President Donald Trump has always had a very casual relationship with the truth. From his roots as a self-promoting businessman in New York City to his late-in-life political career, he’s showed a penchant for prevarication, to purposely misleading for his business or political benefit.
“OK, well we both know that he’s telling lies,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Trump confidante, about the President during an interview with CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday. “So if you want me to say he’s a liar, I’m happy to say he’s a liar.”
It’s hard to dispute that. The Washington Post Fact-Checker blog has counted more than 5,000 false or misleading claims made by Trump in just his first 601 days in office. That’s an average of more than eight false or misleading claims a day. Every day since January 20, 2017.
(Sidebar: There has been – and continues to be – an active debate as to whether Trump’s misstatements and falsehoods should be referred to as “lies.” I am of the mind that a “lie” means willful misrepresentation; or specifically, that Trump knows the truth and purposely is not telling it. Because the President repeats SO many of his false claims, even in the face of questions from reporters, or after presented with the facts, it’s very difficult for me to believe he is entirely unaware that what he is saying is false or misleading. “Lie” therefore strikes me as the most accurate term for what Trump is doing.)
What’s remarkable about Trump’s pace of falsehoods is that it is picking up – both in quantity and quality – as the 2018 midterm elections approach. (Just 13 days away now!) That is, as he’s gone on a media blitz and appeared at a spate of rallies to make his case ahead of the election, Trump is telling more – and bigger – falsehoods, with more apparent frequency, than his previous average of eight a day.
Consider what Trump has said in just the last few days:
1. He alleged, repeatedly, that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” to the caravan currently making its way across southern Mexico. His proof? He has none, which Trump himself acknowledged on Tuesday night. “There could very well be,” Trump said of his claims about the caravan. “There’s no proof of anything. There’s no proof of anything, but they could very well be.” So, yeah.
2. He said that a middle-class tax cut was coming soon. On Monday at a campaign rally for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump said this: “We’re going to be putting in a 10% tax cut for middle-income families. It’s going to be put in next week.” But, it’s not – as even Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic policy adviser, admitted. “It may not surface for a while, but that’s his goal,” Kudlow said of the Trump tax cut. “That’s his policy intent. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.” Aside from Trump’s claims being false, I guess.
3. He claimed Californians were rioting in protest of their state’s sanctuary cities. “By the way, a lot of people in California don’t want them, either,” Trump said over the weekend at a rally in Nevada. “They’re rioting now. They want to get out of their sanctuary cities.” Pressed on that claim by reporters this week. Trump responded: “You shouldn’t have – take a look. They want to get out of sanctuary cities. Many places in California want to get out of sanctuary cities.” Again, he offered zero proof of that claim. Because, well, there is none.
4. He warned of widespread voter fraud. In a tweet over the weekend, Trump wrote this: “All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!” The problem? Study after study – including one commissioned by George W. Bush’s administration in the mid 2000s – has revealed zero evidence of widespread, purposeful voter fraud.
So, in the last five days, the President of the United States had lied about – among other things – the caravan, tax cuts, sanctuary cities and voter fraud. That’s in addition to the usual panoply of falsehoods included in his stump speech, such as: a) The idea that Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens b) That liberal billionaire George Soros is paying for protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh c) that Kavanaugh was found innocent of sexual assault d) that Democrats are the “party of crime” e) that Kavanaugh was ranked number one in his class at Yale f) that Trump’s campaign did very well with women in the 2016 election – and on and on and on.
It’s an absolute cavalcade of falsehoods. So many that even keeping track of all of them is more than a full-time job. (Toronto Star DC bureau chief Daniel Dale does the best job of anyone staying on top of all of Trump’s untruths.)
That Trump is picking up his already active pace when it comes to lying this close to the election speaks to the political power that his willingness to not tell the truth has – particularly with his supporters. Trump has actively urged his allies not to listen to anyone but him – up to and including themselves. “Stick with us,” Trump said over the summer. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
What he has created by those sorts of statements is a bloc of voters who believe he is the only person in the country telling them the truth, even when it is demonstrably clear – based on established facts – that he is not. Because Trump knows he is the single news source for many people, he peddles a narrative that he knows will anger and enliven them heading into an election where Democrats have held the enthusiasm advantage for months: That the country is under attack from political correctness, illegal immigrants, the “Resistance” and the “deep state.” That he alone can prevent this dangerous brew from exploding. That he alone can fight for them against the forces aligned against them.
That all of this narrative is built on an increasingly broad and deep base of lies is of no consequence to either Trump or his supporters. But it should be.