That President Donald Trump often doesn’t tell the whole truth, or even part of it, is not new.
But what is new – or at the very least newsworthy – is how rapidly the rate at which Trump doesn’t tell the truth has sped up over the past year. According to The Washington Post’s invaluable Fact Checker, Trump said more than 6,000 things in 2018 that were either misleading or false – a rate of almost 16 untruths a day.
Think of that: The President of the United States averages – AVERAGED – 16 distortions or falsehoods – every single day of 2018.
As the Post’s Fact Checker team points out, Trump’s rate of prevarication nearly tripled between year one and year two of his presidency. Through the end of 2017, Trump had said just over 2,000 false or misleading things.
Which means, quite simply, that Trump is becoming more emboldened, more willing to bend (or break) facts to fit his desired worldview. As objective facts continue to turn against him, the President retreats more and more into a world of his own creation. And urges his loyalist followers to ignore everything but what he says.
“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump told a group of veterans in Kansas City last summer. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
His MO is clear by now. He finds a part of a fact or an anecdote or something that he believes illustrates his point. He does zero fact checking because, well, he’s not interested in whether or not what he is saying is true. (He’s interested in whether it helps him convince people – and by “people” I mean his base – that he is right and the “fake news” media is wrong.) And then he just keeps repeating the “fact” until he has persuaded people that he is right.
- Trump has suggested the special counsel probe led by Robert Mueller is some sort of hoax created by Democrats to make up for their 2016 loss almost 200 times – despite the fact that the special counsel was created by Trump’s own Justice Department after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the matter
- Trump has falsely stated 127 times that the tax cut passed in 2017 was the largest in US history.
- On 126 occasions, Trump has wrongly said the US loses money on trade deficits
And on and on (and on) it goes. On virtually every major issue of the day – immigration, taxes, the Mueller investigation – Trump has spun an alternate reality for himself and his supporters that, very often, simply do not comport with established facts. He paints this discrepancy as the largest example of how unfair the media is to him – that they simply won’t give him the credit he deserves.
“Always heard that as President, ‘it’s all about the economy!’” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Well, we have one of the best economies in the history of our Country. Big GDP, lowest unemployment, companies coming back to the U.S. in BIG numbers, great new trade deals happening, & more. But LITTLE media mention!”
To the extent Trump doesn’t get enough attention for the successes of the economy – and they are considerable or, at least were, prior to the ongoing government shutdown, it’s largely his own fault. He says – and tweets – so many things on so many topics every day that he often steps on what should be positive news coverage. Take Sunday, for example, when Trump sent 40 tweets (including retweets) about everything from the government shutdown to North Korea to the winter storm hammering the Northeast to his allegedly rising poll numbers with Hispanics to his thoughts on his State of the Union speech to the New England Patriots moving on to a(nother) Super Bowl.
It’s easy to become inured to Trump’s falsehood machine. Any time anyone does something 16-ish times a day for 365 days, it’s hard to be too shocked on day 289. Or day 400. But we should be. Trump’s assault on truth – literally trying to erase the idea that capital “T” truth exists, and suggesting that facts are entirely in the eye of the beholder – is hugely dangerous to our society. If we can’t agree on an objective set of facts, how can we possibly hope to find common ground on, well, anything?
Facts are not a partisan position. It may be hard to see that reality amid the smoke that Trump employs to benefit his own political causes. But it’s still true. And important.