"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, September 20, 2019

Justin Trudeau - Meaningless Apologies In The Sanctimonious Age Of Social McCarthyism

Peter Sellers played an Indian in The Party.  His imitations were spot on and hilarious.

Image result for peter sellers as an indian in movieImage result for peter sellers as an indian in movie

Eddy Murphy’s imitations of white people are just as funny, particularly his impressions of Jews.  His Jewish tailor in Coming to America was stereotypical, and his looks, accent, intonation, dress, and body language were perfect. 

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The Wayans Brothers movie White Chicks was in the same comedic spirit.

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Al Jolson, a popular Russian-Jewish vaudevillian actor of the 20s and 30s made his reputation and popular appeal performing in blackface.

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In all four cases the comedy is particularly funny because of the weird racial/ethnic/gender twists – Sellers was a white comedian playing on Indian stereotypes.  Eddie Murphy is a black man who does impeccable hilarious impersonations of white people.  The black Wayans brothers take this burlesque comedy to a completely other playing white girls.

So, of course Justin Trudeau performed in brownface as Aladdin and in Al Jolson-style blackface.  In the untamed, still adolescent college days of Trudeau’s Canadian youth, like in America, anything went.  It was a time for the ridiculous, the shameless, the fraternity, and the silly.  Men dressed up as women, whooped and hollered like Plains Indian, did the pimp walk, and performed as super-macho Tarzan pursuing Jane.   It was a freer, less concerned and far less sanctimonious time.

Mocking stereotypes is an time-honored comedic tradition in America, and was the stock-in-trade of the Borscht Belt comedians who could make fun of anyone.  As importantly, they never did it in a mean-spirited, ugly way.  Even those pilloried for their stereotypical behavior appreciated the humor – there was indeed something funny about the way new immigrants tried to be American and yet could never lose their roots in Sicily, Russia, Ireland, or Poland.  Skits about the blind, the crippled, and the deaf were funny because of luckless twists of fate, exaggerated humanity, and ungainliness. A man slipping on a banana peel and falling unceremoniously - ungainly, without decorum or social privilege is funny .  The skits were not meanspirited, hateful, or immoral.  They were simply funny, playing on everyone’s sense of human nature, life, and luck.

The point is not so much that Trudeau dressed up and acted in brown- and blackface, but that he apologized for it.  His apologies were senseless, meaningless, and irrelevant.  He had performed in a more open, less fragile society with little sanctimony and righteousness.  Had he committed an act that for the time was unconscionable – a hurtful, irresponsible act which reflected on his character and soul – then admission might be in order.  Not an apology, but an act of contrition, a willingness to confess to moral failure, a lack of rectitude, and ignorance.  Apologizing to no one in particular and everyone in general for a very understandable act which only in this oversensitive, fearful age of political correctness is concerned wrong. 

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Anyone who is paying the slightest attention, sees Trudeau’s apologies for what they are – self-serving admissions designed only to minimize the political damage and fallout from the revelation of his youthful hijinks.  Trudeau knows that he did no wrong, that he has no need to apologize; but rather than be honest about the corrosive influence of reformist politics, the cult of inclusivity and identity, and the damages done to social integrity, he bends over, bends down, and plays into the hand of the Stalag Left.

Politicians have always apologized in as meaningless a way as Trudeau over far more serious accusations.  Many have had indefensible affairs and when finally exposed simply apologize.  “I am sorry that my actions have caused so much hurt and pain to my family, friends and colleagues”, they say, careful never to say they are sorry for the act itself. They are as adept at twisting apologies for their own ends as the English.   I didn’t do anything wrong, said Newt Gingrich after admitting infidelities while his wife was being treated for cancer:

Let's remember, Newt famously dumped wife #1 for wife #2 while wife #1 was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. As in literally went to the hospital to present her with divorce papers while she was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer.

