Thursday, Senator Rand Paul, who is assuredly no Trump supporter, was on Chris Matthews’ Hardball (ever wonder why this is singular? just askin’). The subject was the yet unrealsed Intelligence Community assessment of Russian involvement in our election and, in Matthews’s view, Donald Trump’s obdurate refusal to go along with the media narrative that Russia cost Hillary Clinton her presidency and eventually her own museum on the National Mall.
TRANSCRIPT starts at 1:03
MATTHEWS: Anyway in today’s hearing James Clapper didn’t hesitate to say Assange shouldn’t be trusted.
VIDEO OF HEARING.
JOHN MCCAIN: The name of Mister Assange has popped up. Do you think there is any credibility we should attach to this individual given his record of…of…ahh…
JAMES CLAPPER: Not in my view.
MATTHEWS: I’m joined now by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. You’re smiling, too. This is the most bizarre thing in the world. It’s not a matter of who you like or who you owe or you’re angry at. Why does Trump keep denying the obvious… to the facts… he looks the facts in the face and says “I don’t believe them.” Russians had nothing to do with me winning, or even with trying to screw the Democrats.
PAUL: Well, I don’t think the Russians did change any votes or election. In Eastern Kentucky 70% of people voted for Donald Trump because he was against the regulations that were killing the coal industry in our state. But I would say this, no one is naive to say the Russians don’t hack into anything they can hack into, that the Chinese don’t, that the North Koreans don’t, the Iranians don’t, and half of our allies, and ourselves as well. So everybody is hacking into everybody. The bottom line for this is we should protect ourselves. We should understand how people get information, how they steal it, how they get into our computers, how they get into our email, and we must protect ourselves. Beyond that, I think we could beat a dead horse here in trying to blame the loss of the election on this, and I don’t think this election really had so much to do with this hacking as it had to do with different policies.
MATTHEWS: Well, the horse ain’t dead yet because Trump won’t admit the Russians helped.
PAUL: Well, the thing is I have a healthy degree of skepticism, like Mike Pence said as well. I have skepticism towards James Clapper who came to the U. S. Senate and before committee and under oath lied to us…
What is Paul talking about? Back on March 12, 2013, Clapper appeared before the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden had this exchange:
Wyden: “I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer, because I know Sen. Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer, the NSA director (Keith Alexander) was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, ‘The story that we have millions, or hundreds of millions, of dossiers on people is completely false.’ The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozens years, I don’t really know what a dossier is in this context. So, what I wanted to see if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
Clapper: “No, sir.”
Wyden: “It does not?”
Clapper: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
In fact, as Rand Paul says, Clapper was lying through his teeth. And he did so under oath. And he didn’t have to lie, he could have simply offered to answer the question in closed session. But he chose to lie because is served his purpose.
The Liar’s Pardox is one of those interesting philosophical games that drunk undergrads become fascinated with. It has a long pedigree going back at least to Saint Jerome (d. 420 AD). This is from his Homily on Psalm 115. (It is worth reading if for no other reason than to see what level of sophistication the Church Fathers expected their congregations to have.) This is the meat of it:
“‘I said in my alarm, Every man is a liar!’ Is David telling the truth or is he lying? If it is true that every man is a liar, and David’s statement, “Every man is a liar” is true, then David also is lying; he, too, is a man. But if he, too, is lying, his statement: “Every man is a liar,” consequently is not true. Whatever way you turn the proposition, the conclusion is a contradiction. Since David himself is a man, it follows that he also is lying; but if he is lying because every man is a liar, his lying is of a different sort.
When Clapper is asked if we should give any credibility to Assange, he says no. On what basis? There is much to dislike and to distrust about Assange, but to date the stuff Assange’s Wikileaks has released has had much more credibility than any public utterance by Clapper. Likewise with his report on the election. Do we have any reason to actually believe this report is true or complete? None. Other than the word of James Clapper, a known and proven liar, that the report is truthful. I’m sorry. That just isn’t good enough.
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