Donald Trump lied. That’s a headline guaranteed not to rise above the din these days. If Al Franken rewrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them with Trump as target, it would require publishing a set of encyclopedias.
The shocker headline would come from an instance of unvarnished truth-telling by our Grifter in Chief, the Commander in Tweet, the shyster, charlatan, and four-flusher squatting in the White House. While all presidents have told whoppers on occasion, built major policies on lies and, yes, founded or extended wars based on lies, Donald Trump is in a category all by himself. Brazen lying is more deeply embedded in his DNA than eye color.
He lies about big stuff, and little stuff, and stuff it just makes no damn sense to lie about. So many of his lies are just stupid, unnecessary and easily fact-checked with 30 seconds plugged into the Google or YouTube. If Trump stuck to telling only disguised lies, clever lies, the kind of big lies that are buried so deeply inside small truths that many smart people aren’t woke to them as lies, he wouldn’t be getting scoured for it even at The Wall Street Journal.
As a consequence of the lies, David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson at The New York Times have compiled a linked catalog of what they say is “nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.”
They found that Trump lied in public every day for the first 40 days of his presidency and has told at least one lie on “at least 74 of 113 days” in office. “On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing.” Of course, he cheats at golf, another form of lying.
He revels in lies and repeats the most thoroughly debunked ones because he knows that some people will believe him no matter how outrageously far from the truth what he says actually is. In short, he knows from experience that lying works. He has probably never read Edward Bernays or Joseph Goebbels, nor is as polished as they, but he nevertheless practices what they preached. If he were to give free rein to his narcissism in a tweet describing his own behavior, he’d call his lying “tremendous,” the “best”: “I know more about lying than anybody.” Even though he has never indulged himself on that score, he gleefully adopted the term “truthful hyperbole” invented by his ghostwriter to describe his approach to closing deals.
What’s worst about Trump’s tsunami of lies, however, is what Leonhardt and Thompson note in the introduction to their list. Donald Trump “is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.” That is a very dangerous world. Because no matter how many lies are told, the contents of reality cannot be disappeared like the government websites Trump has ordered scrubbed. The trouble is that by the time reality trumps lies, it can often be too late to do anything about it.