Admittedly, it can be difficult to tell if Donald Trump is merely lying or is completely detached from reality. One thing is clear: This dilemma is not a concern for Trump. He simply says what he wants to be true, without concern about whether it falls in the same quadrant of reality of anything that’s happing on this planet. Trump will lie about his contacts with another government, even when he knows that government is almost certain to contradict his statement. He’ll lie about his statements to his own Cabinet, even if Cabinet members have already discussed the truth of what he said. He’ll lie about statements he made in front of news cameras, or on Twitter; then he’ll lie about his lies.
As The New York Times reports, the G-7 conference was practically a Festival of Lies for Donald Trump. After the “I hereby order” American companies to get out of China, Trump appeared in France to say that he was certain a trade deal was coming and American companies should “stay there and do a great job.” A great job for President Xi, who is “a great man” and also “the enemy.” And, of course, Trump said he had second thoughts about beginning the trade war with China, repeated that he had second thoughts about the trade war, then declared that his only second thoughts were about not making that trade war even worse.
Trump claimed he had a strong reason for at least one of his about-faces on China: a pair of good phone calls. Between his “the enemy” and “great man” statements, Trump said American trade negotiators got calls from their Chinese counterparts assuring them they were on track to a successful conclusion. Those calls were so good that Trump announced that China was finally “serious” about reaching an agreement. Only, Chinese officials say that those calls never happened. Trump responded by saying that not only were there two calls, but there were even more calls. Numerous calls. All kinds of calls. Fantastic calls.
That was just Trump on China this weekend … and honestly, that wasn’t even all of China. On every topic, Trump repeatedly, blatantly, openly, and forcefully lied.
But even as it was reporting on his lies, the Times went to extremes to find a way to make Trump’s utter disassociation from fact into a good thing. Trump may have “seemed all over the map,” but that was because “He likes leaving negotiating partners, adversaries, observers and even allies off balance.” And really, the big problem is … openness. As in: “In part, Mr. Trump’s various contradictions owe to the fact that he is far more open and far less guarded with the news media than any of his modern predecessors.”
Here’s something that shouldn’t have to be said: talking is not the same as openness. If someone is talking, but what they’re saying is not true, that’s not openness. It’s misdirection. It’s obstruction. It’s lying. It’s the exact opposite of openness. When the Times says that the reason Trump provides so many verifiable lies is that he “talks with reporters almost constantly,” that’s just another way of phrasing the old truism: How do you know Trump is lying? His lips are moving.
That is not an excuse.
Lying to the public, the press, and allies isn’t a strategy. It’s not a good thing. It’s a verifiable evil. It does harm to the nation in a thousand ways, not least of all in the damage it does to the ability of the news media to deliver the news. Because Trump is not just lying to the press; he’s also lying about the press. And any news organization that defends that action is assisting Trump in his efforts to disassemble the First Amendment.
Trump being “all over the map” is Trump being all over the map. Trump “lacking credibility” is Trump lacking credibility. Trump “contradicting himself” is Trump contradicting himself. And Trump lying is simply Trump lying. Doing any form of so-called analysis that looks for something deeper is a disservice to what the Times is supposed to be delivering: the truth.
At the end of the G-7, Trump tweeted that his “fellow world leaders” think that “the USA is doing so well and stronger than ever before,” but wonder why the American media is “rooting for it to fail.” That did not happen. No one said that. No world leader thinks that Trump has improved conditions for the United States. No world leader thinks that the American media is actively rooting for America to fail.
But some media outlets are certainly going out of their way to enable Trump to enable those attacks on their own, invaluable, industry.