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Cal Thomas: The smell of mendacity

Cal Thomas, Tribune Content Agency on

“What's that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it, B rick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room? There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity. You can smell it. It smells like death.”– (Big Daddy in“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”)

Court decisions can sound complicated because they sometimes contain legal language that is difficult for a layperson to understand. That’s not the situation in the case of Fulton County, Georgia’s District Attorney Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade. Judge Scott McAfee gave Willis a choice – either dump Wade, with whom she’d had a romantic relationship, as prosecutor in the case against Donald Trump, or leave the case herself. Wade quickly tendered his resignation. It’s hard to see how anyone except the most strident anti-Trumper will see the outcome of a trial with Willis on the case as fair.

The judge’s ruling contained a word one rarely hears used these days. McAfee wrote that while a conflict of interest wasn’t proved, “an odor of mendacity remains.”

For those who didn’t get far with vocabulary in high school English class, mendacity is defined as “ untruthfulness; tendency to lie.”

Most people are familiar with the courtroom oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Judge McAfee concluded Willis and Wade were not telling the whole truth, but the case could go forward anyway even while their relationship carried “the appearance of impropriety.”

If one is engaging in behavior that appears inappropriate to a judge, doesn’t that potentially taint the outcome of a case in the public’s eyes?

Judge McAfee’s ruling is reminiscent of two other cases. FBI Director James Comey declined to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information while she was secretary of state. The New York Times reported: “Comey rebuked Mrs. Clinton as being ‘extremely careless’ in using a private email address and server. He raised questions about her judgment, contradicted statements she has made about her email practices, (and) said it was possible that hostile foreign governments had gained access to her account.”

Then there was what Special Counsel Robert Hur said about Joe Biden’s careless handling of classified documents during his time in the Senate, as vice president and until he became president. After five hours of interviewing Biden over two days, Hur concluded that Biden didn’t break the law and besides, a jury in heavily Democratic Washington would be unlikely to convict him because he would be viewed as a "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

Biden wasn’t elderly when he began stashing documents in unsecured locations. Under the law he was not supposed to have them and didn’t have the power in his previous posts to declassify them.

 

Is this the new standard for high government officials who violate laws that are supposed to protect classified documents? If so, Congress needs to re-write the laws and include the rest of us under their protection.

These cases will only fuel the growing belief that there is a two-tiered justice system in America. It also further undermines what is becoming a cliché – that “no one is above the law.”

One does not have to be a supporter of Donald Trump, as his former vice president Mike Pence announced last week he is not, to have the view that Trump is being treated “unfairly,” as he likes to say, and that the 91 felony charges he must fight with his own money, as opposed to the endless cash governments can spend, has placed him at a disadvantage.

No one seems to mind that mendacity, while always present in the political arena, appears to be increasing everywhere. If allowed to spread it will create a “smell like death” in our legal system.

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Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com. Look for Cal Thomas’ latest book “A Watchman in the Night: What I've Seen Over 50 Years Reporting on America" (HumanixBooks).

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