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Trump Lies, The Truth Dies

Donald Trump Shrug

David Leonhardt and Stuart Thompson at The New York Times have put together a comprehensive list of the lies and half-truths that President Trump has uttered since Inauguration Day, and it’s really quite astounding albeit utterly unsurprising:

President Trump’s political rise was built on a lie (about Barack Obama’s birthplace). His lack of truthfulness has also become central to the Russia investigation, with James Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testifying under oath about Trump’s “lies, plain and simple.”

There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.

We have set a conservative standard here, leaving out many dubious statements (like the claim that his travel ban is “similar” to Obama administration policy). Some people may still take issue with this standard, arguing that the president wasn’t speaking literally. But we believe his long pattern of using untruths to serve his purposes, as a businessman and politician, means that his statements are not simply careless errors.

We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.

The list above uses the conservative standard of demonstrably false statements. By that standard, Trump told a public lie on at least 20 of his first 40 days as president. But based on a broader standard — one that includes his many misleading statements (like exaggerating military spending in the Middle East) — Trump achieved something remarkable: He said something untrue, in public, every day for the first 40 days of his presidency. The streak didn’t end until March 1.

Since then, he has said something untrue on at least 74 of 113 days. On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing.

The end of May was another period of relative public veracity — or at least public quiet — for the president. He seems to have been otherwise occupied, dealing with internal discussions about the Russia investigation and then embarking on a trip through the Middle East and Europe.\

As Leonhardt and Thompson note, all of this lying has had an impact on Trump. While his core supporters haven’t abandoned him, he remains the most unpopular incoming President since World War II. His job approval numbers continue to remain in the negative and only seem to be getting worse, his personal favorability continues to become more negative by the day, and most Americans consider him dishonest. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, for example, only 35% consider him honest while 60% of Americans consider the President dishonest, a number that has only increased since Inauguration Day:

Trump Honesty

For anyone who has paid attention to Trump going back to the 2012 election when he was building up his political profile by pushing discredited and baseless claims regarding President Obama’s birthplace, none of this is a surprise. Trump repeated this pattern of relying on lies to advance his political agenda throughout his campaign, as several journalists and news outlets documented quite well at the time. Indeed, this habit of not telling the truth has been part of Trump’s modus operendi from the time he first became a public figure back in the 1980s. The fact that he’s continuing to lie as President, then, should not come as a surprise to anyone.

The fact that Trump’s behavior isn’t a surprise, though, doesn’t mean it isn’t troubling. While all politicians have the habit of shading or spinning the truth in ways that benefit their message, the extent to which this President and his surrogates are able to get in front of cameras and crowds and blatantly tell what are obvious falsehoods is a sign both of their own moral turpitude and of the fact that they don’t believe that they will pay a political price for their behavior. At least in the short term, that appears to be the case. While Trump’s job approval among the general public, Democrats, and independents remain highly negative, it’s clear that his core supporters still remain in his corner. As long as that’s the case, there is not going to be any foreseeable ends to the lies that this Administration tells and supportive news outlets such as Fox News Channel, conservative talk radio, and the right-wing blogosphere will do little to point out the truth. Unless and until that happens, Trump will pay no price for his lies and will see no need to change.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    A perfect example: Up through June 23, Trump was insisting there was no Russian interference in the election. Yesterday, he complained on Twitter that there was Russian interference, and why didn’t Obama do something about it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 0

  2. Kari Q says:

    I don’t know that it’s fair to call Trump a liar. A liar know the truth and deliberately states a falsehood. Trump appears to neither know nor care what is true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  3. CSK says:

    @Kari Q:

    I think it’s a mixture of deliberate lies, mostly for the sake of self-aggrandizement; just saying whatever pops into his head at any given moment, particularly when he’s goaded; and ignorance. I agree that he lives in his own reality, which rarely if ever coincides with objective reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. James in Bremerton says:

    Will voters care? The GOP certainly doesn’t.. Democrats don’t vote in mid-terms, and Anthony Kennedy is making retirement noises, if they are to be believed. The only Democratic policy we’ve heard about in the last year is “don’t elect trump.” Absent a reason to vote, Democrats are in for more rude surprises.

    Robert Mueller is not a policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  5. Guarneri says:

    Oh, I don’t know about that. I’ll say it, “Trump lies.”

