If Trump Wasn’t Lying, That’s Worse
Plus, Philip Baker Hall, RIP.
Recently at The Bulwark :
CHARLIE SYKES: Garbage All The Way Down.
ACROSS THE MOVIE AISLE: ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ Review.
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
WILL SALETAN: If Trump Wasn’t Lying, That’s Worse.
On Monday, the House January 6th Committee presented evidence that Donald Trump, after losing the 2020 election, promoted allegations of voter fraud that his own advisers had told him were false. According to the committee, this evidence proves he was lying.
But the evidence actually points to a different conclusion: Trump wasn’t lying in the way that other presidents have done. He was simply impervious. He refused to accept unwelcome facts. And that degree of imperviousness, in a president, is much more dangerous than dishonesty.
Testimony at Monday’s hearing showed that many people around Trump—Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and others—knew his claims were false. But the testimony about Trump himself was different. Nobody recalled the then-president privately admitting, in the style of Richard Nixon, that he was hiding the truth. Instead, everyone who had interacted with Trump described him as batting away information he didn’t want to hear.
The sensationalized journalism Katy Tur’s parents created has led her to some soul searching in her new book about the way the news is covered today. Plus, the shock of watching Trump associates under oath speaking truth instead of spin. She joins Charlie Sykes today.
Bulwark+ members can listen to an ad-free version of these podcasts on the player of their choice. Learn more at Bulwark+ Podcast FAQ.
MONA CHAREN: Of Course Trump Is Responsible for His Lies.
In the summer of 1973, the country was transfixed by the Senate Watergate hearings. The hearings had many memorable moments (including the revelation of the White House taping system) but the one question that became iconic was that posed by Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
Guilty knowledge was the key to the whole sordid business. If over-eager Nixon underlings had burgled the offices of the Democratic National Committee, paid hush money to the defendants, and corruptly influenced the FBI and the CIA, well, that would be bad. But if the president knew about it all, and knew it from the start, that was a firing offense or worse.
But in our age of post-truth politics, the question shrivels into a dry cinder. The January 6 committee devoted the second of its public hearings to demonstrating beyond doubt that Donald Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election. He was told by his campaign staff, by officials at the Department of Justice, by local election administrators, by his daughter and son-in-law, and by the attorney general, among others. And yet he persisted in propagating the lie to the American people.
BILL RYAN: Philip Baker Hall, 1931-2022.
One of the first times I ever saw a performance by Philip Baker Hall—the beloved character actor who died Sunday at the enviable age of 90—was during the initial airing of the season three episode of Seinfeld, called “The Library.” The plot, very briefly, involves Jerry discovering that he owes a large debt to the New York Public Library for a book he failed to return back in the 1970s. Hall plays Mr. Bookman, the library policeman, who interrogates Jerry, and treats his job as if he were Joe Friday solving murders and other such serious crimes. I doubt that many of those familiar with that venerated television show would disagree with me when I say Hall’s work in that episode is arguably the single funniest guest appearance over the course of its nine-season run. You can see Seinfeld trying to hold back laughter when Hall whips around on him and says, “You think this is all a big joke, don’t you,” or puts his finger in Jerry’s face, saying “Well let me tell you something, funny boy!” and “Well I got a flash for you, joy boy!” I could quote his lines all day long, but those lines wouldn’t work half as well if Hall ever winked once, ever played it as anything other than straight ahead. Hall’s Mr. Bookman is a masterpiece of comic acting. “Before Bookman, my agent would say, ‘Well, they really liked your work, they really love you, but they don’t think you’re right for this,’” Hall said in an interview with the AV Club. “After Bookman, there was no door closed to me in the industry.”
The photo bug has bit me again… Following up on yesterday’s photo note (and thanks for the emails from you shutterbugs!), I did order that lens I told you about. And it came here in one day. For $20. Just another interesting way society changes and improves. The cost of taking 36 pictures and getting digital copies in 2002 vs. 2022? Digital was heavy up front, but cheaper in the long run, and it was always going to win. Ask VCRs. I took 36 pictures today on my formerly $800 Canon Digital Rebel XTi (now you can get a used one for $50.)
It’s similar, but a DSLR camera isn’t going to have unique light leaks outside of the Holga lens, so not exactly the same. But close. And cheaper.
Semper Fly… Matt Labash fishes with the Marines. Take some time for this long read from a decade ago. Matt writes: “I feared this might end up being some saccharine, candy-ass story. Boy, was I wrong. You can learn a lot about a man by fishing with him. Things that have nothing to do with catching fish. These brave and damaged and black-humored fishing companions, fresh off the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, relaxed enough around me to tell me their stories – their real stories – the good, the bad, and the often very ugly, without tying any of it up with a pretty bow.”
Only 24 hours of training? Seems a little low, compared to the previous requirement of 700 hours for people to carry a gun in a school. I am beginning to understand, more and more, Chrissie Hynde’s song (used by El Rushbo) My City Was Gone.
Journalism and turmoil… A new study from Pew about how this industry views itself and the state of the world. One takeaway I found interesting: “77% would choose their career all over again, though 57% are highly concerned about future restrictions on press freedom.” I forget how I answered choosing my career over again. I didn’t set out to be writing you emails today. It sort of happened by accident, but I love it.
A message from Liz Cheney:
And now… We know that the former guy is watching the hearings with this bizarre statement.
But three days before 1/6/2020… There was an explosive confrontation inside the Oval Office we knew a little about, but more details have been revealed. It should be shocking, it is, but that’s Trumpism, right? Just when you think you can’t be shocked or surprised, you are.
A living artifact… A 370+ year old bond that paid interest for hundreds of years.
White nationalist publishers revealed… SPLC’s “Hate Watch” has a deep dive on Antelope Hill publishing.
That’s it for me. Tech support questions? Email email@example.com. Questions for me? Respond to this message.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.