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It is usually just good manners to take other people at face value. In daily social interaction, one shouldn’t dismiss or disparage another person’s claims about who s/he is or what they are about.

In politics, however, this can be a very bad idea. A really obvious example is that, by running for president, Donald Trump implicitly claimed to be competent and qualified to serve as president. That he was neither was blindingly obvious from long before he declared his candidacy, and he has repeatedly proven since taking office that he is neither competent nor qualified.

But on a larger scale, at least since the late 1960s, Republicans have consistently presented themselves to the public as the leading Party for fiscal conservatism and foreign policy expertise. And people believe them. Still. Despite decades of evidence that they are neither, for some reason, too many people still buy the naked lies that the Republican Party is good for either of those qualities.

Democratic president Jimmy Carter was starting to worry about budget deficits in the late 1970s. Then Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and immediately pushed a major tax cut through Congress. He started the zombie claim that Republicans continued to push as recently as last year — that the tax cuts would produce so much growth that tax revenue would increase, causing the cuts to pay for themselves. This did not happen in the 1980s, and it has never happened, and it never will happen. It’s a pipe dream. A foolish fantasy that Republicans repeat for purely political reasons.

Only one president in the last fifty years has seen a balanced budget — Bill Clinton.

Republicans also, bizarrely, have claimed to be the better Party in matters of foreign policy. Never mind that Nixon deliberately took steps to scuttle the negotiations Lyndon Johnson was conducting to end the Vietnam War near the end of his presidency, or that the single biggest scandal of Ronald Reagan’s presidency was the notorious Iran Contra affair, which takes its name from the two foreign policy components that were its most prominent features, or that George W. Bush was the architect of the biggest foreign policy mistake in the history of the republic — the invasion of Iraq.

Depending on whom you ask, neither major Party has done a great job with foreign policy since Wolrd War II, which we can ascribe largely to the arrogance of being the world’s leading military power combined with the absurd paranoia of the Cold War, in which we told ourselves that we had an implacable enemy in the Soviet Union and had to go to ridiculous, dangerous, too often murderous lengths to defeat, and now the even more absurd “war on terror.” We did have nearly a decade of near peace under Bill Clinton, but as much because he had the good fortune to serve between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the September 11 attacks, which any competent president — not the Republican who was actually in office at the time — would have prevented, since we had ample warning that they were impending.

It is not a good idea to be too polite in politics. One need not stoop to the depths of Donald Trump, making up demeaning nicknames for opponents and generally acting like the spoiled child he is.

But one should definitely cast a skeptical eye on the claims of any candidate for public office, especially any Republican.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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