    The only bigger liar I know is Hillary Clinton. So that kinda made it a difficult choice on those grounds.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 47

  6. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: In your own mind only. After all, It’s Okay If You’re A Republican.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  7. Mikey says:

    @Guarneri:

    The only bigger liar I know is Hillary Clinton.

    This is, of course, complete bullshit.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 2

  8. grumpy realist says:

    It also looks like one of Trump’s offspring is just as bad and the judge in the lawsuit is having none of it.

    Nitwit offspring should have realized that even if you don’t have your shoe design registered there is such a thing as a common law trademark–which can be infringed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I love Ivanka’s lawyers’ argument: That since Ivanka did not personally design the shoe herself, she’s not responsible.

    It doesn’t get more Trump than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James in Bremerton:

    The only Democratic policy we’ve heard about in the last year is “don’t elect trump.”

    That strategy actually worked pretty well for the Republicans, so why not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. gVOR08 says:

    When you read these stories, remember that they are cataloging NEW lies. He told a NEW lie almost every day. He was, of course, regularly repeating the old lies every day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. Steve V says:

    @grumpy realist: Omg the shoes are total knock-offs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Someone had better hit her lawyers over the head with a book on agency law.

    Not that I believe it’s true. Ivanka’s “I know NOSSING!” has been bookended by her public statements of “being totally involved in the design of each shoe from the very beginning.”

    I wonder if Ivanka realizes how much trouble she could get in if she lies during her deposition?

    And yeah, the shoes are total knock-offs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @James in Bremerton: Dems, including Hillary, regularly run on policy, much of it policy that will benefit the white rural exurban white middle class poor blue collar white whatever that are suddenly supposed to be the only voters who matter. The problem is a) getting the supposedly liberal MSM to report on policy and b) getting voters to care about policy. That said, running against Republicans worked well in ’08, may again in ’18, and likely will in ’20.

    Democrats are in for “surprises” because of the Electoral College and REDMAP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  15. Facebones says:

    LOL, nothing matters. Not language, not policy, not truth. Trump’s base has shown they’ll take the most self-destructive path possible as long as it makes “libtards cry.”

    And I’ve stopped trying to explain to Trumpers and right wingers. I am not angry because my “team” lost. I am angry with Trump and the Republicans because they are pursuing policies that are deliberately intended to hurt as many people as possible: women, poor, working class, gays, the sick, immigrants, etc. Of course, Trumpers don’t seem to realize that they are included in that. But whatever! As long as it makes liberals mad!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  16. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..since Ivanka did not personally design the shoe herself, she’s not responsible.

    Her defense will be to lay this at the feet of the infamous libertine shoemaker
    Rand Paul.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Well, her daddy got away with lying 30 times in the course of one deposition in 2007, so maybe she thinks she can get away with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @grumpy realist:Unfortunately not just his mind. 66 million or so other minds, as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Steve V: And not very good ones at that. Frumpy looking. Sad. Pathetic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Well, they go together with Trump’s Russian bordello sense of style, no? No wonder Ivanka decided to rip off a bunch of Italian “f*uck-me” shoes.

    The Trump Clan: totally lacking in taste on all fronts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Kylopod says:

    One of the most remarkable things about Trump lies isn’t just their sheer volume–though that’s part of it–it’s their brazen transparency. I call it “the sky is red,” because their essence isn’t just that they’re total bullshit, but that much of the time they’re moronically easy to disprove–like when he denied the Trump Steaks were defunct by holding up a steak visibly bearing the logo of a different company.

    Most, if not all, politicians lie. It’s practically part of the job. But traditionally they’re cautious about it. Clinton was notorious for stating things that were technically accurate on semantic grounds but still misleading (like when he responded to allegations of past drug use by stating that he’d followed all the laws of his country–and it turned out he’d smoked a joint while in England). At the 2004 presidential debate, Bush justified the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that “the enemy attacked us”–more or less implying that it was Saddam who was behind 9/11, but without stating it outright.

    Whatever else can be said about Trump deception, it usually isn’t obfuscatory in nature. I don’t think he even knows how to use any of the standard semantic devices. That would require more subtlety than he can even comprehend. And whenever he’s caught telling a whopper, unlike a normal politician he never backs off from it–he doubles down on it. That’s what he did with his claims on the size of the crowd at his inauguration, illegals voting, Obama’s “wiretapping,” and many, many more.

