American Political Integrity Is in a State of Collapse

The woman who went on every major Sunday-morning news program after the Benghazi terrorist attacks and told flat-out falsehoods about its nature and motivations is now lecturing America about integrity.

.. A person who was one of the chief national-security officials when the Obama administration was spinning false narratives about the Iran nuclear deal

.. watching Demcrats spill crocodile tears over the Supreme Court, convinced that Neil Gorsuch was basically stealing Merrick Garland’s seat. Yet every sentient being in Washington knows that if the roles were reversed and, say, one of the liberal justices stepped down or passed away in the final months of a Republican presidency, the congressional Democrats would have behaved in the exact, same way

.. In fact, none other than Joe Biden made that same promise more than 20 years before.

.. The president and his team have repeatedly issued false denials about contacts with Russians, and the president himself keeps tweeting allegations and assertions that are most charitably described as incomplete, imprecise, and sometimes just outright wrong. Even when he’s “vindicated,” it’s often a strange kind of vindication, where his actual words were wrong, but something still happened. For example, wiretapping becomes “incidental collection.” Millions of illegal votes becomes millions of illegal registrations.

.. All of this nonsense is justified, excused, and indulged through the sheer force of tribalism. Unilateral honesty is seen as unilateral disarmament.

.. In one of John Adams’s most famous letters, he wrote that “our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

.. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

.. America needs political virtue. Where will she find it?

The Scammers, the Scammed and America’s Fate

all of these proposals share a family resemblance: Like his health plan, each involved savage cuts in benefits for the poor and working class, with the money released by these cuts used to offset large tax cuts for the rich. All were, however, sold on false pretenses as plans for deficit reduction.

Worse, the alleged deficit reduction came entirely from “magic asterisks”: claims about huge savings to be achieved by cutting unspecified government spending, huge revenue increases to be achieved by closing unspecified tax loopholes. It was a con job all the way.

So how did Mr. Ryan reach a position where his actions may reshape the lives of so many of his fellow citizens, in most cases very much for the worse? The answer lies in the impenetrable gullibility of his base. No, not his constituents: the news media, who made him what he is.

You see, until very recently both news coverage and political punditry were dominated by the convention of “balance.”

.. There’s an important lesson here, and it’s not just about health care or Mr. Ryan; it’s about the destructive effects of false symmetry in reporting at a time of vast asymmetry in reality.

Conservative Fantasies, Colliding With Reality

Many have a distorted view of the numbers. For example, people have a vastly exaggerated view of how much we spend on foreign aid. Many also fail to connect their personal experience with public policy: Large numbers of Social Security and Medicare recipients believe that they make no use of any government social program.

.. But the reality is that the proposed cuts would have ugly, highly visible effects. Zeroing out the Community Development Block Grant program may sound good if you have no idea what it does (which Mr. Trump surely doesn’t); eliminating Meals on Wheels, an immediate consequence, not so much. Nor would coal country, which voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, like the consequences if he eliminates the Appalachian Regional Commission.

.. Republicans’ budget promises, like their health care promises, have been based on an essentially fraudulent picture of what’s really going on. And now the bill for these lies is coming due.

Goodbye Spin, Hello Raw Dishonesty

But let’s not focus too much on Mr. Sessions. After all, he is joined in the cabinet by Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who lied to Congress about his use of a private email account; Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, who lied about a sweetheart deal to purchase stock in a biotechnology company at a discount; and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who falsely told Congress that his financial firm didn’t engage in “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents, seizing homes without proper consideration.

.. At this point it’s easier to list the Trump officials who haven’t been caught lying under oath than those who have. This is not an accident.

.. His ability to get away with it, at least so far, requires the support of many enablers: almost all of his party’s elected officials, a large bloc of voters and, all too often, much of the news media.

.. When George W. Bush insisted that his tax cuts mainly went to the middle class, this wasn’t true, but it took some number-crunching to show that. Mr. Trump, however, makes claims like his assertion that the murder rate — which ticked up in 2015 but is still barely half what it was in 1990 — is at a 45-year high.

.. the unlikelihood that they’ll act as any check on the president, becomes clearer with each passing day.

.. as long as they can get tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.

.. Republican primary election voters, who are the real arbiters when polarized and/or gerrymandered districts make the general election irrelevant for many politicians, live in a Fox News bubble into which awkward truths never penetrate.