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CSotD: Truth, Illusion and Carrying On

In Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” a hard-drinking couple center their lives and their relationship around a cruel series of shared memories of extremely dubious truth. Any more would be a spoiler, and, if you’ve never seen Mike Nichols’ 1966 film of the play, you should.

But don’t expect to laugh, because, in the words of Madge the Manicurist, “You’re soaking in it.”

 

Rather than playing out in George and Martha’s livingroom during a late-night drinking bout, however, this version of the truth-and-illusion game is, as Tom the Dancing Bug depicts it, happening on an international stage with international repercussions.

And we can’t just walk out of the threater shaking our heads after two hours and 11 minutes. We’re pretty much stuck in the middle for however long it goes on.

Bolling does the best job I’ve seen of satirizing the GOP term “legitimate political discourse,” in large part because he has space for more detail than one-panel cartoonists can include to show how it plays out, starting normally enough before descending into parody.

 

It’s becoming hard to exaggerate without going into full-bore absurdity, and Nick Anderson (Counterpoint) — anthropomorphic elephants aside — plays things straight in comparing the GOP’s outrage over Hillary Clinton having used a private server and deleted emails to their silence in learning that Donald Trump destroyed and hoarded materials in violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Clinton was examined and cross-examined in a series of Congressional investigations and dutifully testified for hours without anything emerging except that she was foolish to use a private server, and that some of the information legally on her server was later classified.

By contrast, members of the Trump administration are defying Congressional subpoenas and either refusing to testify or taking the Fifth Amendment.

Taking the Fifth is not an admission of guilt, despite Dear Leader’s proclamation that only mobsters do that.

Which fits Steve Bannon’s accusation that those who do testify are “ratting out” the president. He’s not calling them liars: The term means to reveal criminal activity to the authorities.

Truth and illusion, Donnie. You don’t know the difference, but you must carry on as if you do.

 

Bill Bramhall takes a subdued but telling view of the news that Trump had taken boxes of presidential papers, including classified material, home with him after leaving office.

On the one hand, he hints at their destruction. This may or may not be true, since it seems likely that Trump wants his “love letters” from Kim Jong-un as souvenirs, but, given his known history of tearing things up, it’s not an outlandish suggestion.

But the overall joke is the comparison between Donald Trump and the Pope, the election of each new pope being signaled by white smoke as the empaneled cardinals burn their ballots. Bramhall manages in one stroke to mock the secrecy of the Trump cover-ups and make a statement about the sacred cult of personality that has overtaken the GOP.

So far, at least.

There have been cracks in the wall as a few Republicans break away, though they don’t yet seem ready to make common cause with Liz Cheney and Adam Kenzinger, who never joined the cult in the first place.

 

Amid the ongoing horror, we’ve been offered the welcome comic relief of reports that Trump used to flush torn-up paper down the White House toilets, clogging them up so that his staff had to fish them out.

Jack Ohman (WPWG) is not the only cartoonist to suggest that it could be part of a cover-up, and the comparison to Nixon’s “accidental” erasure of the smoking-gun tapes seems apt, if speculative.

Trump denies the story, but Maggie Haberman, whose upcoming book reports it, is a respected journalist who interviewed many White House staffers, as well as Trump himself. In a contest of his word against hers, the fact that she hasn’t been caught telling lies 30,000 times over four years provides an edge in her favor.

As does Trump’s foolish, bragging conversation with Russian officials in which it is widely believed that he revealed top secret information and compromised an Israeli intelligence operation, not to mention his suppression of translator’s notes following his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Open government and sunshine are the best antidotes for confusion between truth and illusion.

If you seek any.

 

When Cruelty is the Point

(Gary Varvel – Creators)

 

(Dana Summers – Tribune)

 

(AF Branco – Creators)

Much of the tension in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is the deliberate cruelty with which George and Martha assail both each other and their hapless guests. It makes the issue of truth and illusion almost a sideshow, with the point of the game being how much pain you can inflict.

This past week, the Washington Beacon reported that the White House was funding kits to offset risks for addicts, and declared that these kits would include crack pipes.  White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the story as “inaccurate reporting,” while less diplomatic observers are calling it an outright lie.

Even the reporter who wrongly guessed that pipes were included simultaneously reported that he had no knowledge of what was in the kits, though, now that the story has been debunked, the Beacon appears to be fatuously claiming that their report caused a change in the plan.

The story, however — lie or error — was out of the gate, and fodder for Tucker Carlson and other fringe commentators.

It’s hard to know the timing of (1) the initial report, (2) the White House denial, (3) the documentation of its falsity and exactly when the above cartoons were drawn.

Political cartoonists are journalists and should confirm before publishing, but mistakes, even grotesquely incompetent mistakes, happen, as a jury in Sarah Palin’s libel case is currently sorting out.

But here’s my question: WTF has Hunter Biden got to do with any of this?

True, he’s had substance abuse problems. That’s public record.

However, the only logical connection is that his father may be more compassionate towards the problem, though the minor HHS program under discussion likely never came to his attention.

So why drag Hunter into it?

Unless, like George and Martha, the point is not truth or illusion, but simply to be as cruel as possible.

 

Community Comments

#1 Judge Magney
February/12/2022
@ 11:06 am

Maggie Haberman. And it is unfortunate that the estimable David Halberstam isn’t with us to provide his own valuable analysis of the Trump regime.

#2 Mike Peterson
February/12/2022
@ 12:25 pm

Fixed, thx, and, you know, I’ve been misreading her name that way all along. Wishful thinking, yes, though she does fine work, too.

#3 Tony Wagahoff
February/12/2022
@ 4:31 pm

On other boards, I’ve seen commenters give Ms Haberman a lot of grief for withholding these nuggets for a book that’s not scheduled to be published until the fall. The argument continues that this is too important to not be reported immediately. Woodward & Bernstein’s reporting was coming out in the Washing ton Post regularly but people still bought their book. As a former(?) journalist, what’s your take on this?

#4 Mike Peterson
February/12/2022
@ 5:18 pm

The divide between what I do for my employer and what I do for me is fraught at best. Once they began producing good stuff, the WashPost got behind Woodstein so that “All the President’s Men” was a wrap up, a behinder view of how that coverage had happened.

If there are threads someone isn’t being encouraged to pick up on, however, perhaps holding them for a book is understandable. But, yeah, it makes me queasy. Not sure whether to blame her for holding back, though, because I’ve had editors who didn’t want to publish the things I was digging up.

The book comes out in October. The teases are coming in February. There’s probably another story in that.

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