He eventually dumped wife #2 for wife #3 shortly after wife #2 was diagnosed with MS back in 1999. And he was having the affair on wife #2 with wife #3 while he was turning the country upside down trying to drive Bill Clinton from office over his affair with Monica Lewinsky (Josh Marshall, New York Magazine 3.9.11)

John Edwards was no different:

When Edwards first admitted to the affair, he stated that Elizabeth was in remission from breast cancer. However, it became clear that the affair was still ongoing, even after he and his wife made a joint announcement that her cancer had returned and was found to be incurable. Elizabeth Edwards died on December 7, 2010. (Wikipedia)

Yes, he was philandering while his wife was dying.  Yes, he lied to her; and yes, he bribed an underling to say he was the father of Edwards’ illegitimate child; but he never apologized for wrong-doing, just for the hurt that he caused:

Edwards wrote in a statement, “It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me….To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.” (Keith Huffman, Washington POST, 1.22.10)

Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who lied to everyone about his affair and told the press that he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail when he actually was headed to Buenos Aires to be with his firecracker, is now back in office as a Representative to the Congress of the United States. He apologized - abject apologies not for his dereliction of office, cheating on his wife, or for blatant lies, but for causing hurt and pain.

It is not surprising then that in this day of insincere apologies that whole countries feel the need to apologize.  Poor Queen Elizabeth was forced into apologizing for British atrocities in Kenya, convinced by her Prime Minister that such an apology for alleged murders of Mau Mau ‘freedom fighters’ would tighten the bond between the two countries.

The apology must have really stuck in the craw of the Queen, old enough to remember the glory days of Empire, when Kenya was the jewel in crown of British Africa, when her forbearers had brought civilization to the natives and prosperity to the land.  Her advisors of course had to tell her of the even more savage brutality of the Mau Mau who reputedly chopped up British soldiers and grilled them over charcoal in the Great Rift Valley.  The Queen must have had to practice her apology speech very hard indeed and muster all her English self-control to utter it.

The British don’t have to go back very far in history to find other events to apologize for -  the massacres of the Boer War, the Sepoy Rebellion, and Amritsar are just a few.  In keeping with the protocol of this Age of Apology, David Cameron, British Prime Minister, did offer an apology for Amritsar, but stopped short of making it official.  As he explained to reporters in Amritsar, history is history, after all, and you can’t change it.  So in proper British fashion he said ‘Sorry’ without really meaning it.

Amritsar Massacre

We are still waiting for the Mongolians to apologize for the outrages of Genghis Khan who killed at least 40 million people in his rampages out of the steppes to Europe and the Far East.

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Recently Congress, feeling the growing pressures from the reformist Left passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow, but were careful to avoid any legal missteps and never waded into human rights territory.  No one voted ‘Nay’ and so Congress granted us all absolution for the past. We didn’t have to get fussed about anything.

Meaningless, empty political apologies such as those expressed by Justin Trudeau are shameless, venal, and hopelessly transparent.  There is nothing in his confessions to admire.

‘Racism’ has become a catch-all phrase which includes everything from the most serious and academic look at racial disparity in performance, crime, and education; to virulent expressions of hate for all black people.  To publicly declaim racism confers an automatic green card.  It is a sign of being ‘woke’, being born again as a newly aware, committed, and faithful follower of social justice and a signifier for all progressive causes – not only racism but homophobia, sexism, income inequality, violence, and xenophobia.

In other words it is a banner to fly, a badge of belonging, and a key to the right clubs; and under this banner progressives shout, ‘J’accuse!’, exposing anyone who falls short of their impossible standards of right.  They are the McCarthyites of the 21st century; and the likes of Justin Trudeau play into their antidemocratic, divisive hands.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sexual Pull-By Dates, And The Libido Of The American Male

God’s cruelest irony was that he enabled male sexual potency, watched its sad and inevitable decline, but assured that men would nevertheless think of women all the time – in their dotage, in their wheelchairs, in the nursing home, and on their deathbeds.  

Bob Larkin like most men had been obsessed with sex since adolescence.  In his case well before, although when precocious Nancy Brierley had held his hand, walked with him into the woods behind the Country Club, and pulled his shorts down, he had no idea what was what, what to do, or what was up; and just stood there listening to the mocking birds and blue jays and wondering whether or not a ball hit off the fifth tee could make it this far into the pines.
Nancy Brierley was  his first lover, if you can count the fumbling and groping that she initiated in the dry leaves; but despite his surprise, his innocence, and his wonder, he never forgot it or her.

