On his 601st day in office, President Donald Trump broke what many people might have assumed was an unbreakable barrier: He said his 5,000th thing that was either totally false or partially untrue.
That’s according to the count being kept by the invaluable folks at The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog. And, what’s even more amazing than a President who is averaging – repeat: averaging – more than eight untruths a day is this: Trump’s penchant for saying false things is exponentially increasing as his presidency wears on.
In Trump’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.2 falsehoods a day. That number has almost doubled in the intervening 500 days – propelled by Trump’s increasing willingness to be completely untethered from facts for longer and longer periods of time.
This anecdote from the Post writeup is absolutely staggering:
“On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.
In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.”
From Sept. 4 to Sept. 13, Trump averaged 32 false of misleading claims a day. 32 a day!
Stop for a minute and think about that. If you tried, I’m sure you could find a way to say 32 things a day that weren’t totally true. But you’d almost certainly have to work at it. You’d have to be consciously focused on it.
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And yet, that’s the average number of things that the President of the United States said that weren’t true over a 10-day period this month.
There’s a tendency – even among Trump’s staunchest opponents – to greet that fact with a shrug. After all, anyone paying even the least bit of attention to politics knows that Trump says lots and lots of things that aren’t true. And it’s also inarguable that Trump’s supporters do not care about his casual relationship with the truth; Trump decries any sort of fact-checking as the byproduct of a “fake news” media, and his backers believe it.
But taking for granted the fact that the President of the United States is engaged in a historic assault on the idea of facts, truth and neutral arbiters isn’t something any healthy democracy should do.
And I think that’s even more true when you realize that Trump’s factlessness isn’t slowing or staying steady. it is accelerating. Rapidly.
Consider what that acceleration tells us: That Trump is retreating more and more into a reality of his own making, a reality that bears little resemblance to what we would all agree are established facts and figures.
It’s not clear – at least to me – whether he is doing this because he can and wants to test the limits of how far people will unquestioningly follow him (“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”) or because he truly believes that what he is saying are the real facts.
Both options are concerning. But to my mind, the latter – Trump is unaware of how far into his own alternate reality he is and continues to clip – is more worrisome. A President wholly disconnected from reality poses all sorts of troubling and scary questions about how Trump deals not only with domestic problems but, more concerningly, international issues like those related to Russia, North Korea or Syria.
For me, the words of Bob Woodward, who spent more than a year reporting on the state of the White House for his new book, are both deeply relevant and deeply haunting on this subject.
“I’ve never seen an instance when the President is so detached from the reality of what’s going on,” Woodward said earlier this week. “This has not been treated seriously enough. Some of the things Trump did and does jeopardize the real national security.”