The Mendacity of Public Officials

My grandfather’s nickname was David Lloyd George because he looked and spoke rather like the man. I was three days old when the former prime minister died, on the day that would have been my late grandfather’s birthday. After the Versailles Conference, where he had sat between Woodrow Wilson and Georges Clemenceau, Lloyd George commented on how he had fared: “Not badly, considering I was seated between Jesus Christ and Napoleon.”

Wilson was the idealist, a bad habit he had picked up after generations of attenuated Kantian and Schleiermachian philosophizing; Clemenceau was anything but an idealist. To him, and also to Lloyd George, is attributed the quotation which possibly first came from Bismarck: “He who is not a socialist at 19, has no heart. He who is still a socialist at 30, has no brain.” This occasions a dark joke, darker in the stark light of present-day Venezuela, that before socialists had candles for lighting, they had used electricity.

As commentary on the paucity of history courses in our schools, we now have elected officials who recommend socialism as the economic template for our age. The State of New York has a congresswoman who proudly calls herself a socialist. She is a product of the state that a Forbes magazine survey ranks first among the fifty states in money spent on public schools, while placing twenty-second in the quality of its education.

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Meanwhile, the junior United States Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, attended a private school for girls in Troy, New York, and later studied at the same college I did. I graduated a generation earlier and can confidently state—as well as measure with calipers the classical curriculum—that my class was the last of that college’s golden age, with Senator Gillibrand a harbinger of its twilight. Our debating team, the Forensic Union, frequently won the national championship, continuing a tradition of an earlier United States senator, Daniel Webster. In discourses and debates, Gillibrand seems not have been trained in any quality of forensic logic or persuasion. As a consequence, her oratory is not amazing; it is a maze.

While experience cautions theologians against the quicksand of politics, politicians frequently rush into theological matters where angels fear to tread, as Senator Gillibrand did on May 29 in a broadcast on National Public Radio. She announced that the Church is wrong about abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and the male priesthood. This puts her at odds with all the saints and doctors of the Church as well as Jesus Christ. The latter sent his Holy Spirit on Pentecost to lead the Church into all truth, and it is hard to believe that he reversed himself in the recent years of our Republic. Since it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18), the Lord would be at a disadvantage were he to run for the Senate from New York. This now would be a trifling matter were it not for the fact that Senator Gillibrand tells Catholics that she is a Catholic. Nevertheless, she seems certain that the Church’s teaching on essential dogmas is quixotic. As she put it: “And I don’t think they’re supported by the Gospel or the Bible in any way. I just—I don’t see it, and I go to two Bible studies a week. I take my faith really seriously.”

On various issues, Gillibrand has boasted regarding her “flexibility.” This was evident in her positions on gun ownership. Running for Congress in 2008 from a district populated by hunters, she wrote: “I appreciate the work that the NRA does to protect gun owners’ rights, and I look forward to working with you for many years.” After enjoying a 100 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association as a Representative, she became a supple Senator and soon switched mental gears, earning an “F” from that same NRA which she then described as “the worst organization in the country.” Such flexibility reminds one of Ramsay MacDonald whom Churchill likened to the Boneless Wonder of Barnum’s circus: “A spectacle too demoralizing and revolting for my young eyes.”

This mendacity became bolder on June 2 in a televised Fox News “town hall” forum when she said that “infanticide doesn’t exist.” Thus she ignored the “late-term” abortion bill signed by Governor Cuomo on January 22, as he sat next to a smiling Sarah Weddington, who had been counsel to the lying, and later repentant, plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade case. In his own Senate days, Mr. Obama led the way as a paladin of infanticide. The Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, who knows what he is talking about as a pediatric neurologist, admitted with insouciance: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Like a rhetorical Houdini breaking free from the shackles of consistency, Gillibrand then defended a woman’s “right to make a life and death decision.” But if the unborn is not human and if nothing is killed, why speak of a need to decide between life and death?  There is little difference between a slip of the tongue and a slip of the scalpel. Gillibrand’s incoherence is not a mistake the Holy Spirit would have made, but her solecism does reek of the Father of Lies. The senator’s rant was the equivalent of the action of a clumsy saboteur, not unlike Claudius in “Hamlet” fatally “hoisted with his own petard.”

On the same Sunday that Senator Gillibrand spoke at the “town hall forum,” there was a ceremony in the Romanian town of Blaj. Pope Francis beatified seven Greek-Catholic bishops who were martyred between 1950 and 1970 after unspeakable tortures during the Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu. The Stalinesque autocrat had been hailed over the years as the “Genius of the Carpathians” by some Westerners because he posed as somewhat independent of the Kremlin, although one out of every thirty Romanians was under some sort of criminal custody or censorship, and one-fifth of the half million concentration camp prisoners did not survive. According to the Vatican News, the papal throne used during the Divine Liturgy was made from the wooden planks of the prison beds, and from the iron bars of the prison windows where some of the martyrs died. The seven bishops sacrificed their lives in defense of the Faith that Senator Gillibrand has said is flawed, unchristian, and unbiblical.

In the beatification homily, the pope warned against “new ideologies” that threaten to uproot people from their “richest cultural and religious traditions.” There are “forms of ideological colonization that devalue the person, life, marriage, and the family” and the faithful must “resist these new ideologies now springing up.” This was language that one does not often hear at such volume in Rome itself these days, but it may have been inspired by the Spirit of Truth who speaks through martyrs over the dissonance of bureaucrats and the stuttering of mediocrities. Because of their obedience to God who cannot lie, those Blessed Martyrs will never be known in the chronicles of history as Boneless Wonders.


  • Fr. George W. Rutler

    Fr. George W. Rutler is a contributing editor to Crisis and pastor of St. Michael’s church in New York City. A four-volume anthology of his best spiritual writings, A Year with Fr. Rutler, is available now from the Sophia Institute Press.

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