Lying in the Age of Trump

The first U.S. Senate campaign I covered in Missouri was in 1974, when Republican Thomas B. Curtis ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Tom Eagleton. Since then, I’ve observed many political speeches, campaign appearances and national conventions.

I’ve also seen my share of political commercials. While some stretched the boundaries of truth, I never witnessed a blatant lie told to a television camera like the one being voiced now by the sincere–looking young face of Josh Hawley, Missouri’s attorney general.IMG_4710

Apparently this is what politics have become in the age of Donald Trump, when fact checkers work overtime to separate the truth from falsehoods. Hawley’s deception was the subject of yet another Paul Krugman column today (“Goodbye, Political Spin, Hello Blatant Lies”) in the New York Times.

In the TV ad Hawley claims he favors a requirement that health insurance companies cover pre-existing medical conditions. The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate uses his son’s medical condition as a prop, even though everyone knows that Hawley was one of 20 Republican attorneys general from around the country who filed a lawsuit seeking to end Obamacare, including its popular guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 1.29.34 PM

If the lawsuit is successful it would make millions of Americans uninsurable.

Hawley’s hypocrisy is astounding. Does he believe that voters are so gullible that a lie sincerely told outweighs the facts before them?

Newspapers have called Hawley out on this duplicity. A Washington Post columnist said the campaign ad was emblematic of the 2018 midterm election. You don’t usually see a politician claiming to be the savior of the very thing he’s trying to destroy, the columnist wrote. Krugman made the same point earlier: “If you or anyone you care about suffers from a pre-existing medical condition, Republicans are trying to take away your insurance. If they claim otherwise, they’re lying.”

At 38 years of age, Hawley is trying to take a short cut to political happiness. He is a candidate cast in the mold of another young Republican with no governmental experience, former Gov. Eric Greitens. Everyone knows how that turned out.

Hawley is trying to unseat two-term U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat with a long record of public service as a state representative, county legislator, county prosecutor and state auditor.

With no term completed in any government office, Hawley has no record upon which to run. In less than two years as attorney general, he’s had some missteps. Although the law requires the attorney general to live in the state capital of Jefferson City, Hawley continued to reside in Columbia and voted in a Boone County election.

Judges have sanctioned him for not doing his job. And it wasn’t until the Greitens’ scandal pots were boiling over that Hawley decided to even enter the kitchen.IMG_4709

With no positive record to show for himself, Hawley has been on the attack. Campaigns supporting him have made an issue of McCaskill’s husband’s wealth, a tactic Republicans have tried unsuccessfully before.

Newspapers have discredited this ad as being deceiving, too. “The implication that McCaskill is getting rich at voters’ expense is false,” reported the Washington Post. “Republicans should retire this smear campaign and move on toward a debate on the issues.”

One that really takes the cake is Hawley’s claim that McCaskill, who worked her way through Mizzou as a waitress, is part of the Washington elite and is “wealthy and well connected.” This is coming from a banker’s son with a degree from Yale, and who most recently raised campaign money at the exclusive Knickerbocker Club in Manhattan.

Over the years, I’ve seen up close many Missouri Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate: John Danforth, Kit Bond, Gene McNary, John Ashcroft, Jim Talent and Roy Blunt. They had all stepped on some lower rungs on their way climbing up the political ladder.

Young Josh has decided to skip all the rungs, hoping misinformation or disinformation will overcome fact-based reporting.

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