On December 14 this year the New York Times wrote, “Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them.” It then listed with references every one of his lies from the time he took office through November 11th. It wanted to be fair, so it distinguished between outright lies, and public untruths, exaggerations and things over which there was honest dispute whether it was true or not. The number of distinctive outright lies totaled 103. One that was counted as just one distinctive lie but that he said 10 times was that he saved $725 million on the production of the F 35 fighter plane. Most of these savings had already been set up before he became President. He’s mentioned that America is the highest taxed country in the world 14 times, while it isn’t. He said 5 times that The New York Times apologized to him for unfair reporting on him. It has not apologized to him.
Trump’s followers consistently counter by saying: President Obama lied just as often. So the Times did a study about Obama and how many times he told outright lies. They found he did tell outright lies- 16 distinct ones in his Presidency. This compares to the 103 distinct lies that Trump has told in his first 10 months in the office!
The Times also found there was a difference in the two Presidents’ attitude about lying. When Obama was called out for his lies, he would not repeat them. But with Trump, he would double down on them and repeat them and try to tear down the integrity of those pointing them out.
Trump’s run up to the Presidency was buttressed by him frequently saying that President Obama was born in Kenya so was not eligible to be President (a lie). Although earlier Presidents have bent the truth or told occasional whoppers, as the article states, “No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.” Although his popularity has fallen to 32%, a historical low at this point in any Presidency, 80 – 90% of members of the Republican Party support him. Though not a typical Republican, Trump’s policies on taxes, fewer government regulations, and toward business in general have all followed the classic Republican playbook.
Here we have the spectacle of one of America’s major parties willing to exchange what they want for being silent while their party’s President lies consciously and repeatedly. This is the holder of the highest office in the land, a role model for children. Truth is the victim – and the Party tied to the slayer of the truth is quiet – and so guilty of lying by its silence. The damage brought is widespread and reaches years into the future.
Can parents lead and be role models for their families, when the president and lawmakers who we look to to lead US are so obviously morally corrupt? Can heads of businesses expect or demand honesty and loyalty from their employees? After all, the President doesn’t suffer from lying. Can’t they do it too? Will businesses and the economy survive?
Can society and democracy – rule by the people – continue when one party encourages citizens to despise truth? Can honest discourse needed for healthy democracy happen when truth is despised?
Although certainly not perfect, America was looked to for decades by many around the world as setting a pattern for freedom and integrity and goodness. As America teeters, will the rest of the world follow suit? There are already signs this is happening.
With untruth and deception comes lack of trust in leaders. The next step is that leaders will mislead even more, and perhaps even force citizens to obey them. With a plausible argument that Trump and his team colluded with the Russians to influence the Presidential election – how can we feel secure our system of government and our society will go on?
There doesn’t seem be an obvious answer for Americans as they try to find their way back from the edge of the abyss. It seems people need a moral compass to steer through the shoals of falsehood and be able to find truth.