This president lies.
Granted, every president tells the occasional politically expedient untruth. But this guy is different. He lies constantly. He lies about relatively unimportant things. He lies when the truth can be easily verified.
None of this comes as a surprise, of course. It’s been obvious since long before Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday. Still, it is disheartening to realize that that oath, and the awesome responsibilities that come with it, have not changed him in the least. He still lies as prolifically as ever.
For instance, in a speech on Saturday at the CIA, Trump blasted the news media for making it “sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.” But it wasn’t the news media that sent out a tweet as recently as Jan. 11 likening the intelligence community to Nazi Germany. Did Wolf Blitzer have a gun to his head or something? No, that was Trump.
On Monday, in a meeting with congressional leaders, Trump renewed his claim that he would have won the popular vote in the November election except that massive fraud cost him millions of ballots. And that’s a lie, too. There is no – repeat: zip, zilch, zero – evidence to support that claim.
On Saturday, Trump sent press secretary Sean Spicer storming into the White House briefing room to berate reporters for reporting – accurately – that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was much smaller than that at President Barack Obama’s first swearing-in in 2009. Pressed to explain that behavior Sunday on “Meet the Press,” senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said something bizarre: “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.”
Whereupon, my cousin Kelly called me, sputtering in disbelief. Kelly, a career prosecutor, wanted to know if this means he is now free to put untruths into evidence if he dubs them “alternative facts.”
Meantime, my colleague, Miami Herald cartoonist Jim Morin tweeted, “I would like to congratulate Hillary Clinton for winning the presidential election and enacting a progressive agenda for USA. #AlternativeFact.”
Even Germany’s national railway joined in: “Good news – 120 percent of our trains are on time today. #alternativefacts”
You’d think Team Trump would learn its lesson, but there was Spicer the very next day, echoing Conway’s – ahem – “reasoning.” “Sometimes,” he told reporters, “We can disagree with the facts.”
In a word: Argh. Look, you can “disagree” all you want that two plus two equals four. You may offer to your heart’s content the “alternative fact” that two plus two equals rainbow sherbet. None of it changes the hard reality of what sum is produced when you add those numbers. Nor can you insist otherwise and expect anyone with half a brain to take you seriously.
Ask yourself: If we cannot trust these people to tell us the truth on minor matters that can be easily checked, what confidence can we have that they will be square with us on substantive matters where the truth is not a Google search away? What confidence can our allies and adversaries have?
The answer is, none. That should scare you.
As should this: Just a few days in, this may already be the least trustworthy regime in history. Yet last week, that regime was said to be thinking of evicting reporters from the White House. And Newt Gingrich just said press briefings should be open to non-journalists, i.e., a designated cheering section lobbing softball questions.
Trump will tell you he has a bad relationship with reporters because they are “unfair.” He says he’s in a “running war” with news media. But that’s another lie.
This guy’s “running war” is with the truth.
Leonard Pitts Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.