President Donald Trump isn’t convinced Barack Obama was born in the United States after all.
That’s according to a New York Times piece, which contains these two chilling paragraphs:
“In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.
“One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. The senator asked not to be named to discuss private conversations.”
That report comes hard on the heels of news that Trump has told at least one US senator and a White House aide that he has suspicions about the authenticity of an “Access Hollywood” recording in which he can be heard making a series of lewd remarks about women.
Again, the New York Times:
“‘We don’t think that was my voice,’ Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.”
Here’s the thing: In each of those instances, Trump is on the record saying the exact opposite of what he is now apparently saying behind closed doors.
In the wake of the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape last October, Trump apologized for the “locker room talk” on display in the tape. Neither he – nor anyone with “Access Hollywood” – ever raised questions about the legitimacy of the tape.
A month before the “Access Hollywood” tape came out, Trump said the following in an attempt to quell the rising controversy over whether he really believed the debunked conspiracy theory that Obama was born outside of the United States: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”
It now appears, however, that Trump’s apologies were purely political acts driven by a desire to put the controversies behind him rather than the result of any sort of conviction that he had been wrong and needed to correct the record.
On one level, this is surprising. After all, the President of the United States continues to traffic in totally baseless conspiracy theories!
On a deeper level, however, none of this is surprising at all. For his entire adult life – in business and now in politics – Trump has shown a total disregard for truth and facts.
In place of those truths and facts, Trump substitutes a story he tells himself about his life. In that version of events, he is always the winner, always the best looking, funniest, most debonaire guy in the room, always the person whose views are right – or proven right in the long run.
Let’s not forget that Donald Trump is the guy who used to call tabloids in New York City in the 1980s using the pseudonym “John Miller” – purportedly a young PR executive in the Trump organization – to tout how popular and sexually attractive Trump was.
One example: “He gets called by everybody in the book, in terms of women,” “Miller” said once.
Time and time again, Trump has shown that he views facts as fungible – things to be twisted or ignored altogether in pursuit of scoring political points. Muslims celebrating on the roofs on September 11, 2001. Ted Cruz’s father being involved in the JFK assassination. The largest inaugural crowds ever. Obama wire-tapping Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. Three to 5 million people voting illegally in the election.
There’s literally thousands of other examples. In Trump’s first 298 days in office, Trump said 1,628 things that were either misleading or totally false, according to calculations made by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker. That’s 5.5 a day!
And, while The New York Times hasn’t updated their running list of Trump’s lies since July, what they documented up until that point is eye-popping.
Trump simply doesn’t care about adhering to established facts or truth. Whether or not that’s intentional, the result is the same: He is leading an all-out assault on agreed-upon truths the likes of which we have never seen before in modern culture. We are now in the age of “alternative facts.”
That assault manifests in all sorts of places.
The most obvious is politics where, for example, lots and lots of people continue to support Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore despite the fact that eight women have accused him of pursuing sexual relationships with them when they were between 14 and 19 years old and he was in his 30s. (Trump has pointed out that Moore has fiercely denied the allegations.)
While the number of allegations would, in the past, have been considered determinative, now they are dismissed by some as pure politics and a creation of the “fake news” media.
We simply lack the ability to agree on established facts. Facts are now treated as yet another piece of a partisan argument. Your facts are just as legitimate as anyone else’s. And, since we can’t agree on any neutral arbiter to offer rulings on what the actual facts are – Trump’s efforts to discredit the news media play a massive role here – we just bunker in, concluding that our facts are the “right” ones.
That the President of the United States is leading the assault on fact – rather than insisting that, partisanship aside, we need to call facts facts and fakes fakes – is hugely problematic for our culture.
If we can’t agree on what’s real and what’s fake, where does that leave us?