    In a certain sense you could say Trump’s lies are an improvement on the norm because they’re so damn obvious they’re less likely to actually fool people. The problem is that with the lock he has on the Republican Party, a very large number of people are giving him a pass on his outlandish claims if not outright defending them. He’s muscled himself into a system that won’t hold him accountable, and that’s very, very scary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  22. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Guarneri:

    I’ll say it, “Trump lies.”

    Boy howdy does he lie !

    Not only does he lie… he’s Primed the Pump with lies.

    He lies so fast and furiously, he can lie faster than you can fact check.

    My favorite bifurcation of the mind of Trump:

    The AHCA bill is too mean, but…

    We will have no problem passing the bill.

    Seriously, WTF?

    The folks that brought you fear of Death Panels has now become the GOP Death Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. Guarneri says:

    Yeah, we can’t count Obama and Hillary lying about Benghazi and YouTube videos for pure political gain. Those aren’t lies, just a couple no count dead guys. Yeah, that’s it.

    And you will see a $2500 reduction in your insurance premium. Not a lie, despite what Gruber says. The answer is just “inoperative.”

    And now we have some salacious and bizarre fantasies about urinating on hookers coming from a, hold it, Democrat opposition group. Well blow me over. And I’m sure Hillary knows nothing of that kind of stuff. Nothing. Nada. Nope. Just when she thought she had “wiped” that dirty stuff away.

    Is it any wonder you pathetic dopes have been getting your election arses handed to you for years now. Grow up.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 23

  24. Matt says:

    @Guarneri: Fck you. I knew Sean (goon I played eve with and I used jabber that night so I saw most of his words) and I’m tired of your ilk using his death to push your agenda. Sean would tell you to piss off if he could. Your party is the party that cut funding for defensive supplies. While they were making good progress on improving the fortifications they still needed hardware that wasn’t available due to the GOP’s obsession with cutting funding.

    Now go ahead and kick into full victim mode because a “lefty” was mean to you.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  25. charon says:

    @Kylopod:

    lies are an improvement on the norm because they’re so damn obvious they’re less likely to actually fool people.

    The scary thing is so many GOP voters are accustomed to taking stuff on faith they believe these anyway. It’s just la la la I can’t hear you, in effect, whenever the problems are pointed out

    They also serve as loyalty tests – are you loyal enough to pretend to believe? (Example: Kellyanne Conway.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  26. wr says:

    @Guarneri: In other words, you can’t come up with a single actual lie that either Obama or Clinton told, just right-wing masturbation fantasies like Benghazi. How pathetic a little man you are that you cling to the notion that Hillary lies more than Trump while you can’t come up with a single instance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  27. Matt says:

    @charon: I know far too many people who swallow anything a Republican says without question. Of course those people don’t believe a single thing a Democrat or “the media” says. I had too many conversations on facebook where these people would repeat a debunked GOP talking point and then completely refuse to believe me when I presented evidence proving the talking point wrong.

    I have no idea how to bring reality to those types of people. IT’s disturbing to me because despite the newer generation being more liberal there’s still a sizable portion who inherited their parents voting habits like they inherited their parent’s religion…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  28. Kylopod says:

    @charon: Andrew Sullivan got to the crux of the matter a few months ago:

    But all the traditional political fibbers nonetheless paid some deference to the truth — even as they were dodging it. They acknowledged a shared reality and bowed to it. They acknowledged the need for a common set of facts in order for a liberal democracy to function at all. Trump’s lies are different. They are direct refutations of reality — and their propagation and repetition is about enforcing his power rather than wriggling out of a political conundrum. They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission. That first press conference when Sean Spicer was sent out to lie and fulminate to the press about the inauguration crowd reminded me of some Soviet apparatchik having his loyalty tested to see if he could repeat in public what he knew to be false. It was comical, but also faintly chilling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: I always had Trump’s sense of style as more Louis Quatorze bordello, but maybe the Russians have similar taste. I haven’t been there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. the Q says:

    I guess for Guarneri, its just too big of a leap to go from Trump’s “pussy grabbing vaginas” to golden showers.

    But all too easy to go link the Benghazi tragedy to rambling about Hillary’s alleged coverup which was totally debunked by wingnut Congressional hearings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0