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Editorial cartoon (3/29/2017)

Someone pointed out the other day that while politicians have routinely lied throughout American history, today's lying is different.

Used to be, they say, that government leaders would do their utmost to dodge the truth whenever they were caught in something unflattering. The extreme case in our day was Bill Clinton's insistence that he didn't have sex "with that woman." It was usually over something that wasn't easily debunked, more of a "he said, she said" argument, like Tricky Dick's Watergate.

Today, though, it has become nearly routine for some of our top political leaders to lie even about things that are abundantly clear and on the record. It feels somewhat like a fantasy land, where a politician will say and do something one day in clear view of everyone and then the next day deny that they ever said or did it.

Donald Trump, as we all know, has become a master at doing that, yet his devotees give him a pass because despite his lying, he's going to make America great again by cracking down on immigrants, building multibillion-dollar walls that we can't afford and denying there's such a thing as climate change.

One of my favorite columnists, Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune, couldn't help but wonder the other day: What if all this lying and crazy stuff that's been happening in Washington these days had occurred under former President Obama? 

"I want you to stand in front of a mirror," he wrote. "Now I want you to imagine Barack Obama is 40 days into his presidency, and that during his campaign he repeatedly and inexplicably praised Russian President Vladimir Putin. Next imagine that late in his campaign and in the weeks that followed the election that brought Obama into office, American intelligence agencies determined conclusively that Russia had hacked the Republican National Committee and released thousands of stolen emails that were damaging to Obama's opponent."

Huppke then asked what if it had surfaced that Obama's national security adviser was found to have lied about having contact with the Russians during the campaign or that his pick for attorney general had conversed with the Russians before lying to a Senate committee, saying that he never had any discussions with them.

Or imagine that Obama claimed that all this stuff was "fake news" and that the American intelligence community was leaking information to the press to harm him. And on and on.

"Imagine all these things. And remember that President Obama and members of his campaign all said specifically and repeatedly that there had been no contact with Russia," he added. "Imagine. Now look into that mirror in front of you. If this were true, would you think there should be an independent investigation into contacts between Obama and Russia? Are you angry?"

If you answered yes, he added, and you don't feel the same way right now about the connections between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, you need to ask yourself: What is the difference between these two men?

"Now look in the mirror again, long and hard. Because you have one last question to ask yourself. And I think you know what it is," he wrote.

The hypocrisy is unbelievable, even in today's political climate. Republicans, who couldn't launch enough investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails or who said what about Benghazi — both issues that even Republicans knew were phony — can't bring themselves to get behind probing the lies that are as clear as the noses on their faces.

It's as clear as Rex Huppke says it is and we all know the real difference between the man named Obama and the one named Trump.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Editor Emeritus

Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.