Laughing at the Liars

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Al
Franken is a Democrat, a pal of the Clintons and the Gores.

Mr.
Franken is also a socialist, and a self-described statist. He supports
the welfare state, increased regulation over all manner of private
economic activities, gun control, Al Gore's environmental policies,
and abortion.

His
new book, Lies
and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the
Right
, is hilarious, and you should probably read it.

Why?
Because even though Franken has little depth on many or most important
ideas and issues, he does have something of value to offer the libertarian:
a hard look at what some of our most outspoken sometime-"allies"
on the right are really like.

Too
many liberty-minded individuals are lulled into thinking that many
or most of the mainstream conservatives in government and the media
are our friends, that some part of their hearts is in the right
place, and that they are merely misguided at times.

Lies
throws cold water on all of that: the Republicans in Washington
and on TV are mostly vicious, power-hungry liars, even when they're
not warmongering. Their apologists on Fox News and in other ostensibly
conservative media are not necessarily well-intentioned or just
misguided: they are often liars, willfully ignorant, or both.

And
if reading about that doesn't do anything for you, there's also
a lot of bathroom humor. (I don't get into the humor much below,
but you should know that, above all, this is a very funny book.)

Now,
those of us who view the Bush Administration's warfare state activities
as legalized murder don't really need to be reminded of the fact
that these are bad people. But even if you can get past the foreign
policy issues as honest, reasonable disagreements, and consider
the Republicans the lesser of evils, this book is a useful way to
remind yourself or others that the "lesser of evils" can
still be pretty evil.

Government
Liars

I
don't need to tell readers of LewRockwell.com that there's been
a whole lot of lying going on about terrorism and the war in Iraq.
Franken gives a nice, humorous summary of all of this that's worth
checking out.

He
also gives the people who accuse war opponents of wanting to "blame
America first" the what for. To give you a taste, here, in
its entirety, is his chapter entitled, "Our National Dialogue
on Terrorism":

Why
do they hate us?

They
hate us because they are evil.

That's
it, huh? That's the entire story?

Yes.
They're evil and they hate us because of our freedoms.

I
know they're evil. I was just thinking that maybe if we
understood what specifically seemed to trigger the–

Why
are you apologizing for the terrorists?

I'm
not. They're evil. You have no quarrel there. It's just
that maybe if we understoo–

Why
are you on the terrorists' side?

I'm
not! I hate the terrorists. I was just saying that we might
be able to prevent the next–

Three
thousand Americans are dead. How can you defend al Qaeda?

Believe
me, I was not defending them. What they did was horrific
and inexcusable. They're evil. I was just–

Then
why are you apologizing for them?

I'm
not. I'm trying to say that maybe there are lessons we can–

Why
do you hate America?

Normally,
I wouldn't spoil the jokes for you, but since that's not a joke
so much as an accurate summary of conversations heard every day
for months on Fox News, I figure I'm not spoiling much.

What's
more interesting to me than the material on war and terrorism is
how the Republicans lie when they seem to be on your side.

Maybe
you couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy if you heard the following
exchange between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman in the 2000 Vice
Presidential debate, which Franken recounts:

LIEBERMAN:
You did pretty well over the last eight years, didn't you?

CHENEY:
Yeah, and the government had nothing to do with it!

Heartwarming,
at first. I smiled when I heard it. (Why I was watching a vice presidential
debate, I have no idea.) It's a good line, and it sounds good, because
Cheney is, in fact, speaking for most Americans who do well for
themselves, who do not rely on handouts from the government, and
who vote Republican.

But
of course, Cheney wasn't speaking for himself, because he was just
another pig at the Washington trough like all of the rest of them
during his years of benefiting from government contracts at Halliburton.
But too many voters with fundamentally libertarian instincts fail
to consider the source, and instead simply contrast his rhetoric
with that of the Democrats who are calling for more taxes and welfare,
and fall for the Republicans' lies again and again.

Inevitably,
when all of the "limited government" promises have been
broken, the nave, well-meaning conservative blames the other party,
political reality, national security emergencies, or similar. But
Franken reminds us that Republicans don't just break promises
about their desire for less government: they are lying when
they make them. And decent people don't tell lies, or at least they
don't make a career out of doing so. (Franken implies with all of
this that it is otherwise with the Democrats, but we know better,
and what they promise isn't desirable even in the first place.)

Media
Liars

"I
have a great deal of respect for many conservatives in the media,"
writes Franken, "Terry Bradshaw, for example."

Bill
O'Reilly is Franken nemesis #1, as anyone who's seen the C-SPAN
footage of their confrontation at a book promotion event knows.
(Recalling the event, Franken writes: "Bill was hawking his
latest, Living with Herpes, while I was promoting (with evident
success) the book you are enjoying right now.")

Their
bone of contention at that event involved O'Reilly's false claim
that his old show, Inside Edition, had won two Peabody Awards.
In fact, it won no Peabody Awards, and instead won Polk Awards.
Who cares, you might say, but what's telling was the way O'Reilly
handled it. Instead of saying, "Okay, big deal, it was one
and not the other," he denied that he ever claimed to have
won Peabodys at all, and he called anyone who said otherwise a liar.

In
that day's confrontation, O'Reilly resorted to yelling "SHUT
UP! SHUT UP!" As you may have read, that is also what O'Reilly
did to the son of a WTC victim who appeared on his show to criticize
the war in Iraq. And as Franken here describes, after that show
was over, O'Reilly added, for good measure, "Get out of my
studio before I tear you to f***ing pieces."

