Published in the Smoky Mountain News on October 25, 2017
Some time ago a cartoon had Trump’s press secretary and Kelly Ann Conway dressed as Burger King employees under a banner “Home of the Whopper” and Conway saying, “Do you want lies with that?” Lies seem to be the staple of the Trump administration.
Now we find that General Kelly is also among the liars. He attacked a Congresswoman by making false statements about a speech she made at the dedication of an FBI building named after two fallen agents. Kelly did not make a misstatement or error – he LIED. Finding out that a general is capable of lying should not be a surprise. It was generals lying about our early “successes” in Viet Nam that helped get us so deep into that disastrous war.
Lies have become daily experiences in the Trump administration. Let’s not call them “inaccuracies” – they are LIES. An inaccuracy can be an honest mistake, but what we are seeing are deliberate, calculated lies. There is no pretext that the lies are based in anything other than pure fantasy and the imagination of the liar. Virtually every Trump tweet has at least one lie in the 140 characters. A friend of Trump reportedly commented that Trump would lie about the time of day just for practice.
Trump’s rise to prominence was based on the “birther” lie. This was the claim that Obama could not be president because he was not born in the US. Not only was this false; it was irrelevant. McCain was born in Panama; Romney was born in Mexico; and Cruz was born in Canada – yet there was no question about their ability to run for president. Why? Because there mothers, like Obama’s, were American citizens. So Trump’s initial entry into politics was not only a calculated lie but also a racist strategy because the difference between Obama and the other three men was the color of his skin.
Since then we have seen Trump consistently and persistently make lying the norm rather than the exception. Every time he uses the phrase “fake news” we now know that he is reacting to something based on documentable facts that he does not like. He even claimed to have invented the word “fake” in an interview. In reality the word goes back to at least 1775.
Trump has not drained any swamp. He has created a greater and deeper swamp than we have ever seen. The consistent lying has made it difficult for many to distinguish the lies from the truth. The problem is that lies that are repeated often enough become credible to some no matter how ridiculous the lie.
The superficial lies also detract from critical issues. We are talking about Kelly’s lies instead of the fact that the Trump tax cuts will pay for tax cuts to billionaires by cutting Medicare and will increase the deficit. We are not talking about the fact that all of the Republican healthcare “plans” would exclude millions from being able to afford health insurance. In short, lies deflect the media coverage to relatively trivial issues instead of discussions of substance.
Maybe the greatest danger of the Trump administration is not the estrangement with our allies or the posturing about North Korea. The greatest danger is that Americans may no longer value the truth and verifiable facts. No society can exist if it does not value the truth. Once everyone can act in accordance with his or her point of view instead of reality we are doomed.