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Although he’s best known for writing Common Sense—exhorting the American colonies to declare independence from Britain and establish their own republic—in my opinion Thomas Paine’s greatest work is The Age of Reason. This short book provides a philosophical argument for deism, highlights the problems with organized religion, and takes a sledgehammer to the Bible. It’s an easy read, and doesn’t sound like it was written more than 225 years ago. One of my favorite quotes of all time can be found within the first few paragraphs.

[I]t is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Paine and that quote lately, especially as I watch the Republicans react to Trump’s latest indictment.

Vanity Fair:

enator Lindsey Graham responded to Donald Trump’s fourth and latest indictment Monday with a radical, extrajudicial demand: that voters—not prosecutors or juries—should decide the former president’s legal fate. “The American people can decide whether they want him to be president or not,” Graham said on Fox News after Trump was charged in a sprawling racketeering case stemming from his attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory in Georgia. “This should be decided at the ballot box, not a bunch of liberal jurisdictions trying to put the man in jail.”

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, was similarly apoplectic. “I’m pissed at these over and over and over again, if they’re indictments tonight, it’ll be the fourth indictment of Donald Trump,” the conservative lawmaker told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night. “This is disgraceful. Our country’s over 200 years old. We’ve never once indicted a former president, or a candidate, or a leading candidate for president and this is Joe Biden and this is the Democrats weaponizing the justice system because they’re afraid of the voters.”

In the lower chamber, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, claimed in a social media post that the Biden administration “has weaponized government against his leading political opponent to interfere in the 2024 election” before accusing Willis—“a radical DA in Georgia”—of following suit in the hopes of advancing her political career.

Jim Jordan, on ShXitter:

Today’s indictment is just the latest political attack in the Democrats’ WITCH HUNT against President Trump.

He did nothing wrong!

And so on and so forth. Each and every one of these people—with the possible exception of Jordan, who really isn’t all that bright—knows they are lying.

Lindsey Graham knows very well that the reason Trump is under indictment in Georgia is because he refused to let the election “be decided at the ballot box.” Heck, Lindsey was involved with the plot! Likewise, Cruz and McCarthy know that Biden isn’t behind the Trump investigations. He doesn’t have that authority:

Legal experts said President Joe Biden does not have the authority to bring criminal charges against anyone. That authority lies with federal prosecutors. In the classified documents probe, Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith made the decision to indict Trump, not Biden.
The president does not have the power under the Constitution to charge anyone with a crime, according to Marc Scholl, who served as a criminal prosecutor in New York. Under federal statute, that authority is reserved for federal prosecutors, who must present evidence and convince a grand jury to move forward with an indictment.

This isn’t your standard “politician stretching the truth” stuff. For example, everyone expects politicians to take credit for things they didn’t do. This is straight-up lying to the American people or to paraphrase Paine, “prostituting the chastity of one’s mind, as to subscribe one’s professional belief to things one does not believe.”

Every single one of these outspoken Republicans know that Trump is guilty of what he’s accused of. Many of them had a ringside seat—yet they ask Americans “who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes.” For that matter, many of our media personalities are also engaged in mental lying, and I’m not just talking about the “wretched hive of scum and villainy” we call the right-wing media universe. The Post’s Ruth Marcus, for example, came under sustained fire for arguing that the Georgia investigation might be “one case too many.” That probably shouldn’t be surprising from someone who proudly defended convicted child molester Dennis Hastert on the pages of the Washington Post, asking “What, precisely, is the federal government’s interest — the public interest — at this point in prosecution and humiliation?” However, it remains shocking—and I don’t think anyone reading this believes for a moment that if was one of Ruth Marcus’s children or grandchildren that were raped, that she would have any interest in mercy for the offender.

Meanwhile, at the New York Times, serial liar and man-who-left-his-wife-for-a-younger-model David Brooks wonders “Why America Got Mean”. I suppose a man who left his wife (and children) for a younger model would know a thing or two about that topic.

I have very little hope for our country, but it is heartening to see some consequences—at last—for the mental liars among us, who have so convinced themselves of their own morality and rectitude that they’ve decided the rules that apply to everyone else somehow don’t apply to them.

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