“I have come very late to the pleasure of sitting still with little or nothing on my mind.” Jim Harrison, The Road Home

Coming to the end of my first month of retirement. My Freedom Summer, the first time in twenty-two years that I haven’t been yoked to someone else’s schedule. It has been brilliant. A run of days of cool mornings and lovely sunny afternoons. I’ve been writing, reading, walking or riding my bike up Garcia Road, doing my training sessions, drinking wine, and watching TV in the evening with my wife. We’re into Dr. Death and The White Lotus at the moment. We enjoyed the Kominsky Method. The money is holding. Everybody’s healthy and we don’t suffer at all; life is crazy good right now.

But back east in the nation’s capitol, the seat of our government and home of our limited, tenuous democracy, and many of our most cherished national myths, the war between Fact and Fantasy rages on. Trump fans the flame, Fox News amplifies it, and GOP nitwits like Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz repeat the talking points. Whatever the issue, employ the same tactic: work a bit of verbal jujitsu and flip it. Thus can Elise Stefanik, the third ranking member in the House GOP hierarchy, blame the breach of the capitol on Nancy Pelosi. Stefanik is banking on the American people being too ignorant to know what Stefanik clearly knows, namely, that the Speaker of the House isn’t responsible for security at the capitol. Not that facts matter. Slinging mud is what matters to the GOP. Anything and everything can be blamed on Pelosi.

The modern GOP is like the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union, decrepit and morally debased, interested only in clinging to power; it’s a party based on denial — of everything from climate change to who was responsible for the insurrection on January 6. We learned this week that neither Kevin McCarthy or Mitch McConnell watched the first hearing of the House subcommittee investigating the Trump-inspired insurrection. Couldn’t be bothered, nothing to learn from four officers who battled rioters on that mournful day. Over on the Fox propaganda network, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson accused the officers of “theatrics.” So much for backing the men and women of Law Enforcement.

Keeping an eye on politics tests one’s faith in human nature. Where else in this country do people so regularly sell out as in the halls of Congress? I’m not talking about the compromises politicians must make in order to craft legislation — horse trading and compromise is how the sausage gets made. It’s messy and few are happy at the end. It’s the art of the possible and all that. I’m talking about selling out one’s principles. Condemning Donald Trump for inciting a mob one minute, then skipping down to Mar-A-Lago to lick his balls the next, as Kevin McCarthy did earlier this year, is what I’m talking about. Shamelessly describing the mob as a bunch of peaceful tourists, trying to turn rioters into patriots and martyrs, gaslighting people every day into doubting what they saw with their own eyes is my point.

Insisting that 2 + 2 = 5.

The last thing the GOP wants is for the full scope of what went down on January 6 to come out. They know where the trail of evidence will lead. They must know which members will be implicated. That’s why McConnell nixed a non-partisan independent investigation and McCarthy did his best to ratfuck the House subcommittee by clogging it with wingnuts and bomb-throwers like Jim Jordan. McCarthy wanted to turn the hearings into a circus, but since being outmaneuvered by Nancy Pelosi, all he can do is carp from the sidelines. Kevin’s not the brightest bulb, but he is scared of Jim Jordan and his ilk, and doesn’t want what happened to John Boehner to happen to him. McCarthy plays all the angles.

I don’t know how these folks sleep at night after spending an entire day pissing on the oath they swore. Corruption is corrosive and power corrupts and absolute power (which is what Trump wants. He wants to be Vladimir Putin) corrupts absolutely. If I were Steve Scalisi, I’d be watching over my shoulder for Elise Stefanik. She likes power, she’s hungry for it. She’s had a taste of it and wants more.

You can’t swim in a cesspool and come out smelling of lilac.

Brian Tanguay writes about politics, culture, and books. Co-founder of the California Review of Books and the long running blog, Shouts from the Balcony.