When he turned forty, he first began to think of age, longevity and sexual potency. “How many more years do I have?”, he asked himself before women would cease being attracted to him, when he would become background or wallpaper.  At the end of each decade he asked himself the same question – even though as he turned fifty he had an Angolan lover; and in his mid-sixties was still very sexually active.

Yet inevitably and assuredly by the time he had reached his seventieth birthday, he found himself alone, without sexual companionship, and with little likelihood of promise.  Although he had not lost interest in women, they had somehow lost interest in him.  Although all he could think of when he sat at the bar alongside the twenty-, thirty-, forty-, and even fifty-somethings sipping their margaritas, martinis and Scotch sours was sex, they never even noticed him, let alone acknowledged his presence.

He had finally passed the threshold he had dreaded all his life – the point of no sexual return, the abyss of sexual nothingness, the final and irrevocable passage.

“Are you sexually active?”, asked Bob’s physician during his annual physical.

“Depends”, answered Bob, now well into his seventies.

“Erection, libido?”, pursued the doctor.

“Both”, replied Bob. “Overboard, incessant, painful”.

Bob Larkin was one of tens of millions of men who whose sexual pull-by date in physical terms was far from past, but de facto – i.e. potential mates attracted to him – it was long overdue.

“Perhaps your wife could arrange a concubine”, the doctor said, a still virile and sexually attractive man whose bedside manner, calm, reassuring demeanor, and Old World Brooklyn menscheit, led many patients to his bed.  There was an irresistible draw to this Orthodox Jew who had long ago put secular ethics aside and went were the will of God took him.   Sex, particularly for the older man, was never to be a matter of geriatric longing,, but an existential necessity.

“If you are potent, and your libido is fine, then why should you stop here?”

‘Here’, Dr. Schwartz meant, was Bob’s wife, Helen, a woman of rectitude, right behavior, and propriety  who had rescued Bob, saved him from drug abuse, philandering, and irresponsibility,; but who, after two children and three grandchildren was in no mood or physical desire to be a complaisant lover to Bob’s nouveau adolescence.  She in her late middle-aged maturity had long ago given up any sexual intentions.  She had aged well, but had given up sexual interest let alone sexual allure decades ago – no Tina Turner, Helen Mirren, or Sigourney Weaver she.

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Bob, never hidebound or slavish to his early moralistic upbringing, found easy solace and satisfaction in the arms of 30-something lovers who were attracted to his success, his confidence, his sexual allure and his promise of a better life.  While Betty from Accounting might not have been his romantic ideal, she was an anodyne to age, offering sexually curing waters which salved and staved off advancing age.

In other words, he kept his sexual fires burning, sometimes banked but always ready to flame.  There was Sally, a fellow consultant in the time of the Angola famine, married but under no compunction to be faithful.  Icelandic fire and unquenchable appetites. Or Lisa, the seeker, the itinerant, who said she  longed for the solitude of the high Himalaya, but only wanted comfort; and spent many happy nights with Bob in Lhasa.  Or Mary Beth, the feminist queen from New Orleans, an octoroon, proud of her heritage bur dismissive of the new identity politics which demanded that she take sides.

Yet time and tide wait not for no one's emotional completion let alone satisfaction, and before he knew it, Bob Larkin found himself approaching his sexual pull-by date – not the date after which he ceased his interest in women; but the date when women ceased being interested in him.

The problem was that he never planned ahead. Had he solved the quadratic equations that described sexual desire as a function of age, he would have earned more, banked more, exhibited more.  Arm candy is possible at any age provided the price is right. Disappointingly, he overvalued his youth, his physical attractiveness, and his sexuality.   Greco-Roman features, washboard abs, and a lithe, athletic body hold little interest for the woman over forty, divorced or despairingly single.  She wants promise, promotion, and a better life.

