Robert McDonald, the secretary of veterans affairs, is a liar. He’s in hot water for telling a homeless special forces veteran that he, too, was in the special forces. The statement, which was caught on camera, seems to have been an excited utterance made while trying to form a conversational connection. Our collective outrage is also somewhat tempered by the fact that McDonald did in fact pass the Army Ranger school. Though he was not selected for service in a Ranger unit, just finishing the school is quite an achievement on its own.
But McDonald still told a lie — one for which he has no choice but to apologize.
“I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post, when contacted to explain his claim. “I was not in special forces.”
[…] Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said he was “disappointed” in McDonald’s claim that he served in special forces.
“After a rough couple of weeks that also included inflated claims of accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I hope Sec. McDonald will redouble his efforts to ensure his statements — and those of all VA officials — are completely accurate,” Miller said in a statement Tuesday. “This is the only way the department can regain the trust of the veterans and taxpayers it is charged with serving.”
Indeed, McDonald has a tough task just getting past the recent history of VA Medical Center administrators fudging statistics to pretend that appointment wait times were being reduced when they were in fact abysmally long. Sharon Helman, who was fired as director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System for this very reason, is not just a liar, but a damned liar. Her lies are morally worse and contextually larger than McDonald’s lie because they had a huge impact on other people’s lives.
We thus have two levels of lying liars who tell lies: the all-too-human ones (plain liars) and the banally-evil ones (damned liars). Above both of these levels (or below them, depending on how you care to frame it), there is the grandiose liar — the person whose narcissistic confabulations can take our breath away. For example, there’s Bill O’Reilly fabricating a tangential connection to the JFK assassination for no other purpose than self-inflation.
Bill O’Reilly sits on a throne of lies at Fox News, especially lies about war. Take his fake ‘War on Christmas,’ for instance, or his approval of the actual police war on African Americans, which is disguised as a war on crime. Though O’Reilly has repeatedly lied about experiencing combat for many years, only lately did journalists seem to notice that something was amiss in his accounts of past glory in El Salvador and Argentina.
If O’Reilly’s lies ended at stolen valor, he would be just another self-aggrandizing jerk. But as Thom Hartmann recalls, O’Reilly passed along plenty of Bush administration whoppers twelve years ago to help sell the invasion of Iraq.
Nearly every day leading up to the invasion of Iraq, O’Reilly used his pedestal on Fox so-called News to pitch the pro-war lies of the Bush Administration.
In March of 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq, O’Reilly interviewed actress and political activist Janeane Garofalo, about her opposition towards going to war with Iraq.
O’Reilly asked Garofalo if she would apologize to President Bush if she was wrong, and if it turned out that the United States went into Iraq, was met with jubilant America-loving crowds of Iraqis, and in fact found “all kinds of bad, bad stuff.”
Garofalo responded that she would gladly go to the White House, get on her knees, and apologize to Bush if she were wrong, but added that she didn’t think she would be.
Guess what. She was right. And O’Reilly, as usual, was wrong.
O’Reilly is morally worse than liar Robert McDonald, or even damned liar Sharon Helman, because neither of them helped to create hundreds of thousands of disabled, PTSD-damaged veterans to swamp the Veterans Affairs system.
If O’Reilly’s audience had any critical thinking skills, he wouldn’t have an audience. His audience is old, while, christian, uncritical, and afraid.