Elizabeth Warren flat-out lied.
There is, alas, no more charitable way to describe her tweet that "Five years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri."
The lie was scurrilous and potentially even legally libelous, given its characterization of the actions of police officer Darren Wilson, who, according to investigations by a grand jury and Barack Obama's Department of Justice, had shot Brown in self-defense (there being a rather important difference between a police officer acting in self-defense and committing "murder").
Even The Washington Post's fact checker, Glenn Kessler--like his paper, not known for being especially critical of claims made by Democrats--gave Warren four "Pinocchios" (to Kamala Harris as well, who made a similar claim about what had happened in Ferguson).
The shock comes not so much from Warren having lied--there was already that Native American thing in her resume--but from the sheer brazenness in the face of so many easily attainable facts as to leave no doubt that that's what it was.
The usual explanations for such lying are ignorance or mendacity; in Warren's case it was most likely both--mendacity combined with dismal assumptions about the ignorance of those she was lying to.
That Warren is a well-educated former Harvard law school professor suggests that she isn't ignorant of the facts as we know them regarding Michael Brown and Ferguson, including the facts that the Obama Justice Department report contained.
Which leaves us with mendacity--Warren knew she was lying but went ahead anyway because she felt it was in her political interest to do so. And it was in her political interest because she apparently assumed that her audience would swallow it hook, line and sinker and that a mass media that might otherwise be expected to take her to task for it likely wouldn't, or at least not much.
Why it was in Warren's interest to tell such a falsehood can of course be gleaned from the headline above a recent Post article: "Warren works to overcome hurdles with black voters in South Carolina."
That's the same South Carolina that will host an especially important primary early in the 2020 schedule, the first in which black voters are expected to make up a significant chunk of the turnout.
The lies that politicians tell out of ignorance or vanity (see Trump, Donald) tell us something not particularly flattering about their intellectual caliber and psychological insecurities. The ones that politicians tell out of mendacity tell us something not particularly flattering about their moral caliber (at a minimum, that they are capable of lying through their teeth with a straight face) and also about what they think of the people they are lying to, which, by definition, isn't much.
That there might be a racist assumption built into Warren's lie is a difficult conclusion to avoid, containing as it does an expectation that black voters, presumably being less capable in Warren's eyes than other voters of differentiating between lies and the truth, will believe her about what happened in Ferguson and respond at the South Carolina polls in the desired fashion (by voting for her); or that she apparently believes black voters lack the ability to read a Department of Justice report on Ferguson compiled by a black attorney general for consideration by his boss, the nation's first black president.
Call it the racism of low expectations. In this case, exceedingly low.
Such circumstances also suggest that liberals like Warren expect to get special dispensation from the mass media when they lie; that they assume shared ideological orientation will likely mitigate the risk of telling whoppers, even about life and death matters. And that many Democrats will be even more likely to lie and media figures more likely to excuse them when it comes to racial issues because they (like Warren) see themselves as part of the "resistance" resisting a supposedly racist president who lies routinely.
If so, then lying has now become more brazen and entrenched in our political culture as a result of both Trump and the opposition to Trump, and a media that was once properly concerned over whether a president had lied under oath regarding his extramarital affairs has now become increasingly unconcerned about lies about much bigger things (murder).
One is reminded by all this of another lie told by a prominent member of Congress, when then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed during the 2012 presidential campaign that Mitt Romney had paid no income taxes for 10 years. The Post gave that one four Pinocchios as well, and PolitiFact gave it its "pants on fire" rating.
When confronted about the lie, Reid, in a remarkably candid confession of both his moral character and ends-justifies-the-means approach to politics, simply said, "Romney didn't win, did he?"
And now we have Elizabeth Warren providing us with a similar window into her character by slandering an innocent man (Darren Wilson) for political gain in the most inflammatory way possible.
The existence of a Donald Trump presidency, however unfortunate, doesn't excuse any of that. Not a bit.
Warren is a disgrace.
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.
Editorial on 08/26/2019
Print Headline: BRADLEY R. GITZ: When politicians lie