Anatomy of a Lie

BELL VIEW--“People, they ain’t no good.” -- Nick Cave. I once tried a case to a Santa Monica jury where I proved – mathematically – that the defendant lied about meetings and conversations that never actually happened, and manufactured documents after the fact to support those lies.

I looked the jurors right in their eyes and said: “She lied to you. Those meetings she testified about never happened. Those documents were fake.” I expected the jury to stand up as one and say, “We’ve heard enough! How much money do you want?” I expected the judge to tell the jury not to bother deliberating; we all knew how this case was going to turn out. 

Did I mention I was young and naïve? 

The jury’s reaction? “Meh.” After two days’ deliberation, the jury came back hopelessly deadlocked. A hung jury. The judge, sensing my utter astonishment, offered me some sage advice: “Juries,” she said, “don’t like being told a witness lied.” 

I learned my lesson well. I learned that perjury ranks somewhere between jaywalking and forgetting to put on sunscreen on the scale of outrage. Want to see some perjury? Take a walk down to the courthouse. It’s a regular perjury-fest down there. Everybody lies. All the time. 


Still, I guess I thought the president had to avoid the kind of deliberate, verifiable lies ordinary people routinely get away with. We all remember Obama’s “big lie,” right? “You can keep your doctor,” I think he said. Oh boy what a whopper! Peruse any comments section on an anti-Obama meme posted on Facebook and can count on seeing “You can keep your doctor!” every eleven or so comments. That, “Fast and Furious,” and clinging to guns and religion never seem to get old. 

But when their president actually makes things up, these people (and I call them “these people” in order to differentiate them, in every respect, from myself) either choose to believe the lie or file it just below leaving-your-dirty-socks-on-the-bathroom-floor-level outrage. 

“Meh,” say the patriots.

But, is it okay if we look at just one lie? This one, for some reason, jumped right out of the radio and smacked me in my already overly-smacked gob. On October 6, 2018, the president of the United States said: 

Today’s Democrats have embraced radical socialism and open borders. If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country, folks, you don’t have a country. Every single Democrat in the US Senate has signed up for the Open Borders — and it’s a bill! It’s called the Open Borders Bill! What’s going on? And it’s written by — guess who — Dianne Feinstein. 

“Wait a minute,” I said to myself, “that’s not true.” For a few seconds, I became that young lawyer facing a Santa Monica jury. And just like back then, after another monstrous lie – nothing happened. Virtually no one said a thing. 

People, literally millions of people, don’t care if the president of the United States makes up lies and tells them over and over. And not just Trump’s supporters – the pale hypocrites! – but ordinary Americans. Americans, who, in a couple weeks, will sit out another election. What will it take? The very Earth screams for engagement – runaway wildfires, monster hurricanes, devastating floods, rising sea levels, melting ice sheets – and millions shrug, millions with the power to act, the power to make change.

The president lies. All the time. Other politicians – maybe all of them – are full of crap. But never in the history of America has a president regularly manufactured facts out of thin air and repeated them with impunity. Go ahead and check if you don’t believe me. 

If this election does not bring a change, I just don’t know what to do anymore. If outright, verifiable, lies from the president of the United States do not motivate you to cast a vote while the world burns all around you, then you don’t deserve the franchise. And, if you don’t exercise it this time, chances are good you won’t have that right to take for granted much longer. Truth matters. Elections matter.


(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.