It’s a proven fact that Donald J. Trump is the biggest liar in presidential history.
Actually, it isn’t a proven fact, although I’m confident it’s true. But to make it a proven fact, you would have to find a definitive list of every lie in presidential history and do the numbers. That list doesn’t exist. And you’d get into all sorts of definitional arguments and all kinds of awkward conundrums about whether the same lie told twice counts as one or two.
But even if the “proven fact” cited above turned out to be untrue or unprovable, it would be less of a lie than 20 or 30 (or does one mean 100) things Donald Trump will say or tweet in the month of July. Sometime in April, the Washington Post Fact Checker counted 10,000 false or misleading Trumpian statements in just more than half of one presidential term. And then Trump picked up his pace of lying and misleading to 23 a day.
Now that you know how I feel about that, I wanted to focus on one particular recent Trump lie that was especially pitiful, namely the lie that while Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un are buddies, President Barack Obama couldn’t get a meeting with Kim even though (according to Trump) Obama begged Kim for one. Here’s the actual Trumpian quote (and, to be clear, no one asked him about this, he just spewed it straight out of an orifice):
“They [Obama and Kim] couldn’t have meetings. Nobody was going to meet. President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him. The Obama administration was begging for a meeting. They were begging for meetings constantly. And Chairman Kim would not meet with him. And for some reason, we [Trump and Km] have a certain chemistry, or whatever.”
In addition to being nauseatingly self-celebratory, it’s beyond a lie. Lies can be clever, maybe persuasive, and maybe useful, I don’t claim to know. I would lie to save a life, but a useful lie would have to be something that someone, anyone, might believe. But do even the Trump love slaves believe this one? It’s hard to know how that works.
So far (and I use the term derisively), Trump has produced no evidence to back up his claim that Obama drooled for a sit-down with Kim. So far as I know, no one has even asked Trump to back up his boast about a special chemistry that lured Kim into his web. It’s also hard to grasp how this boast of great chemistry with Kim Jong Un would be calculated to impress even the most arduous Trump admirer.
But, you know how the great modern fact checkers work. They don’t waste time on childish derision as I do. They don’t even call lies “lies.” They just investigate suspicious facts and report what they find. One of my favorites of that subgenre of journalism, FactCheck.org, took the I-got-the-Kim-meeting-that-Obama-couldn’t one on. They checked with a whole bunch of people, inside and outside the Obama administration, who would know whether Obama tried to or wanted to meet with Kim.
They all said no. Categorically and convincingly. Here, from the great FactCheck.org, is a thorough workup. The quotes are unanimous and impressive.
Trump doesn’t care, and why should he? His loyal 40 percent don’t care either. Before Trump, we (at least I) would have said that a president who lied this much would suffer political consequences. The lying doesn’t make Trump’s approval rating go down and the fact checks don’t make his disapproval numbers go up. I seriously struggle with this. But I have to look it squarely in the face and deal with it. Maybe liars do prosper.
The full implications of this for our adorable little experiment in collective self-government are not totally clear to me, but they are not good. It is simply not good for the future of democracy if elected leaders decide they can lie constantly to the voters and get away with it.
The first Republican president, Honest Abe Lincoln, weeps in his grave.