GOP Nomination Fight-- How Do You Keep Track Who The Biggest Freak Or Clown Of The Day Actually Is?
Rand Paul's now infamous rant and meme the other day about Trump being a "clown" who is "unfit" to be president followed a similar screed by Marco Rubio that Trump's campaign was nothing more than a "freak show." Both senators were correct, of course, but either could have been just as easily referring to another self-serving/self-entitled GOP multimillionaire with grand political ambitions: failed business executive and professional victim Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina has rapidly advanced in the polls by presenting herself as someone who will not be bound by anything as mundane as reality or facts in a right-wing jihad against the hated interlopers. People wonder how she could be gaining support when she's obviously a compulsive liar. The problem is that the fact that she's a known to be a compulsive liar is why she's gaining support. That's what Republican primary voters-- raised on the lies and bigotry of Hate Talk Radio and Fox News-- want and expect... and, some would say, deserve.
In the last Republican debate, the topic of secretly recorded Planned Parenthood videos came up, and Fiorina said passionately, “I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'” While it received huge applause, the line was false. The Planned Parenthood videos contain someone describing a similar scene, but not what Fiorina claimed was in them.Brain Beutler also has a problem with Fiorina's compulsive lying and how easily-- eagerly-- right-wing dupes slurp it up. Writing for The New Republic, he compares the loopy Fiorina to C.J. Pearson, the 13-year-old right-wing hoaxer from Georgia whose brazen lies landed him a job as Ted Cruz’s youth-outreach chairman after he was exposed! "[H]ere's what the PR folks are saying: say you lied and apologize to avoid backlash," Pearson wrote in a series of tweets. "But, instead, I choose to stand by my word. While the article will be incriminating, all we have in politics is our word and I stand by it."
Which might not be a big deal-- afterward, Fiorina could have said, “I mixed up something in those videos with things I had seen and heard elsewhere,” and we could still have a reasonable debate about the merits of fetal tissue research. But that’s not what she said. Instead, after practically every single fact-checking enterprise declared her claim false (here’s Politifact; here’s FactCheck.org), her campaign released its own cobbled-together video, using footage not from Planned Parenthood of a fetus kicking on a table, in an attempt to claim that Fiorina was actually telling the truth. Even in their phony video, which includes a photo of a stillborn baby being passed off dishonestly as a photo of an aborted fetus, there isn’t anyone saying, “We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” This is, as Dahlia Lithwick says, “trying to doctor doctored videotapes and still failing to produce an image that corresponds to Fiorina’s narrative. It’s truthiness elevated to almost cosmic levels.”
But most remarkably, Fiorina continues to insist, no matter who asks her, that she never said anything untrue about the original Planned Parenthood videos. When Chris Wallace asked her on Fox News Sunday last week, “Do you acknowledge what every fact checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it?”, she answered, “No, I don’t accept that at all. I’ve seen the footage.” Yesterday she appeared on Meet the Press, and Chuck Todd asked her, “There is no evidence that the scene you described exists. Are you willing now to concede that you exaggerated that scene?” She replied, “No, not at all. That scene absolutely does exist. And that voice saying what I said they were saying, ‘We’re going to keep it alive to harvest its brain’ exists as well.”
There’s no reason why a conservative couldn’t say to her, “Look, I agree with everything you believe about abortion and Planned Parenthood, but you just need to admit you misspoke and move on.” But Fiorina has seemingly decided that the proper strategy is to just keep lying about what is in the end just a detail related to a larger policy issue, no matter how many people point out that she’s lying.
And why not? It’s working. While not long ago her support was too small to measure, she’s now in double-digits in the polls, while other candidates are faltering. The people rallying to support her don’t seem to care. Quite the contrary-- they may be looking at this controversy and concluding that Fiorina is standing up to all those media bullies with their “facts” and their “evidence,” just like Ben Carson is telling it like it is on why the Constitution is for people like us, not people like them.
However this primary race turns out, at the moment more than half the Republican electorate is supporting either 1) a spectacularly xenophobic candidate who wants to round up 11 million people and build a wall around America; 2) a candidate who thinks that we ought to have religious tests for high office; or 3) a candidate who evinces few qualms about lying repeatedly even after her lies have been carefully documented. This is a party with a lot to be proud of.
