President Trump is not your run-of-the-mill liar

For the Monitor
Published: 8/1/2018 2:38:49 PM

According to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker list, it was reported on the PBS Newshour that since assuming office, and before the start of summer, President Donald Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims. Furthermore, in the latest Newshour/NPR/Marist poll, asked whether the president tells the truth, 61 percent of Americans said that he does so never, hardly ever, or only some of the time.

In a speech Mr. Trump gave earlier this month in Montana, it was found by the Post that 76 percent of the claims made by the president were “false, misleading, or unsupported by evidence.”

Peter Wehner, who is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and who served in the Reagan, H.W. Bush and Bush administrations, appeared on the Newshour program. And while acknowledging that all presidents lie to some extent, Wehner said that, “We don’t have a run-of-the-mill liar in the White House, we have a pathological liar.” Seeming apoplectic, Wehner went on to say, “This is a man who lies on personal matters, on political matters, on domestic and international (matters) – he lies morning, noon and night. It’s just never-ending. We’ve never had a president who lies so pathologically.”

Wehner said this is especially troubling because of the number of people who believe our president’s lies, who accept them, who indeed believe Trump’s claim that the so-called “fake news” has it all wrong.

The senior fellow also said that the president’s lies have “tremendous damaging effects on the political and civic culture of a nation. ... A self-governing nation can’t run if you don’t have a common set of facts, if you can’t agree on common realities. We have a man in the White House who is engaged in, not just an assault on truth, but an effort to annihilate truth.”

Wehner said also that our president seeks to destroy the very categories of how truth and falsehood are understood by the electorate. “And that’s really why he goes after the media” – because the media has always been an institution that acts like a check on a president’s power. Wehner seemed to say that for Trump to bring our press into question, is to bring democracy itself into question.

When asked whether there have been particular examples of lying or deceit on the part of our president, Wehner mentioned Trump’s duplicitous statement regarding the Charlottesville incident; the attacks on the Mueller investigation (which are especially egregious because Trump seeks to destroy the truth the investigation is charged with unveiling); where Trump falsely claimed Hilary Clinton won the popular vote because millions of votes were cast illegally on her behalf; and when he had his press secretary, Sean Spicer, announce that his inaugural was attended by more people than that of Barrack Obama.

Toward the end of his comments Wehner said that this is not like an infection can’t be treated. Rather, once enough people become aware of Trump’s blatant disregard for the truth, once they see through his “fake news fake-out,” a backlash is likely to occur, which would bode ill for a Trump victory in 2000.

Also interviewed on the program was Laura Brown, who is the director of the Graduate School of Political Management, and who is also the author of several books on presidents. Brown said that, “One of the things that you see with this president is a desire to lie on everything.” “Trump’s lies,” she went on to say, “create confusion among the public,” and as a result, truth is not easily distinguished from falsity. And it is just this confusion that “allows his base to continue to support him and to believe his version of reality and not the news media’s actual version of reality.”

Roughly the same percentage of those who voted Trump into office constitute those who continue to support him, and likewise are those who have succumbed to Trump’s lying campaign, if we may call it that. And this segment of our society seems destined not to budge in terms of their support for our president, when the time comes for him to run for reelection.

But it is true also that Donald Trump will play a particularly outsize role when voters head to the polls come November, which is expected to be a referendum on the president as has not been seen in years.

(Timothy Langlais lives in Concord.)

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