US President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday. Photos: AFP/various sources

The whole planet has every reason to be terminally puzzled at how all those lofty Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson embedded in the 1776 Declaration of Independence ended up with … Trump versus Biden.

Benjamin Franklin, left, and John Adams meeting Thomas Jefferson, standing, at Jefferson’s lodgings in Philadelphia to study a draft of the Declaration of Independence. Photo: AFP / after a painting by J.L.G. Ferris (1863-1930)

Jefferson borrowed freely from Locke, Rousseau, Hume to come up with an eminently quotable Greatest Hits, featuring “self-evident” truths such as “all men are created equal,” “unalienable rights,” and that searing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Well, Baudrillard would have dubbed the exercise a mere simulacrum, because in real life none of this uplifting rhetoric applied to Native Americans and enslaved Africans.

Still, there’s something endlessly fascinating about these “self-evident truths.” They actually radiated like Spinoza axioms, spawning abstract truths that can be extrapolated at will. Jefferson’s “self-evident truths” ended up creating the whole, massive structure of what we define as “Western liberal democracy.” 

So it’s no wonder that America – perennially self-described as “leader of the free world” – considers these “self-evident truths” the basis of an ideal society.

And it’s this messianic river of fervent truth flowing out of a Himalaya of morality that leads Americans to dismiss as “malign actors” every nation or society that is judged to be “deviating” from such obvious evidence.

Those damned furriners, always up to no good.

Cut to a mini-remix of the second and final Trump-Biden presidential debate. In foreign policy terms, it went something like this:

The moderator is desperate to move on as she’s very much aware of time constraints and looming, incandescent clashes: “Now I want to move on to defense. It’s established Russia and China are interfering in our election process … ”

Here’s classic “self-evident truth” material, delivered according to strict Council on Foreign Relations guidelines.

Cut to Biden: Any country that interferes with the American elections “will pay a price.” Russia’s “been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and Iran’s been involved.” They are interfering with “American sovereignty.” Rudy Giuliani was used “as a Russian pawn.” Trump is “unwilling” to confront Putin. Russia has “destabilized NATO” and is “paying bounties to kill Americans in Afghanistan.” And China “has to play by the rules” – or else.

US President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice-President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday. Photos: AFP / Brendan Smialowski and Jim Watson

Discussing North Korea, when Trump said he got along fine with Kim Jong Un, Biden stated, “We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe – the rest of Europe.” It’s quite something to see Biden acknowledging in public proven US industrial and political support to Nazism.   

Those damn furriners.

Cut to Trump: “You mean the laptop from hell is another Russia, Russia, Russia hoax?”

For the record: Democrat Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did tell CNN that the “smear” campaign against Biden and his ties to Ukraine started last year as part of a Russian disinformation plot (although he didn’t explicitly link the Kremlin efforts to the New York Post story about the laptop).

The New York Post

Return of self-evident truths

Inevitably, the laptop from hell had to show up.

The FBI had the laptop since December 2019 – as it had issued a subpoena for it in the first place. And yet the FBI sat on the laptop. That must have given plenty of time for those pesky Russians to steal the laptop and plant incriminating evidence.

Then, shortly before the debate, a bombshell presser by the director of national intelligence had announced those pesky Russians and Iranians were in fact “trying to influence opinion” on the US elections – specifically, to “damage” Trump.

But The FBI and Department of Justice concurred with DNI John Ratcliffe’s assessment that the laptop files were not part of a Russian disinformation campaign. 

“Self-evident truths” were back with a bang.

One can’t make this stuff up. And it gets even murkier when the actual “election interference” may be coming from inside the US, not from those damn furriners.

This past summer, the Transition Integrity Project (TIP) war-gamed possible scenarios post-November 3. All the scenarios lead to a huge constitutional crisis – forced, as part of the premise, by Trump’s refusal to concede his defeat at the polls.   

TIP, predictably, is a proverbial Beltway bubble, composed of assorted Democratic Party higher-ups, Clintonistas, Obamistas and neo-con Never Trumpers.

Their message is now widely accepted as another embodiment of “self-evident truths” because of this group’s powerful grip over Anglo-American mainstream media. Reverberations may be seen, for instance, here and here

So the preferred doomsday scenario ahead spells out an engineered unresolved election, widespread socio-political chaos, “continuity of government” protocols, even martial law. 

What’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” got to do with it?