Franken
gives example after example of O'Reilly's behavior as a "lying,
splotchy [see the book's unflattering cover photo] bully."

I
have, at times, agreed with Bill O'Reilly on various matters, and
sometimes it feels good to watch him read a leftist the riot act.
Apparently, a few years back, the people then running the Foundation
for Economic Education agreed with him on enough stuff that they
thought he would make a good speaker at their Trustees Dinner. But
that's another story.

O'Reilly
is no friend of freedom, and I don't want him on my side. He is
nasty, brutish and ignorant; that he is, like a broken clock, occasionally
right about something should not be sufficient to redeem him in
our eyes.

Ann
Coulter gets what may be even harsher treatment, which she, of course,
fully deserves. (Chapter 2 is titled "Ann Coulter: Nutcase,"
while Chapter 3 is titled, "You Know Who I Don't Like? Ann
Coulter.") Franken demolishes her book, Slander,
as a pack of lies and hypocrisy.

Coulter
brags in interviews that she footnotes all of her "facts."
Actually, she endnotes them, and Franken and his team of Harvard
researchers checked them out, unlike the majority of sheep who bought
her book. It turns out that some of the "facts" she asserts
are simply untrue or unsupported, sometimes directly contradicted,
by her sources. Others are presented so far out of context that
their meaning is entirely changed.

It's
fun to trash Bill Clinton. It's fun to trash any left-wing politician.
That's why too many liberty-minded people like to dumpster dive
in Coulter's garbage. But she and her ilk are not about ideas and
issues at all. They are about the mantra, "REPUBLICANS GOOD,
DEMOCRATS BAD," and Franken here points out numerous examples
of how Coulter, within the same book, will contradict herself in
order to stick to that theme.

Example:
Democrat Senator Jim Jeffords went to Yale? Big deal, says Coulter,
he's still "D-U-M-M," because you didn't have to be smart
and ace the SAT to get into Yale back when he went there, you just
had to be privileged. "Quick," writes Franken, "Yale,
low SATs, social class. You thinking who I'm thinking about?"
But to critics who say President Bush is dumb, Coulter says, elsewhere
in her book, no way: How could anyone say President Bush is dumb
when he "graduated from Yale and went to Harvard Business School"?

You
get the idea. Ann Coulter is no friend of anyone who is intellectually
honest, no matter which side of any issue she takes on a given day.

Incidentally,
Franken doesn't recite my personal favorite outrageous Coulter statement.
In her December 6, 2002, column, she wrote: "The odds of an
innocent man being found guilty by a unanimous jury are basically
nil."

Sean
Hannity's ridiculous flag-waving book gets similar treatment. So
does his sham debate show, "Hannity & Colmes."
Franken gives Colmes, Hannity's liberal co-host, the tiny-font treatment
in reference to his tendency to roll over for the show's more dominant
personality (and his failure to call Hannity on the hypocrisy of
having criticized Clinton during the war in the Balkans, but now
branding any dissent on the Middle East wars as un-American).

The
Rest

As
I said above, Al Franken is a socialist and a lock-step statist.
You can't go very far in this book without seeing that.

He
imagines himself in a world where all things good come only from
government, and all things bad can be fixed only by government.
He maintains, and this book reflects, the childish view that the
President of the United States is in a position to make each of
our lives better, if only he chooses to exercise his power to do
so. That is, the president is personally responsible for whatever
good or bad fortune befalls us as individuals and as a nation. Crime
went up in the 1980′s? Ronald Reagan did it by not giving the poor
enough handouts. Crime went down in the 1990′s? Bill Clinton did
it with "100,000 more police on the streets" and by giving
people new and better ways to feed at the government trough. And
so forth.

Various
other bits of leftist dogma are regurgitated here and there, too.
Many LRC readers will likely be especially irritated by the chapter
called "Fun with Racism" and its cursory treatment of
the Civil War and Confederate flag controversies.

Thus,
the book gets weak near its end, as it loses its focus on his main
theme ("conservative" politicians and pundits are often
ignorant, hypocrites, and/or liars) and shifts instead to an emphasis
on policy. For example, one chapter non-satirically takes on President
Bush as "the worst environmental president in our nation's
history." This material almost had me liking the Republicans
again. Yikes!

Other
chapters filling space near the book's end are just amusing experiences
Franken had with members of the right that don't really fit within
the "liars" theme, but were too good not to include.

One
chapter tells of his trip with a young assistant to Bob Jones University,
posing as a prospective student and his guardian, hoping to get
a good scoop on the nutty fundamentalists you hear so much about
during election years. (That's right, they lied, just like
the lying liars, to the BJU people). What they learned was that
students and staff at Bob Jones are really nice people who just
have different beliefs.

Another
chapter amusingly tells of Franken's failed attempt at a pleasant
chat with Barbara Bush in first class on an airplane. (She is not
the world's warmest, friendliest person, if you can imagine such
a thing).

Lies
and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them is a book that was inevitable.
The neocons, Coulter, O'Reilly, and the like were asking for it.
What we really need now is a libertarian humorist to take them all
on, left and right alike, and show the world that the emperor never
has any clothes, never should be trusted, and always should be laughed
at, no matter what party he's from.

October
25, 2003

J.
H. Huebert [send him mail]
attends the University of Chicago Law School, and has a website
at www.jhhuebert.com.


        
        

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