Facts Don’t Matter Anymore
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a good man. Wicked smart, funny, and he had a good heart! For all of that, though, he should be known most for one statement: Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. (Senator Moynihan attributed the quote to Alan Greenspan and James Schlesinger may have beaten both of them to the uttered insight.)
The quote deserves consideration as we steep ourselves in January 6, 2021 matters. As of Friday, June 17 – the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, by the way – we know most of Donald Trump’s advisers knew there was No. There. There. No fraud that might come close to changing the electoral outcome. No legal basis for challenging the certification of the election. And, importantly, we know now that people in the know knew what they wanted to have happen on January 6 was against the law.
John Eastman does not want for neurons in his cerebral cavity. Bent, yes; stupid, no. This man proposed a totally hare-brained – Hares are rabbits, and they are not smart like dolphins, octopuses, and pigs – scheme for setting aside an election he knew he had no basis for challenging, and he has admitted as much. He event sought a pardon.
(Note that I have not bothered to mention Rudolph Giuliani, the has-been who never was. I am pretty sure I have not encountered a lawyer less capable – at least in 2021 – than America’s Mayor, in my almost 41 years as a lawyer. I tell myself he must have been competent, once.)
By the way, the evidence demonstrates, without doubt, that the same people who knew Mr. Trump lost and knew they were breaking the law shared their knowledge with Mr. Trump. So, full circle: Everybody who mattered – even Mr. Trump – knew Mr. Trump lost, and knew they were trying to steal an election.
Notwithstanding the fessing up, the New York Times featured Amid Jan. 6 Revelations, Election Lies Still Dominate the G.O.P. on June 17. (Best line: “Like mint in the garden, the seeds that the Trump team planted between Election Day 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, are now growing out of control, aided by the former president’s allies.” True that, but mint smells good and has its uses.) Facts, coming from the mouths of people who were there – Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump and, yes, even John Eastman – tell us they knew election fraud was a fraudulent claim. And that Mr. Trump knew, too.
Notwithstanding the source material, believers believe what believers believe. The Committee offers up facts, but tens of millions of Americans ignore them. Why? Who knows! My theory? For decades, false facts have framed our debates. (Senator Moynihan made his statement in 1983, after the other two men shared the same thought.) Now, though, two things have occurred:
- The Internet validates falsity. It offers its imprimatur, along with lots of opportunities to observe, sagely, that: “Lots of people are saying …,” “It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t true …,” and “Do you know for sure it isn’t true?” A powerful tool, this!
- Donald Trump got elected. Presidents before him have lied, but they have lied carefully. With care, to put a fine point on it. Someone in the Bush II Administration talked about “creat[ing] our own reality,” but President George W. Bush never uttered those words. Presidents as people have never allowed themselves to strip away the Truthy veneer, plain and simple. Until Mr. Trump came along!!! (How do we know Mr. Trump lies? His lips move.)
Lots of smart people write now about the risk to our democracy. I differ with them only about timing. It’s over, for if millions of people can’t appreciate what happened between November 3, 2020 and January 6, 2021, we lack a shared set of facts. Without it, about something so important, we can’t put this thing back together again. A crying shame it is, by the way, for we broke our democracy over Donald J. Trump. Of course, lots more explains the Wingnuttery and the level of upset, but for people to believe in this man – for crying out loud, casinos he owned and ran went bankrupt (and that makes no sense, given the odds) – boggles the mind. C’est la vie