Carly Fiorina's mode of deception, and her response to being fact-checked, is nearly identical. The main difference, of course, is that Fiorina is a 61-year-old former corporate executive who’s a top contender to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, while Pearson is still going through puberty. The fact that so many conservatives are lining up to defend her is indicative of the degree to which conservatism has become a movement defined by affective rage and imagined victimization by mainstream forces. This toxic brew contributed to the party's difficulty winning recent national elections. It is already poisoning the party's campaign for the presidency in 2016.It isn't just Paul Waldman and Brian Beutler noticing this, not by a long shot. That Fiorina is a compulsive liar, perhaps a sociopath, perhaps suffering from severe narcissistic personality disorder, is becoming conventional wisdom, at least outside the circles traveled by low-info Republican primary voters. Gary Legum, at Salon, wrote that her brazen demagoguery puts Trump's to shame and he's sure she's more dangerous than the Trumpy piñata. He seems less concerned with "her strict adherence to right-wing ideology on issues and more concerned with "the affect she’s developing on the campaign trail. Of the top three current candidates-- Fiorina, Trump and Ben Carson-- it is the former HP executive who has emerged with the steely resolve and chest-thumping, unapologetic jingoism so beloved by conservatives."
...As more interviewers and moderators interject to debunk Fiorina’s story about a video segment that doesn’t exist, Fiorina’s reputation among conservatives isn’t suffering. Instead, the right’s journalist shit-list is growing longer.
Pearson can be forgiven for expecting the conservative media to rush to his aid, rather than orchestrate his demise. He's coming of age in a movement that often treats reality as subordinate to perception; that will embrace obvious distortions of facts if doing so might move the needle of public opinion, and dissemble and whine, rather than admit error, when the media gets wise. If the stakes were higher-- if Pearson were a 61-year-old presidential candidate instead of a 13-year-old kid-- he would be climbing in the polls today.
Her MTP interview was a textbook example of Fiorina’s effectiveness in appealing to the right wing, particularly when she’s in the cross hairs of a mainstream media outlet. (That she was questioned by Chuck Todd, an interviewer so hapless he might as well have been my 2-year-old nephew asking “But why?” after every Fiorina answer, certainly helped.) Asked why she’s sticking to the well-documented fictions she keeps telling about the infamous Planned Parenthood videos, Fiorina smiled like a shark, shook her head, condescended to and talked over Todd, and reiterated with all the assurance of a champion bullshit artist that yes, there is no question that “Planned Parenthood is aborting fetuses alive to harvest their brains and other body parts. That is a fact.”Mild-mannered Eugene Robinson finds Fiorina so filled with anger, rage and theatrically staged righteous indignation that "she can't see straight." She "stands out among the Republican presidential candidates," he wrote yesterday,
...[W]here Fiorina’s demagoguery becomes even more dangerous is in its specificity about policy. Compare her talk on foreign policy to those of Trump and Carson. When asked during the debate how she would interact with Vladimir Putin, Fiorina told CNN’s audience,
What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.Imagine you are a Russian hard-liner sitting in Moscow watching this debate and hearing the GOP’s third-leading candidate promising a foreign policy aimed at your country that is so muscular, Ronald Reagan’s corpse just got an erection. You’re not thinking that Fiorina sounds more unhinged than General Buck Turgidson or the fact that Barack Obama is also conducting aggressive military exercises in the Baltics and the Sixth Fleet is as big and strong as ever. You’re thinking Comrade Putin will stand strong against this foolishness when Carly Fiorina is in the Oval Office.
And if you are a conservative voter in America, you’re thinking, Carly won’t be a chump like that wimp Obama, who has let Putin walk all over him. That swelling in your chest is a jingoistic pride that you haven’t felt during the long, dark years that the Kenyan Usurper has been destroying America from within.
Compare Fiorina to the boastfulness of Donald Trump, who talks in generalities: I’ll make us great again, I get along with everyone so I’ll get along with the Russians and Chinese, I’m a successful businessman, I’ll make fantastic deals and everyone will be very happy. Trump also promised he would actually talk to Putin instead of ordering the Sixth Fleet into the Turkish Straits practically the moment he takes his hand off the Bible at his Inauguration. Despite all his bluster, Trump at the end of the day wants to be the friendly executive strolling across the construction site and shaking hands with all the hardhat-sporting workers. Fiorina wants to be the one yelling at them to quit staring at her and get back to work.
After all, talking and making friends is also what that community organizer Barack Obama does.
not just because she is a woman but also because she has adopted a strategy of breathing fire. She presents herself as mad about everything, and she never gives an inch on anything she says, no matter how demonstrably untrue. Unhappily for our democracy, this approach has vaulted her into the upper tier of the multitudinous GOP field... Is she really, truly so filled with rage? Probably not. When she ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010, she was a moderate, pro-business Republican. That erstwhile profile would get her nowhere in this year’s presidential race, however, when everyone is scrambling to get to the right of everyone else and “moderate” is a dirty word. One has to wonder if the showy posture of ultraconservative anger isn’t the biggest lie of all.