Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Harry Frankfurt and Herman Cain

The Washington Post sends me to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal interview with Herman Cain on Libya.

Watching the cringe inducing answers reminded me of one of may favorite books of the last decade or so: Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit. I am writing this from my house, and my copy of the book is in my office, so let me pull a quote from the book that is featured in a Slate review:

Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. ...The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

I am not naive. Among my favorite presidents, three--FDR, LBJ, and Bill Clinton--were excellent liars. They were not, however, bullshitters. Herman Cain is.