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Bob played all of these sexual dynamics perfectly.  He was attuned to women and their ambitions and understood that sexual attentiveness, respect, and promise went a long way; but he was no ignoramus when it came to the dynamics of age. There was indeed such a thing as a pull-by date although it was financially mediated.  Really old alte kockers could still attract sweet young things well into their late 80s because of money. Not a few kewpie 30-somethings were willing to put up with a few minutes of withered, half-masted sex per week in exchange  for yachts, resorts, ski lodges, and fast cars.

Bob Larkin, however, had no such limitless resources.  His carefully-curated wealth was well-invested in mutual funds and trusts; and although he had the money to spend liberally, he didn’t reek of easy money and therefore was never a target for the young and hungry. So, if he couldn’t attract the young nor find the right opportunity to buy them, he was stuck within his cohort – late middle-aged women looking for companionship in their later years, but only partners for the retirement community and not a late-life paramour.

So after Lisa from Human Resources there had been no one.  As ashamed as Bob was to admit to his physician that he was sexually potent but with no partners, it was the bloody truth.

“You’re not inventive enough”, said a close friend.  “Women are, by and large, unhappy with their sex lives”.

There was Raisa, a desperately unhappy fortyish Russian √©migr√©, married to a layabout, faux intellectual lover of Tolstoy and Pushkin, who was too lazy to look for work and whose indolence transformed whatever sexual allure he might have had into duty. “Thursday nights”, Raisa told Bob. “That’s when we do it.”.

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Yet that confession never seemed enough to get him off the mark.  The almost forty year difference in age was one thing, but the idea of this delightful young, soft, smooth, warm thing next to his slack, spent body - as much as he desired it – was somehow unseemly.

Resting on one’s laurels – few men of Bob’s age had had or even dreamed of such wildly sexual May-December relationships as he had had – was not enough.  No matter how he thrived in his sixties, his seventies were a lean period indeed; and no romantic stories of love in the Graham Greene Suite of the Oloffson, the Comoros, Bucharest, or Rawalpindi could compensate for the dry period he was enduring – the soudure, the dry, infertile season.

The point was what, exactly? Start early and put as many sexual adventures as possible in the bank? Hardly. There is no drawing down on that type of accumulated wealth.  Moving on? Dealing with advanced age and death? Ugh, never, not as long as there were hard-ons in the morning, and wet dreams at night.  Acceptance? Buddhist resolve? Joy at Jesus’ Second Coming?

What’s done is done; although Bob did actually consider his doctor’s suggestion about concubines.  He could no sooner go to his prim Miss Mary for such an arrangement than the man in the moon; but high-class hookers at the Mayflower?  Why not?  If the former Governor of New York could spend a few thousand for a few hours with DC’s best prostitutes, why shouldn’t he?

A non-starter.  It wasn’t sex he was after, although he had to admit that alignment with the soft, lithe, young body of a young woman was appealing.  It was emotional engagement; and this no tart could provide.

So he went home from the doctor’s feeling depressed.  The internist had hit the nail on the head but unlike his professional advice about heart and prostate health,  he could not even begin to resolve Bob’s existential crisis. 

D.H. Lawrence understood that sexual intercourse was the existential event of human life.  If a couple was lucky, they would have a mutually climactic psycho-physical moment – a spiritual union which was the perfect expression of human nature.  Everyone looked for this experience and few would find it; and yet the romantic idealism of the age and those following persisted; and Bob Larkin felt its legacy.  He must, even at his late age, find his true sexual partner.

A vain hope, alas.  Bob spent his last years like most men his age – reclining, accommodating, relaxing.  The end of life should be reflective, never anxious.

He often thought of what he would inscribe on his tombstone, but always fell short.  In the scope of things he might had had more adventures than most, and more fun.  He had not built bridges or monuments; had never been published; and was never of public renown or repute.  A good father, a passable husband, a good but irresponsible lover, a traveler, a polyglot and connoisseur of food and wines? Yes, but so what? The existential had failed him – or he had failed to to find it.  He would die alone, unrecognized, with little to show.

