How many times can someone lie to you before you stop believing what they say?
According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, in the first 601 days in office President Donald Trump told 5,000 false and misleading claims.
It took him only 226 more days, until May 2019, to reach 10,000 false or misleading claims. He is rapidly moving toward 11,000, averaging 23 false claims a day.
It would be unsettling to have to ask this question about a government leader at any level. But it is especially disturbing at the highest executive office of our land. According to Wikipedia, “commentators and fact-checkers have described the rate of his falsehoods as unprecedented in politics.”
In another world – the one most of our mothers brought us up to live in – what is happening would not be whitewashed. My mother was blunt; falsehoods are lies, plain and simple. You don’t tell them. Do that and you get your mouth washed out with soap.
Whether or not the president should be held to a standard of truthfulness is a question for the American people to answer. Trump has already earned 21 “Bottomless Pinocchios” from The Washington Post – meaning that for each ‘Pinocchio’ he earns, he has told that particular falsehood at least 20 times.
His most repeated claim – 160 times and growing – is that his wall is being built. By the end of next year says Trump, it’s going to be 400 miles long. Fact: Congress has funded replacement fencing of only 26 miles of existing wall.
Fairly soon Trump’s repeated assertion that China and Mexico will be paying the tariffs he has imposed will exceed his claims related to his border wall. Fact: Tariffs are taxes – and American consumers are going to pay them. Mexico is our largest trading partner – and everything from avocados, to strawberries, to cars, surgical equipment, refrigerators, televisions and telephones – all come from Mexico to the American marketplace.
Trump is not doing this because his policies are ‘America-first.’ He functions on ‘Trump-first’ policies and every falsehood is designed to reinforce that.
The president tells falsehoods as easily as some people say ‘awesome’. He appears to twist the truth as willfully as a tsunami can churn a landscape into a wasteland.
His falsehoods reach us via tweet and media briefings, cabinet meetings, and in what amounts to campaign rallies in safe, reliably-red states around the county. He has told falsehoods about a healthcare repeal and replace bill, the tax bill, the National Rifle Association’s grip on the Republican party, and the ‘irrelevance’ of NATO (Fact: its existence for the past nearly 75 years has managed to keep the peace in Europe — a reality that Vlademir Putin is not happy about). He continues to claim that Iran was violating the terms of the agreement preventing them from continuing to develop nuclear weapons (Fact: they held up their end for more than a year after Trump pulled out).
About one-fifth of Trump’s untrue statements are about border issues. He has piled on falsehoods about his border separation policy that ripped thousands of children from their parents’ arms. Many are still lost in the system; some of the youngest are being (illegally) adopted out to perhaps well-meaning, but obviously white, parents.
During the Mueller Investigation, Trump’s litany of ‘no collusion no obstruction’ about his involvement with the Russians has been a constant refrain. Most recently he repeatedly claims that Mueller found no obstruction. Since the president apparently doesn’t read much of anything, it is highly unlikely that he has bothered to actually read the Mueller Report.
The disinformation campaign being perpetrated upon the American people normalizes the telling of lies. It forces division and whitewashes the aggressive, 2016 attack on our election by the Russians. The “witch hunt” phrase popularized by Trump is a classic Soviet-era communications claim. It is a double shredding of our norms, as it appears that anyone who questions him, his stances, or his falsehoods is being investigated, or is going to be investigated.
Just this past week, Trump declared that “I had nothing to do with the Russians helping me get elected.”
But soon, he might not even say that. According to Attorney General William Barr, there is nothing wrong with getting a little help from the Russians. That attitude has spread throughout conservative circles. They are dead wrong.
I have a little experience in dealing with the Russians – we adopted our daughter there 25 years ago. I am the national chair of an adoptive parent support organization of families who have adopted from the former Soviet bloc. I make regular calls upon our families’ birth country embassies and I have represented us in Moscow. While I greatly admire the fortitude of the Russian people – they and the authoritarian government that controls them are two completely different things.
“This is authoritarianism at its finest,” said national security, terrorism, and intelligence expert Malcom Nance, speaking of the Trump administration.
While we ponder the magnitude of the misinformation being churned out by the man occupying the office of the presidency, at least 38 percent of the public exhibits docile acceptance. It begs the question – what will it take before the lies are not believed?