Is it coincidence that two of America’s most prominent liars have called East Hampton home? “Tangled Webs,” a new book by James B. Stewart, includes on its cover Martha Stewart, once of Lily Pond Lane, and Bernie Madoff, who summered in Montauk before taking up permanent residence in federal prison.
Mr. Stewart, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, hypothesizes that untruths by these and other high-profile prevaricators undermine trust not just in the judicial system, but in the structure of the nation itself by undermining its code of honor and good will.
Ms. Stewart, before her 2004 conviction for making false statements to investigators and obstructing justice in an insider-trading case, was a straw-hat-wearing supporter of East Hampton’s upstanding Ladies Village Improvement Society. During her five-month stretch in a West Virginia pokey, The National Enquirer reported with relish on her run-ins with more rugged inmates.
Mr. Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme, which so recently unfolded, requires no retelling quite yet. His Montauk oceanfront house was auctioned off to help pay back his victims.
In interviews, Mr. Stewart has decried what he sees as a greater willingness among the American public to forgive liars and the lies they tell . . . even massive falsehoods, like that Bush administration whopper about those weapons of mass destruction. The resulting war of supposed pre-emption was paid for by U.S. taxpayers at a direct cost of at least $3 trillion. A quarter of today’s national debt can be attributed to this war, as can escalating oil prices, and it was sold to the nation and Congress on a lie.
In our rehab-to-riches culture, we seem to take special delight in redemption stories. Back on top, Ms. Stewart has a Mother’s Day television event planned with Michelle Obama. Our grandmothers would probably have been perplexed to see a First Lady hanging around with an ex-con, and an unrepentant one at that.
No date has been announced for Mr. Madoff’s future attendance at the annual Rose Garden Easter Egg Roll, but, really, you never know.