I dislike many things about Donald Trump, and especially about him as president. I dislike most of his policies, which should be a big thing, but in this case is not. I’m a liberal Democrat, raised by liberal Democrat parents who grew up worshiping FDR. But I’ve liked and respected many of the smart, honest, principled Republicans I’ve covered in Minnesota over the decades (many of whom, in retirement, have distanced themselves from the current leader of their old party, which only increases my respect for them).
I enjoy a good policy argument with my more conservative friends, and benefit from hearing their views during conversations of rational dispute, which usually remind me not all smart people of good conscience share all my conclusions.
Trump wouldn’t last two minutes in most of those conversations. He has no real views, only an overpowering need to dominate and be adored. It’s creepy, and, of course, a whole lot creepier since he managed, with illicit Russian help and without winning the most votes, to become president.
But although I dislike and disagree with his “position” on most issues, I pride myself on being able to respect an honorable person across areas of disagreement.
People can’t have those kinds of honorable disagreements with Donald Trump. Nothing that relies on honor or integrity can occur with such a sad, sick, needy liar. For me, the whole thing starts with the lying. It makes the idea of rational debate or discussion impossible.
In my humble opinion, there’s no way for an honest person to remain in a real discussion with someone who lies as constantly as Donald Trump. Trump is the biggest liar in American political history, long since surpassing Sen. Joe McCarthy.
He rejects the entire continuum
Even the word “liar” doesn’t do Trump‘s mendacity justice. He rejects the entire truth-to-lies continuum. He’ll tell a lie, or ten or a hundred. He’ll get caught (if by “caught,” we mean that those who are in the business of fact-checking things that presidents say will document that what he said was untrue), and he will never acknowledge, retract or, God forbid, apologize. (Has he ever apologized for anything? Is he too strong, or perhaps too weak to value such a concept is so important to human relations, not to mention building credibility, as retracting and apologizing when you have committed a colossal untruth?
When I get in a conversation with a Trump supporter, I always bring up the lying. I insist on it. I need them to say either that they disagree about whether Trump is a liar, or that yes, he is, but they don’t mind.
But they pretty much never say either. Sometimes they’ll try to change the subject to an instance that they believe represents lying by Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, as if that is any kind of defense of Trump’s mendacity. But, in most cases, they just won’t engage on the topic. Drives me kinda nuts. I would actually be a relief to me if they would say something like: “Yes, he’s a colossal liar, and I wish he would cut it out. But I still prefer his policy on taxes (or the border wall or something), and there are more important things than telling the truth all the time.”
But they don’t. At least in public, you can’t have such an exchange. I’ve tried. Most Trump defenders won’t engage on the issue of mendacity.
As I said, I like having a spirited discussion, with people of differing viewpoints, across areas of disagreement, with intellectually honest people who hold opposing viewpoints. This was easier before Trump. I can still enjoy these with conservatives or Republicans who are willing to deal honestly with the lying problems that always lurk nearby in the Trump era.
The exhausted fact-checkers
But, at least, as I referenced in passing above, we are now blessed to live in the era of the fact-checkers, who pre-date Trump but whose work is of increasing centrality now, but who try to police the fact questions that underlie much of political discussion and debate.
Trump has exhausted those poor folks. But their craft has never been more important. So what set me off today was a single paragraph in a Thursday piece by the excellent Washington Post “Fact-Checker” team, reviewing an overwhelming barrage (I almost said “astonishing barrage, but who can be astonished at this point?) of long-since-established falsehoods that Trump repeated in one brief Rose Garden appearance yesterday.
Here’s the paragraph overview that’s supposed to hook you, in which Trump repeated many past falsehoods that the Post’s factivists have previously checked, but the full piece goes into the latest ones:
President Trump’s media event Tuesday — which was mostly an extended monologue — was like watching our database of Trumpian claims unroll in real time. So many of Trump’s rhetorical favorites were tossed out — that he had built the best economy in U.S. history (no), that he inherited few ventilators (no), that he overrode his aides to impose some travel restrictions on China (no), that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “danced” in the streets in defiance of the coronavirus (no), that he “rebuilt” a “totally depleted” military (no), that the European Union was formed to take advantage of the United States (no). It went on and on.
If you follow the links in that one paragraph, you can review the previous workups of these falsehoods. But if that’s more than you bargained for, just note how many previously established falsehoods Trump managed to repeat in the latest instance.
Then there’s the rest of the fact-check, in which the fact-checker team found 11 (ELEVEN!!!) other problematic Trump claims from just part of the same diatribe in the Rose Garden that range from incomplete to misleading to false to “pants-0n-fire.”
The serious, scary question is, do the Trumpsters not know that he lies constantly, or do they not care?