It’s true, Giuliani and Stone may not be lying — in an alt-realty universe.
We continue to hear protestations of innocence by Trumpians — rioters, white supremacists, those oh-so Proud Boys, and the like (who mostly, rightly say My president asked me to do it). Most recently, claims of innocence have come from a couple of prominent figures of the right: Rudy Giuliani and Roger Stone.
Giuliani, former prosecutor, former mayor of New York City, and Trump’s former personal lawyer, is being investigated by the Department of Justice for not registering as a foreign lobbyist while he pressed officials in Ukraine to find dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. As reported by The Daily Beast, Stone is denying Joel Greenberg’s allegations that Stone ever worked to secure a pardon from Trump for Greenberg for, among many things, Greenberg’s and Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) sordid “sugar daddy” work with young women.
Half a lifetime ago, I was studying to be an actor, and actors know when a character is lying. For one thing, it’s right there in the script. The playwright gives the character too many words to say in claiming innocence. Many too many or just a few too many. Even a single superfluous word can be damning.
As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Queen Gertrude utters that line when Hamlet asks how she likes the little damning play he has put on; she’s aware that too many words have been put into the Play-Queen’s mouth as the character speaks of her fidelity to the king.
Apparently, no one writes for Rudy; he responds badly all on his own.
Rudy’s first statement on television about the raid, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, was not a simple flat denial:
“I never, ever represented a foreign national,” he told Carlson. “In fact, I have in my contracts, a refusal to do it because from the time I got out of being mayor, I did not want to lobby.”
Not only did he “never, ever” do it — the extra word there being a toddler-level ploy — he somehow could not have done it also because…he has not doing it written in his contracts.
Something like that.
We might think immediately of Gertrude’s line from Hamlet, but in Giuliani’s case, considering his logic we might also think of the “Seven Ages of Man” monologue from the Bard of Avon’s “As You Like It,” specifically the lines
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
It reminds us of his incessant false claims about the election being stolen from Trump, though he was careful enough in 60-some lawsuits to not provide any evidence whatsoever, lest he be charged with perjury for bringing false evidence. All of the cases were dropped, with some pretty annoyed judges, because the Trump team brought no evidence forward.
But the string of court challenges to the election results in various states was never about getting to the truth-the vote had already been certified by state attorneys general, with recounts having been done in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona. It was performance art — a play within a play — to create a false “truth,” an “alt-fact,” of a stolen election to the Trumpian base.
That, and the willingness of so many Republicans in Congress to go along with the lie, challenging the certification of the vote, led to the insurrection at the Capitol. And they are still at it, with the absurdity of a private Republican-led recount in Arizona and their purging of Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership role in the House.
In the terrific film “Knives Out,” which we re-watched recently, Detective Blanc (played by Daniel Craig) pulls out a well-known aphorism about human nature: In for a penny, in for a pound. So it is with the Big Lie about the election. If you claim an election was stolen, you have to at least playact like you are trying to prove it. Heck, months before the election, Trump was saying the election was rigged if he didn’t win. He still claims to have won the popular vote in 2016.
Speaking of pennies, Stone’s counter to the charge by Greenberg was of a different kind — a protestation of innocence out of logical order. As he wrote in response to the story by The Daily Beast:
“I never requested or received a penny from Mr. Greenberg. I recall him offering to retain me and I declined.”
So, he never asked for money — for a job he never agreed to do?
So, if you are telling the truth, Roger, why lead with the money? And aren’t you still a seven-time convicted felon for, among other things, obstruction, witness tampering, and lying to Congress?
But, hey, Roger, that — we’ll take your word on it!
I hesitate to connect Stone with Shakespeare in any way because I think he would enjoy the comparison. But, sticking with Hamlet, I’d say he most resembles Claudius, who knows he is a villain and confesses his crimes to the audience and to God. Unlike Claudius, however, Stone is not in the least haunted by his actions; for decades he has bragged about being a dirty-trickster. It’s his brand.
Giuliani, Stone, and their ilk are the GOP now — and the party is all about incessantly proffering lies on behalf of Trump, an absolute din of lies, to suck up all the oxygen in the political world, a move straight from the authoritarian handbook. Lying about himself and bullying others was the Trump methodology from the very beginning of his days as a public figure, and the party that first abhorred him for those behaviors is now carrying it on.
GOP can no longer stand for the Grand Old Party; it must be recast to mean the Grand Obfuscation Party, the Grim Oligarchy Party, the General Obstruction Party, Genuflecting and Obsequiousness to Putin, or something of the kind more in touch with reality.
Ah, but reality is not their thing. And to be real, one must admit that the GOP is utterly gone now.
The Party of Lincoln? Anyone who says that now must be talking about the car.
Adroitly, the Biden team has refused to take the bait. As White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a recent interview on “Pod Save America,” they recognize the problem in the endless active promulgation of lies and disinformation by the right-most recently, tossing red meat to the base literally about red meat -but they know it cannot be their job to respond often:
Our focus so far has been on trying not to get distracted by side shows that are an attempt by Republicans in Congress many times to distract us…. We just try to keep our blinders on. Now, that doesn’t mean that information is not traveling on the internet-we’re not naïve about that-but I think the fundamental question is, Is it our role, entirely from here, speaking on behalf of the President and The White House and the government, to be the ones that are swatting down and refuting every little conspiracy theory, or is it our role to be focused on communicating with the American people about what we’re doing-refuting conspiracies firmly when they come up but not spending every day batting that down. Because that would be all we would do.
Then there are untruths uttered about the self. Republicans seem entirely at ease with political lies — even lying about reality — without a care in, or for, the world. But, being only human, when they defend themselves they are still subject to self-incrimination.
Up against the wall — home raided by federal agents, electronics confiscated or, say, having numerous felony convictions already under one’s belt — even the inveterate liar may become verbally flustered because, well, adrenaline is running a tad high and he so, so desperately desires to live to lie another fine day.
Originally published at https://kirkswearingen.substack.com.