Monday, August 10, 2009

Lanny Davis, Liar for Hire

As they say.

I finally had a chance to watch Friday’s debate between Greg Grandin and Lanny Davis on Democracy Now!.

While a debate between a scholar and a mercenary mouthpiece would seem rather lopsided, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the lobbyist. The golpistas themselves lie like so many rugs, but at least they’re relatively inept. Their attempts at dissimulation would be comical were the situation not so serious. But Davis, now he’s something to see – one of the most practiced professional liars I’ve ever had the occasion to witness in action.

His performance in this debate was a thing to behold. So brazenly mendacious, so slyly diversionary, so shamelessly willing to twist words and deny the truth was he that I think Grandin at moments was at a loss for words.

To counter at least some of the substantive mistruths:


Davis lied about Zelaya being the one to reject the Arias 7-point proposal. This was the second boldest lie of all, since the news reports are easy enough to find: Zelaya accepted the first Arias proposal; it was Micheletti’s coup regime that rejected it. For Davis to act as though Grandin was conceding that he had been untruthful when he said that Micheletti had later backpedaled, publicly avowing that they would accept some of the seven points, was masterful. The coupists rejected the proposal. Rejecting some points (after Zelaya had accepted all) meant rejecting the proposal. It wasn’t really even backpedaling at all – it was theater.

The coupmongers, as has long been apparent, have never had any intention of honestly negotiating, but have simply wanted to buy more time to try to entrench themselves. (Yesterday, they announced that they wouldn’t accept any OAS delegation that included OAS head Miguel Insulza, who insists, like Arias, on Zelaya’s reinstatement; this morning, they said they would admit the delegation if Insulza only participated as an “observer”; and around and around they go.) They genuinely seem to believe that they can hold out until elections in November, as if free and fair elections could really be celebrated in the repressive conditions that hold in Honduras, with a highly mobilized resistance under a coup regime that isn’t recognized by a single government on the planet.


Here’s the US State Department report on the Honduran judiciary from February of this year. Anyone can do a search on the word “corrupt.”


The point on which Davis was most obnoxious in his feigned indignance was the terms in which the plotters have attempted to justify the coup. He repeatedly shouted at a horrified Grandin “Take it back!”, trying to twist Grandin’s words to suggest that he had said the Supreme Court hadn’t “found” that Zelaya was acting illegally in distributing the survey. Grandin’s actual assertion, as he noted, had been that the claim that Zelaya had violated Article 239 of the Honduran constitution (barring politicians from seeking to change term limits) was a post hoc rationalization – that the Supreme Court decision made no mention of Article 239.

The page with the ruling appeared yesterday to have been removed from the Judiciary’s website, but I found it today. Search in vain for “239.” Jules Siegel at the Huffington Post, who read the documents, found no mention of Article 239. I found what appear to be all of the documents from the days before the coup. A search turned up no reference to Article 239. Two analyses of the so-called legal basis for the coup in Spanish can be found here and here. Perhaps Davis can show where in the documents Article 239 is mentioned, or provide some evidence of any basis for the allegation that Zelaya had violated it.

It is clear that the oligarchs feared the increase in power of the poor majority (and threat to their own rule) to come not only from a potentially new, more democratic constitution but from the process of public involvement itself, and exploited the megalomania, red-baiting allegations to put a stop to democratization. (The corporate media have of course been all too happy to assist.) The documents show that at in the period leading up to the coup they were well aware they had no evidence of Zelaya’s seeking to extend term limits (as Micheletti had done); else they would surely have included it in their decision, and the Congress wouldn’t have slapped together a law barring plebiscites and referendums during the months before an election (which didn’t, in any event, cover public-opinion surveys). I won’t even bother to again go into the fact that the charge is nonsensical.


Most risible were Davis’ attempts to challenge the assertion that the coup was the backlash of elites fearful of losing their grip over the country. At one point, he actually asks about the members of Congress who supported the coup “Are they elites?”, as though the idea were patently ridiculous. The question is so transparently disingenuous and absurd as to leave Grandin – a professional scholar of Latin American history – nearly speechless. And the context is so deliciously significant: Davis attempting to mock the claim that this was a coup inspired by business elites… in an appearance paid for by his client, the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL). (Grandin liked the recent New York Times article, “Honduran Coup Shows Business Elite Still in Charge.” I didn’t, though of course the headline is true. I thought it largely provided yet another opportunity for the business elites to have their say while ignoring the mass mobilizations of the population and to present them as representative of a large part of the population, setting up one-sided violence as “civil war.”)


Speaking of which, Davis was most disgusting when asked about the well-documented repression, censorship, human rights violations under the coup regime. Does he really think the DN! audience is that stupid?

By the way, in addition to the sources I’ve mentioned in recent posts, you can also listen - for the moment, at least - live to Radio Globo and Radio Progreso (I’m having trouble getting this one to play).

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  1. This is some nice work, and takes the edge off the headache I got earlier from listening to that petulent, whinging shill throw his toys around.

    In the midst of that barrage of lies I wish the idea of Honduras as a 'captive state' was given more time to develop because the 1982 constitution is utter rot and in urgent need of change, not to mention the bent courts and the power of the military to interfere, which Davis kept emphasising without stopping to consider that is hardly a key indicator of a great democracy. In fact, since irrelevant diversion were the order of the day, I would have liked to hear Davis interrogated on whether, say, the Iranian constitution was just as sacrosanct. The fact that Davis quotes selectively and inaccurately from such a nonsense constitution adds yet another layer of toxic sludge.

    Just like Haiti '04 the folks at DN! have been real heroes throughout this story. 'Props' to them, and to you, from the UK

  2. Thanks, "leech."

    I agree with everything you said. There's a real need - even in situations unlike the Honduran, where we have a recent document of problematic origins, plucked from a long history of transformed and replacement versions - to get past the notion of constitutions as sacred documents, and especially of the US constitution as some sort of gold standard.