So how was he to live out his years?  He hesitated before dialing the escort service, but not for long.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Telling It Like It Isn’t–The Beautiful Art Of Deceit

Everyone knows that truth is a valued commodity, especially because it is so hard to find. We all fib, exaggerate, embellish, invent, and out-and-out lie; and today more than ever we get away with our deceit.  Politicians lie through their teeth and deny wrongdoing.  Preachers philander and filch until they are caught.  Husbands look their wives straight in the eye and tell the most outrageous, outlandish, barefaced lies. Children lie about their whereabouts, CEO’s lie about mergers, buy-outs, and downsizing.

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Richard Nixon would baldly lie to hide is crimes and political dirty tricks, never flinch before the cameras, and never admit to any wrongdoing.

Bill Clinton used his particularly gifted intelligence to do everything to admit the truth but never actually lie.  His testimonies during the Monica Lewinsky scandal were examples of linguistic parsing, philosophical needle-threading, and balletic moves, all devised to hide the truth.

Politicians, preachers, and priests all seem to be in the business of hiding the truth for personal gain or to cover up moral failings.

The rest of us, common American citizens, are no different.  We like, fib, distort the truth to suit our needs, and do anything to conceal our infidelity, waywardness, or financial irresponsibility.  The truth is there when it is unavoidable and absolutely necessary, but not before.

Eyewitnesses think they are telling the truth, but they are so deceived by their own perceptual apparatus that they swear up and down that they saw X do Y to Z, all of which has nothing whatever to do with what really happened.
The Internet is an ideal breeding ground for deceit and deception. The easier it is to click-and-share, the more immediately sensational and compelling the graphic images, the easier it is to assume the truth.

There is plenty of residual guilt to go around.  Men do indeed have their moments after crawling into bed, showered, powdered, and mint-fresh beside their sleeping wives. They look over at their wives and watch their sweet, untroubled, and innocent sleep; and feel pangs of inconsolable guilt.

“How was your business meeting, darling”, the wife asks, stretching and putting her arms around her husband’s neck, kissing him on the cheek.

“What have I done?”, the husband thinks to himself. “How could I have been such a deceitful cad?”; but of course, having gotten away with his adultery, and surprised at how easy it was, any resolve made at first light dissipates at the first martini of the evening and goes away entirely after the third.

Moralists like Immanuel Kant wrote that lying was morally reprehensible:

Lies are morally wrong, then, for two reasons. First, lying corrupts the most important quality of my being human: my ability to make free, rational choices. Each lie I tell contradicts the part of me that gives me moral worth. Second, my lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally. When my lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, I have harmed their human dignity and autonomy. Kant believed that to value ourselves and others as ends instead of means, we have perfect duties (i.e., no exceptions) to avoid damaging, interfering with, or misusing the ability to make free decisions; in other words - no lying. (Tim Mazur, Santa Clara University)
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Yet why is lying – the most persistent, durable human trait – criticized rather than admired? Lying is not only as common as a winter cold, at its best it is an art, and the bald-faced lie, told with no expression of deceit, no anxiety or guilt, is shamelessly perfect.  In the face of such universal, daily, unrepentant deceit, moral censure seems sanctimonious at best.

John Malcolm was such a perfect liar.  He chose his roles carefully and never repeated a performance.  He avoided trivial lies – why he was late for an appointment or why he forgot to return a call – and saved his stage time for the more serious deceptions. He could lie thoroughly, convincingly, and empathetically when it came to professional advantage. No one doubted his sincerity and good intentions.  His words were reassuring, his body language was sympathetic, patient, and accommodating.  His handshake firm and gaze clear and untroubled.  He had so concealed his real intentions and purpose that not only did his clients, associates, and rivals believe him, but they raised him to a higher moral standard.   Malcolm was better than Jean-Louis Barrault, Sarah Bernhardt, and John Barrymore all rolled into one.

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The lies he told his wife about his unfaithfulness were persuasive, compelling, and brilliant.  They were masterfully-crafted, artful denials couched in sincere apology, expressed with  loving concern and compassion, and expressed with a practiced physical intimacy that no woman could refuse.  To his lovers he was equally passionate about love and caring; his growing dissatisfaction with his wife, his intention to be free of her yoke and finally able to live the life he deserved.  At the same time, he was convincing in his demurrals when it came time to break off his affairs.  No one could have framed such escape more poignantly and attuned to his lovers’ concern.  He was not right for them, he argued, a flawed, immature, deluded man who should never inflict his pain and uncertainty on others, let alone those who loved him.  No, they were better off without him.

