Back in 1979, during an episode of The Dick Cavett Show on PBS, author Mary McCarthy ignited a long-running scandal that turned into controversy, lawsuits, and ruined reputations when she criticized another author, Lillian Hellman, as being habitually dishonest. Let Cavett tell the story:
“What’s dishonest about her?” I asked.
“Everything,” McCarthy replied, smiling. “I said once in some interview that every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”
That line ran through my head when I was reading today’s newspaper articles about last night’s circus at City Council. The Current Occupant of the Mayor’s office showed up at City Hall, for a change, at the request of Council President Phyllis Holly-Ward and invited to make a statement and answer questions from Council members. According to the Times article by Erin Duffy and the Trentonian’s piece by Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, it was a pretty wild and wide-ranging discussion. About the only topic left undiscussed was the Occupant’s legal troubles, although they were surely the 600-pound gorilla in the room.
One continuing theme that struck me about both accounts is how, throughout his appearance last evening, the CO never stopped, well, lying. About the most basic of things, and about things that – on some level – he must have known that not one person in that chamber could have believed him.
For instance, as the Trentonian headlined, he stated that “he loves serving the public as mayor and suggested he’d do the job for free.” Oh, come on! It is an open secret that the man is fully dependent on his paycheck from this gig to keep his house of cards financial situation from collapsing even more quickly than it is doing. Work for free? Don’t make us laugh. Why even bother with that kind of bravado?
The Current Occupant has been faulted, by me and by many others, for being curiously absent and silent in the midst of the ongoing wave of murder, assault and other violent crime afflicting this City. Most other chief executives in his position do things like visit with families of victims, attend wakes and funerals, assure the public that action is being taken. But not our mayor. Last night, when asked why not, the man “noted it’s not his style to start ‘grandstanding on the back of someone’s death, on a family’s suffering. … I don’t want you to be misled by me not standing in front of a microphone when someone gets hurt and (think that I am) not caring.’”
He also tried to give the impression that he is Busy Behind the Scenes: “‘We’re also putting together an initiative to bring in the FBI, prosecutor’s office, the police director met with State Police recently to talk about what’s going on in our city,’ Mack said. “These things aren’t for public consumption but these are things going on in the department structure. I don’t want you to be misled. Me not standing up at the microphone every time someone gets hurt is not me not doing anything.’”
Uh huh. The man is just a blur of energy. Does ANYONE think that the Current Occupant is a major player in this effort, or even a minor one? Please!
The same approach applied to his defense of his empty appointments calendar. Since the July FBI raid of his house and City Hall, the man has shown almost nothing on his calendar. For the last three months, he has nothing to show as proof he has been exercising his official duties. He offered none last night, and even tried to brazen this off: “‘Just because you don’t see a meeting on my calendar doesn’t mean I didn’t meet with seven or nine people that day,’ Mack said, describing some of his meetings as too sensitive to publicize. ‘I don’t put that on a banner saying the mayor was in all these places.’”
Really? You think we’re going to buy that? Is the Mayor of Trenton some kind of super secret agent that his meetings – his public business as a public servant – are “too sensitive to publicize?” Can he be working to get that Amazon warehouse into town? Has the Ambassador from Burkina Faso been conducting confidential discussions to open an iPhone factory in Trenton, snatching the opportunity away from the Chinese and Russians who are salivating over the chance to do the same here?
I don’t think so. The man is openly, and poorly, lying through his teeth! And about subjects that are in reality pretty damned trivial. So why lie about them, especially if it is so easy to see through them?
I don’t know. But the man is a habitual, inveterate and probably even unconscious liar. We’ve seen that through his entire term of office. It’s struck me as his fatal flaw, one month into his term, and which convinced me he was doomed. When the news broke in August 2010 that his house in Berkeley Square was on the Mercer Sheriff’s Foreclosure Sale List, a Trentonian reporter called him up for his reaction, and the CO danced and weaved through the interview. My reaction:
The transcript shows a man who is surprised by the news, at a loss for words, in denial about the situation and not even admitting that the sheriff’s sale notice is for him. He is clearly scrambling for a response in this interview, brashly comparing himself to Donald Trump, and tries to pass himself off as Trenton Everyman, saying “If Donald Trump filed bankruptcy, then nobody’s on safe ground.”
He finishes the interview with an eerie reiteration of the same message he gives us when he is at his day job as Mayor, promising us “In all sincerity, whatever’s wrong, we’ll make it right.”
Two years later, he still hasn’t made it right. And the man Still. Can. Not. Bring. Himself. To. Say. One. Open. Honest. And. True. Thing.
Sometimes I think that if he had shown some candor and honesty more often during the last two years, admitted more mistakes, offered up that he’d made bad decisions, hired the wrong candidates and developed poor policies, people might have been more forgiving.
However, he has consistently pretended that he is the only one working for the public’s benefit. His is the only set of facts that is correct. His reality the True One. And this consistent behavior squandered citizens’ good will as much as his actual actions as mayor, in my opinion. No one likes to be lied to.
But the thing is, it is his consistent practice to lie, and lie, and lie again. It has almost always been so obvious to even a casual observer that he is doing it. He did it again last night, and couldn’t stop doing it. Every word he says is a lie, including “and” and “the.”
I am so over this guy. I can’t wait for him to be gone.