, lying to political peers is all too common. Does anyone really believe that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton never lied to one another or talked to one another frankly?

Chris said...

Haha, Wallerstein, you KNOW the night she called Obama to congratulate him on besting her in the primaries, she was probably lying the entire time.

howard b said...

Might we call the lies of your typical successful politician misdemeanors?
Reality TV and the breakdown of the machine and of to a small extent ideology were midwives to Trump's lying fuckery.
Ideology and the machine build a reality which the white and hot lies of establishment politicians refer to.
That's why people believed Reagan's lies.
There was shit he could not get away with because his lies matched the consensual reality of the common ideology and the machine.
Just a theory someone smarter (or not) than me has already hatched

Danny said...

'A person who lies most of the time is unlikely to be a successful politician.'

I see this strange controversy about whether all presidents lie, or such. Or whether all politicians lie. Or maybe something like this: “Is it worse than it’s ever been?” Or this: “What’s up with Donald Trump?”

My two cents if we do not all agree, is that Donald J. Trump’s record on truth and accuracy is astonishingly poor. And again, I think that Donald Trump is in a different category. I'm willing to name-check Reagan and Nixon and Clinton, and say it again. But there is a sort of distinction lurking in here, because of course, I also think we all can easily agree that, more or less, lying in politics transcends political party and era, and it is, in some ways, an inherent part of the profession of politicking.

So maybe the point is that most of the professional politicians tend to choose their words more carefully. That is, at least, a point. Though I would add that Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it, and that the sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. I even find it amusing, here, to wonder if maybe New York tabloid writers who covered Trump as a mogul on the rise in the 1980s and ’90s found him categorically different from the other self-promoting celebrities.

there are other angles, here -- I wonder if we can say that in politics, false information has a special power. I'm pretty confident that we have not all reached the same destination, in considering whether our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena. False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. This is not a remark about Trump. Or about liberals or whatever, Republicans, etc. I am meditating on the fact that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations. I dunno..maybe it's little wonder..

Everyone lies. Everyone lies. We've come to expect and even joke about office-seekers who seem truth averse. But what about own fibs and to how they compare with politicians' deceits? We all stretch the truth. We learned to deceive as toddlers. We rationalize our fabrications that benefit us. We tell little white lies daily that make others feel good.

Now magnify that. Politicians distort the truth more often.

Danny said...

I may be a bit biased, seriously, but to me it looks like James Comey testified that Trump is an abject liar, and left little doubt he believes Trump obstructed justice as well. So the Trump administration is roiled by both political and substantive crises -- Trump is mired in the scandal of the century..

Jared P said...


It is unreasonable on your behalf to expect all charitable readers of your question "how is this 'news'?" to take it as "how is that [sic] we live in a world where this CAN BE news?" Even IF the former can be read as the latter (doubtful--like I said, I'm sensing a lot of wriggling--see below), and even if it is ONE charitable way to read it (also doubtful), it is in no way the ONLY charitable way to read it.

The major stumbling block toward your preferred reading is the use of quote marks around the word "news"--it is hard not to read them as scare quotes. Moreover, you shift from mentioning the word "news" ("how is this 'news'?") to using it ("how is that [sic] we live in a world where this CAN BE news?"). It seems one principle of charity is plausibly Assume The Writer Makes the Use-Mention Distinction, which we have to abandon to take up your defensively offered, post-hoc reading.

Chris said...

That's why I went on to cite The Intercept as a news organization that begins with the premise that all state-actors lie.

F Lengyel said...

I concur with Jared P.

F Lengyel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
F Lengyel said...

Maybe there is a charitable reading of the move from
"how is this 'news'?" to "how is that [sic] we live in a world where this CAN BE news?" in which these are equivalent questions.

How is this (the possibility that a president would cover up an apparent request to the FBI director to stop an investigation, or some such referent of 'this') 'news' in the actual world.


How is the actual world such that this (as above) can be news.

Whether the use-mention distinction in the case of ''news'' versus 'news' should apply, the first ask how some assertion is news, presumably as the condition for being news is understood and fixed without question. The second one concerns the circumstances under which the condition for being news came about such that some assertion is news under that condition.

These are two very different questions. I don't see how to collapse them. But this comes from someone who hostile drive-by commenter perceive as weak enough not to withstand their supercilious snot.

Jared P said...


You're going to have to explain how what you said is a response to what I said, because I'm afraid you've lost me. I apologize.


I agree with you, though I think it is important to remember that Bob was highlighting not that Trump lied to Comey (nevermind how he did so, Comey's position, etc.); he was highlighting that Comey said, under oath, that Trump could be expected to lie. That is unusual, given the context (being under oath), Comey's position (as former FBI director), and his personality (of being incredibly careful with his words and deeds). It seems that most commentators in this thread have lost sight of that.

F Lengyel said...

JP I attempted to state what was important to remember in my second comment, where I referred to the "...possibility that a president would cover up... " their private conversation. But perhaps I didn't remember precisely enough at the time. I agree that the context is important (so much so that I attempted to include some of it) and ought not to be weakened to the bald assertion that politicians lie, that this is not news and that no one ought to be surprised.

F Lengyel said...

Comment after this would be piling on, but there is a smart-alec answer to the question, "how is [it] that we live in a world where this CAN BE news?" One such answer is that Trump is president. It need not be any deeper than that.