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Mulling our current political quagmire, what came to me, as if in a dream, were the lines spoken by “Big Daddy” in the Tennessee Williams play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” to wit: “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity. You can smell it … it smells like death.” And elsewhere: “You know what mendacity is — it’s lies and liars.”

We all need a good strong dose of Big Daddy’s harangue against willful distortions of the truth, against those who spend their days spewing one lie after another and expecting the American public to swallow the toxic gruel — and like it.

Yes, almost all politicians, at one time or another, fudge the facts, play loose with the truth or work to keep unpleasant realities from surfacing into the public square. However, ever since Donald J. Trump stepped onto the national stage as the 45th president of the United States, we have been swimming for our life in a fetid swamp of mendacity.

And the mendacity he has been trafficking in smells like death. The death of our 245-year-old democracy.

Worst of all, his mendacity has been contagious. Trump’s culture of deception has been bought and marketed by certain GOP politicians and pundits and sold to millions of aggrieved American citizens looking for a savior to salve their hurts and rescue them from imagined oppression by “the other.”

“The other” consists of people who don’t look like them or think like them and who had the audacity to vote Democratic and turn Trump out of office, installing Joseph R. Biden as our 46th president. Biden spent 36 years (six terms) in the U.S. Senate and eight years as vice president under Barack Obama learning the ropes; Trump had spent not a single day in public service before his election.

During Trump’s four years in office, the Washington Post kept track of his false statements. The count skyrocketed. The grand total weighed in at 30,573 lies from his inauguration to his final day in the White House. That comes to an average of 21.2 lies per day.

The mendacity continues straight through the present. Trump has never conceded that he lost the 2020 election to Biden; indeed, he continues to encourage his supporters to “Stop the Steal” and to say “Trump won by a landslide.”

He didn’t. In what has been described as the fairest, most secure election in U.S. history, Biden won the popular balloting over Trump by 7 million-plus votes, and he won the Electoral College tally 306 to 232.

Currently at issue is the proposal for a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which sought to keep Electoral College votes from being counted to make Biden’s victory official. The commission was initially viewed favorably by Republicans, and indeed 35 House Republicans voted with Democrats to establish it.

Trump has let it be known that he opposes the commission. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is apparently poised to assuage Trump and block the commission from being set up.

West Virginia’s two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, just may be able to tip the Senate away from mendacity and toward seeking the truth. All power to that effort!

John Patrick Grace, a former Associated Press reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent, writes a weekly column for The Herald-Dispatch.

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