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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Watching the second Republican presidential debate on CNN and its aftermath, millions of Americans learned again what we already know about the candidates: These people embellish, prettify, and fabricate their own biographies without hesitation, from Donald Trump’s much-parodied boasting about his business acumen to Carly Fiorina’s super-selective accounting of her tenure at Hewlett-Packard to Chris Christie’s highly romanticized account of his appointment and record as U.S. Attorney to Jeb Bush’s wildly inflated claims about the Florida economy when he was governor.

But as Christie himself pointed out – in a remark targeted at Trump and Fiorina – why would anybody even pay attention to the tall tales told by these politicians (or the self-styled political “outsiders,” who sound exactly like politicians) about themselves? While the bickering is sometimes amusing and mostly annoying, does anyone believe that it matters?

For these characters to prevaricate endlessly about their résumés and achievements is neither surprising nor important. Of much greater consequence are the bat-winged lies they emit about issues that affect all of our lives, as well as the future of the United States and the world.

Evidently all of the Republicans on the stage at the Reagan presidential library wanted us to believe that Planned Parenthood should be shut down everywhere because its clinics sell post-abortion fetal body parts for profit. That is a false and outrageous accusation, disproved in the same videotapes that they cited as proof. Attacking the venerable women’s health organization, Fiorina went even further, furiously describing a scene in those videos supposedly showing a “fully formed fetus” with legs kicking and heart beating while someone prepares to “harvest its brain.”

Such horrific practices, she declared, “erode the character of our nation.” What erodes the character of our nation, in fact, is Fiorina’s blatant chicanery, repeated by her the next morning on ABC News. The video she claims to have watched does not exist, according to Vox.com reporter Sarah Kliff, who viewed all 12 hours of those videos.

What exist in reality are hundreds of thousands of women who will lose access to health care if fanatics like Fiorina and her fellow Republican candidates ever succeed in wrecking Planned Parenthood. Having “harvested” tens of millions of dollars from Hewlett-Packard for nearly wrecking the company, however, she doesn’t need to worry about medical care for other people.

Nearly every Republican on that stage brayed his or her opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement – and every one of them falsely described that deal. Typical was Senator Ted Cruz, who warned, “We won’t know under this agreement—there are several facilities in Iran they designate as military facilities that are off limits all together…the other facilities, we give them 24 days notice before inspecting them.”

None of what Cruz said is true or relevant. All of Iran’s designated nuclear facilities will fall under continuous video and electronic monitoring in addition to physical visitation by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who will also monitor any movements of nuclear materials or equipment there. Hostile to scientific facts as they are, Cruz and his fellow Republicans are probably unaware of how easily as little as a billionth of a gram of radioactive dust could be detected by IAEA inspectors, as the Center on National Security at Fordham University noted in a factsheet.

These examples represent only a few of literally dozens of mendacious statements about crucial public issues, usually bordering on absurdity, broadcast by CNN with little contradiction on Wednesday evening. Senator Marco Rubio insisted that we can do nothing about man-made climate change without destroying the economy, when every reputable study shows that the economy and the world will be destroyed if we do nothing. Christie promised to “save” Social Security from insolvency by denying payments to wealthy recipients, when that won’t significantly improve the system’s finances – and the “crisis” he touted is overblown anyway. Trump insisted that life-saving vaccines cause autism, complete with anecdotal “proof” from an “employee” whose “beautiful baby” contracted a fever and then “became autistic” after being vaccinated.

Not only did Trump concoct that sad story, but there is little doubt that his own children, including little Barron Trump, have received proper vaccinations. (Manhattan private schools don’t accept the unvaccinated.) Disgracefully, neither of the two physicians on stage, Rand Paul and Ben Carson, had the guts to forcefully contradict him.

Try as they will to reject Trump, he fits in perfectly among Republicans – and not only because he worships money, spews xenophobic nonsense, and encourages callous bigotry. Like them, he relies on fabrications and falsehoods, manipulating the prejudices of ill-informed voters.

The Republican rejection of reality – which these candidates will act out in debate after debate for months to come – inflicts grave costs on this country every day. It is hard to imagine the damage that will be done if one of these deceivers comes to power.

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