I wanted to believe Lance Armstrong, even after he wrote, "Enough is enough."
I thought it was strange that he declined to contest the allegations of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, but I couldn't help empathizing with this man, so confident and earnest, a sports legend and a survivor.
I was not totally credulous. I knew that he might guilty of doping. But I remained agnostic.
On Wednesday, the USADA laid out its case against Lance Armstrong. He is guilty of doping. He doped continuously, aggressively, defiantly. He pressured his teammates to dope. He was the doper-in-chief of the US Postal team.
And all the while he was doping, he was lying. Year after year of bald denials as he demonized everyone who told the truth. He is still lying today.
What shocks me, looking back, is that it took me so long to see it. Many of the USADA's allegations are not new. Armstrong's teammates have been accusing him of doping for years. I just didn't really pay attention, didn't want to pay attention.
Because Lance Armstrong is a very good liar.
We normally think of a good liar as someone who can tell bold lies with a straight face and without inconsistency--a con-artist. But the real art to lying extends far beyond the lie itself. A good liar injects his whole life into the lie. He invents himself as a person of tremendous integrity, a lonely hero surrounded by malicious deceivers. That was Lance Armstrong.
Mitt Romney is not a good liar. Like most successful politicians, he can pull off lies with a straight face and does so frequently, but he will never master the art for the simple reason that he looks like a liar.
If Romney had been an actor, he would have been typecast as the slick villain whose sterling reputation masks a secret life as a gangster, werewolf, or malicious space alien. He would be the creepy All-American hero everyone trusts except the protagonists and the entire audience.
Appearances aren't everything, of course, but Romney has doubled-down on his lying eyes by building a reputation for Machiavellian plasticity. He has never bothered to invent himself as a truth-talker or a man of integrity. Instead, he has enthusiastically embraced whichever platform seemed most expedient at the time. Consequently, people tend to assume that he will say whatever he has to say to get elected.
It would have been simple for President Obama to nail him in last week's debate if he had tried. Romney launched several missiles at Obama's integrity: the "I have five boys" and "you're entitled to your own airplane" zingers. They missed the target because Obama lies skillfully and infrequently. People tend to trust him. Romney would have been far more vulnerable to such attacks because people do not tend to trust him. He looks like and acts like a liar.
Paul Ryan, by contrast, is a very good liar. His boyish earnestness evinces a goodie-two-shoes whiz kid. If he starred in a cycling movie, he would be Dave from "Breaking Away," the boy-wonder whose illusions are dashed when the Italian riders he admires turn out to be cheats. That movie was filmed in more innocent times, but it goes without saying that Ryan-as-cyclist would never, ever, ever dope.
Ryan has capitalized on his honest looks by inventing a reputation for integrity. He hews to a strict conservative script to demonstrate his "principles" and wows the media with "courageous" endorsements of unpopular proposals.
As a result, the many documented exceptions, such as his vote to expand Medicare, his request for stimulus funds, and other irregularities soon disappear into the forgetful mist like Lance Armstrong's accusers. Ryan's outrageous lies, like running a marathon in under three hours, raise eyebrows and then fade away.
Had Joe Biden faced Mitt Romney instead of Paul Ryan last night, his withering attacks would have savaged his opponent. Romney has no way to pay for his many promises, and his evasions would have made him look like a con-man exposed in the middle of his game. But Paul Ryan was able to deliver the same evasions with the earnest conviction of a man who knows how to lie well, and the media applauded him for standing up to Biden and looking so very presidential.
Mitt Romney is unlikely to win the election. If he does, he will probably become the least popular president since Richard Nixon, the last bad liar to grace the White House.
But watch out for Paul Ryan. He is a very pretty little liar.