With Donald Trump’s presidency in the rear-view mirror, there’s a natural human tendency to sort of forget about what he did to the nation’s highest office. Let’s look to the future – and all that.
But it’s important to keep reminding ourselves of the various ways in which Trump sough to fundamentally undermine and redefine the presidency. Or put more simply: How incredibly abnormal the last four years were when compared to, well, every other modern presidency.
Which brings me to a new analysis from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog – breaking down the false and misleading claims made by both Trump and current President Joe Biden in their first 100 days in office.
The contrast is striking. Biden made 67 false or misleading claims in that period as compared to Trump’s 511, according to the Post’s tally. Which, if you do the math, means that Trump said more than seven times as many misleading or outright false things than Biden did during the critical first 100 days of each of their presidencies. SEVEN times!
“After four years of a presidency that swamped Americans with a gusher of false and misleading claims, the Joe Biden era has offered a return to a more typical pattern when it comes to a commander in chief and his relationship with the facts – one that features frequent spin and obfuscation or exaggeration, with the occasional canard,” concluded the Post’s Glenn Kessler, Adrian Blanco and Tyler Remmel.
Sit with that for a minute. And then consider this: Trump’s pace of mistruths – and outright lies – rapidly picked up as his term went on. His first 100 days was the most truthful period of time during his entire presidency.
As CNN’s Daniel Dale noted in a lookback piece of four years of fact-checking Trump:
“In 2017, Trump averaged 2.9 false claims per day. By 2018, it was 8.3 false claims per day. … Trump’s 2017 dishonesty tended to be impromptu ad-libbing. His 2018 dishonesty was much more scripted; he used serial lying as a deliberate strategy in the midterm elections. Then he used serial lying as a deliberate strategy in his 2019 Ukraine scandal. Then he used serial lying as a deliberate strategy in his response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic – holding daily ‘briefings’ so wildly dishonest that CNN needed me to go on TV right afterward to debunk the nonsense viewers had just heard.”
And of course, none of that even takes into account the fact that Trump continues to propagate the Big Lie – that the 2020 election was fraudulent or stolen from him despite zero evidence of wrongdoing. (Even as I type, Arizona’s state Senate Republicans are conducting a “recount” of the ballots in Maricopa County that is baffling at best.) Polling suggests Republican voters prefer Trump’s falsehoods to the objective truth. A Quinnipiac University poll released in February showed 75% of self-identified Republicans agreeing with the statement that there was “widespread fraud in the 2020 election.”
Biden’s fact-check performance has returned the norm we expect from presidents and politicians: Truth-stretching and exaggerating in the main, with the occasional whopper thrown in but rarely repeated. The question is whether Trump’s pattern of dishonesty means that no matter what Biden does, we may never return to “normal.”
Trump may no longer be president – and he may never run for president again. But even if he decides to take a pass on running in 2024, Trump’s impact not just on politics but on our culture is massive – and nowhere is it bigger (or more problematic) than when it comes to his attempted erasure of truth and facts.