There’s a cynical old joke that goes: Q: How can you tell when a politician is lying? A: Their lips move.
I used to like that joke, but now it makes me nostalgic for a time when it was funny, because it was obvious hyperbole. In the age of Donald Trump it’s no longer funny because, while it’s an exaggeration, it’s no longer a ridiculous exaggeration.
Trump’s lies are so constant, and often so big, he beggars any effort to define his lying with ordinary words. The Trump phenomenon has beggared quite a few quaint old concepts, including the old Capra-esque Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington notion that if you lie often enough, people stop believing you.
Glenn Kessler, the excellent Fact-Checker of the Washington Post, specializes in checking the accuracy of factual assertions. Recently (and for the second time during the Trump presidency), Kessler and his team decided to factcheck every factual assertion made by Trump in a Sept. 6 rally in Montana.
I’ll cut to the chase: There were 88 factual assertions in Trump’s remarks. 28 of them checked out as accurate. 60 were not, ranging from 36 statements that were rated as “false,” 22 that were merely “misleading” and two claims that were rated “unsupported.” So that’s 32 percent accurate factual statements; 68 percent some level of lie or exaggeration.
Kessler, by the way, did the same exercise the last time Trump gave a rally in Montana, in July. Although I missed his summary at the time, he revisited it for this morning’s piece. In July, “76 percent of his 98 statements were false, misleading or unsupported by the evidence.” So, as you can see, Trump improved from 24 percent honest to 32 percent. Congratulations are in order.