Liars come in many forms.  The elegantly persuasive like John Malcolm are of one type, the bombastic liars like Donald Trump are another.  Trump, his opponents claim,  is an inveterate liar, a shameless huckster with no respect for the truth.  He tells barefaced lies, distortions, and exaggerations but, to his critics' surprise, his partisans are unconcerned.  They can easily extract the main messages from his hyperbole, melodrama, and Las Vegas showmanship.  They have no interest in the ‘truth’ and could care less about statistical accuracy.  They want no carefully-worded statements of policy, no considered on-the-one-hand-on-the-other economic reasoning.  They want the meat and care little about the gravy.

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Everyone knows that for Trump there is no such thing as truth, only the theatrical semblance of it.  It could be true is the essence of the bombastic liar.  Democrats are corroding the country from within, intent on destroying our free market system, promoting welfare for the indolent, creating a politburo of American Trotskyites, a socialist elite whose goal is nothing less than a complete remake of democratic institutions.  Whether any of these claims are true or not makes little difference.  They could be true, and that’s all that counts.  Trump is a master of guilt by inference, innuendo, and suggestion.  Yet he does not insinuate.  He shouts, he declaims, he demands.  His oratory is inflammatory.  He is enraged.   His fustian performances are believable and persuasive, confident as he is of his base, and as disdainful of his opponents. 

As a son of Hollywood and Las Vegas; a performer, vaudevillian, and big tent revivalist in the old American tradition, Trump doesn’t mean what he says.  He says what he means.  His is a political circus act with a semiotic foundation.  Crazy as a fox and as smart as a whip, he speaks a firestorm but is as rational – more rational in fact – than his opponents who speak in platitudes, shopworn nostrums, and old-fashioned appeals to ‘experience’. No one but unreconstructed liberal elite take him at face value.

Americans never loved Jimmy Carter.  His moralism, his cardigan sweaters, pleas to turn down the thermostat and to embrace brotherhood fell on deaf ears.   As a nation of liars, it was not surprising that we turned against someone who arrogantly claimed some God-given insight into ‘truth’

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Perhaps ‘a nation of liars’ is too harsh.  After all, capitalism is based on selling a bill of goods.  Snake oil salesmen have been around since the beginning of the Republic.  The sub-prime mortgage bankers were no less hawkers of snake oil than the original.  Advertising is based on dressing up the most flimsy product to look like a million dollars.  Marketing is another term for purposeful persuasion.  No matter how much government may wish to temper caveat emptor and protect the consumer from fallacious claims, he always falls for the newest and latest chicanery.  Of course he turns right around and lies to his boss, his wife, his children, and his girlfriend to feather his own nest.

The Clios are awards given to the best advertisements – the ones that are catchy, memorable, and persuasive; and get people to buy what they are selling.  The Super Bowl is one of the most popular shows on television only indirectly because of the football.  Most viewers tune in to watch the ads.  We may admire the truth, but we love getting around it.

So we have to admire the great liars of the world – those that lie with confidence, persuasion, and elegance.  If lying is endemic, part and parcel of the human experience and the human character, practiced daily, incessantly, and repeatedly; then why is the truth so revered?  Platonic ideals are all well and good to read about, but what do they mean in actuality?  It is the artful liar who gets ahead, gets what he wants, and gets satisfied. 

Will Rogers said that “Diplomacy is saying, ‘Nice Doggie’ until you can find a rock”.  Diplomats are skilled in saying nothing in a persuasive way; telling untruths as though they were Biblical injunctions; and telling truths to seem more attractive and alluring than they really are.   Lying – or at least the art of subterfuge – is at the heart of international relations.  We admire the skilled diplomat for his artistry, not for his recitation of facts.

John Malcolm was a consummate liar – perfect at his craft, a theatrical master, a genius.  A quiet, unassuming, undiscovered standout in a competitive world.  He was brilliant and an expression of what, if not the best of America, certainly the most telling.