Officially, a king named Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud rules Saudi Arabia, but his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is its de facto ruler, in practice the man in charge. Both are liars, as we all have learned from their conflicting explanations of what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The United States is run by a president named Donald Trump, who believes he is king. He has a son-in-law, named Jared Kushner, who earns his money as a slum landlord and has held various positions of power and influence in Trump’s administration. Both he and his father-in-law are liars. Mostly the father-in-law, who lies about most anything and everything. Our prevaricator in chief. Is lying by heads of state a contagious disease?
We credit Sir Walter Scott for this memorable quotation from his poem Marmion: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Two other words come to mind: truth and trust. They begin with the same letters, t-r-u, and are firmly linked. Truth engenders trust. When truth is violated, trust is lost.
Hard to regain that trust, too, once deceived. Once someone deceives us, we tend to distrust what comes out of his or her mouth thereafter.
Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose writing has been critical of Saudi’s leaders, entered Saudi’s consulate in Turkey recently but never reappeared. Saudi’s leaders sought to explain the disappearance of Khashoggi with various lies, the latest a tale about a fistfight in the building that went bad. They also dispatched a man to walk out of the building wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, presumably in an effort to fool witnesses that he was Khashoggi, who was leaving the building in fine shape. Most of the world knows better, believing that he was murdered.
Trump said that he found the fistfight explanation credible. It helps to understand that Trump is reluctant to offend the crown prince because Saudi Arabia is a valued ally and a leading customer for weapons of war. The cash value of this business and the number of jobs it creates increases with each telling by Trump. Liars are like that, especially this one. Can’t resist.
When the rest of the world — the grownups — scoffed at the Saudis’ version of events, Trump changed his song.
The tangled web is invisible to the liar, but it is sticky. Hard to remove. Clings to one. Perhaps we who have repeatedly experienced deceit will take our distrust to he ballot box.