A week ago, I offered President Trump my services as a ghostwriter, in case he was having trouble coming up with the words necessary to retract and apologize for his false accusation that former President Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower.
Of course, he didn’t take me up on my kind ghostly offer, nor is there any reason that he is aware of my existence. That’s fine. He’s very busy and I’m not very important and I had no illusion that he would so avail himself, even if he had happened to read it.
But it is important, and not just to me, that we have a president with very weak or perhaps nonexistent relationships with, or perhaps a total disdain for, the concepts of both honesty and honor.
At a very basic level, honesty means you don’t lie. And if you do inadvertently or perhaps just carelessly say something false and defamatory about someone else, honor requires that you acknowledge the falsehood, retract the statement, apologize for it, and seek forgiveness from the person you harmed with your falsehood.
Mr. Trump, as you may have noticed, has neither retracted his statement nor apologized to Mr. Obama. He has also produced zero evidence to back up his statement that Mr. Obama tapped Trump Tower’s phones while seeking to subvert what Mr. Trump called our “sacred election process,” which, I would say, didn’t seem all that sacred to him judging by the way he campaigned.
A great many officials — including many who have access to top intelligence, many who are Republicans and many who are trying very hard to work with Mr. Trump without sacrificing the last crumbs of their self-respect — have all said that they know of no evidence to back up Mr. Trump’s twitstorm on the Obama-tapped-my-phones falsehood.
Trump has produced no evidence and expressed no regret and he doesn’t even seem to be promising to ever do so. On the other hand, he won’t withdraw the claim. He’s tried a little not-very-artful dodging, like when he said that he’s recently learned about all kinds of wiretapping that is possible, some of which doesn’t involve wires or tapping.
As you know, Kellyanne Conway added something hilarious about how microwave ovens can be turned into cameras. Even if that’s true, it’s not what “wiretap” means, and Conway didn’t even suggest that may have happened at Trump Tower under Obama’s direction, so it’s not directly necessary to pursue the question of which home appliances are spying on us.
Conway’s a better tap dancer than Poor Sean Spicer, who keeps getting asked about the wiretapping claim. One day he noted that in some of the four Trump wiretap tweets Trump put the words “wires tapped” in quotes, as if he meant something other than wiretapping, but he didn’t discuss the other references that lacked the quotes. Poor Spicer tries to find a space where he can reaffirm that President Trump “stands by” his allegations and then remind the media that they all reported that “there’s a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the 2016 election.”
Personally, I find it hard to dispute that “something was going during the 2016 election,” and every other election.
Trump has tried to create some wiggle room by repealing and replacing the meaning of words.
On Fox News, our president told Tucker Carlson that “Wiretap covers a lot of different things… I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Personally, I’m about done grading our president on the curve. I’m not that tough a grader. If someone says something one day, and the next day acknowledges that it was wrong or inappropriate, that’s one thing. But that’s not our current incumbent. I don’t claim to understand his psychological issues. I don’t know whether he actually believes it’s fine to lie, or a terrible sign of weakness to retract and apologize, or whether he actually lives in a parallel universe in which the definition of “truth” and “fact” and “because I said so” are all the same thing.
But just in case we’re heading into a new territory where “wiretap” doesn’t have anything to do with “wires” or “taps” or telephones; or where “Obama did it” means “Obama didn’t necessarily have anything to do with it” or where “Trump Tower” doesn’t refer to a particular building, I just want to ask you to take note of five words, all of which Trump used in the little Twitter snit fit he threw that night: “Obama” “Tapped” “Phones” and “Trump Tower.” They neither difficult nor amorphous concepts.
Here’s three more pretty straightforward words: “Retract,” admit you were “wrong” and “apologize.”