- AP/Evan Vucci, File
- President-elect Donald Trump
On Friday, Donald Trump will place his left hand on a Bible, raise his right hand in the air, and, repeating after U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts, take the oath of the highest office in the land.
It's funny, in a dark sort of way, because the dude taking this solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution is one of the most notorious liars our country has ever elected.
Should he have a falling out with Justice Roberts he’d probably deny the swearing-in even took place, tweeting: "Never happened. Lying press. Sad."
Seriously, folks, we're supposed to be the virtuous country that honors the truth. But Trump's ushered in a golden age of lying—we've come a long way from George Washington and his cherry tree.
I say this as a reporter who knows a thing or two about lying politicians, having covered Chicago politics for the last 30 years.
I mean, Mayor Emanuel claimed politics had nothing to do with his attempt to bury the video of Laquan McDonald getting shot.
And then Governor Rauner claimed he cried when he saw it.
So, yes, our politicians have been known to tell a whopper or two.
But generally, they try to stay away from bold-faced lies, preferring to dodge the truth with spin and disinformation and concealment. After all, Mayor Rahm once responded to a FOIA request with a blank piece of paper.
Mayor Rahm's mastered the art of prevarication. He dodges the truth with rambling filibusters that bear no resemblance to what he was asked. That's why reporters are so eager to read his private e-mails—we're trying to figure out what he’s really up to.
But Trump routinely lies about things he can't possibly get away with lying about since we've already seen him do or say the things he swears he never did.
For instance, he tweeted that he never made fun of a disabled reporter, even though we all saw him do just that.
He said he didn't launch the birther war against President Obama, even though everyone knows he stoked the flames of that phony issue for years.
And he says he never told supporters to kick the crap out of protesters at one of his rallies, even though the footage of him saying that is on the Internet for everyone to see.
Sometimes his deceit comes in the form of a promise he can't possibly keep. Like the tweet in which he said he'll have a new health care plan in place 90 days after he abolishes Obamacare. C'mon. Even Trump voters have to know that's not going to happen.
His lies are particularly frustrating for reporters, who are already straining to make sense of a complicated world. So every time he lies we have to spend a day or two sifting through the evidence to show that it's a lie. By then he's moved on to something else.
Perhaps there's a method to his madness. In a recent essay, CNN columnist Frida Ghitis likened it to gaslighting. That's a reference to Gaslight, the classic 1944 movie in which a husband tries to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights in their house, and then claiming she's the only one who thinks it's dark. Similarly, Trump seems to be trying to make Americans think we're the crazy ones rather than admit his untruths and dirty tricks.
I also like to compare Trump to Charlie, the character played by Joey Bishop in A Guide for the Married Man. In an unforgettable scene from an otherwise totally forgettable 60s flick, Charlie tells his wife he's not in bed with another woman even as she catches him in bed with another woman.
In the end, Charlie's wife's so broken down she offers to make him breakfast.
Apparently, Trump feels that the country—like Charlie's wife—will just give up and let him do whatever he wants to do.
As I write, Trumps ignited another firestorm by launching a dubious Twitter attack against Democratic congressman John Lewis of the Fifth District in Georgia.
Lewis irritated Trump when he said he was going to boycott the Inauguration. "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis told NBC News. "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. . . . You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right."
To which Trump responded with the following tweets:
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
OK, let's pause to break down the truthfulness of these tweets.
One, they don't keep crime stats by congressional districts, so Trump doesn’t know if Lewis’s district is "crime infested." Two, the Fifth Congressional District includes most of Atlanta, so Trump's really saying that Atlanta is "in horrible shape" and "crime infested" and "falling apart." But, three, Atlanta has a rate of "one crime per 401 residents," according to the Atlanta Constitution Journal, "which is actually better than the national rate of 373."
As Trump tweets go, it's probably less of a lie than his one about the disabled reporter. Technically, I'm not sure it's a lie so much as willful ignorance, plus hatred and bigotry aimed at a civil rights hero who was getting his head fractured by Alabama state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge while Trump was sitting in his prep school dormitory getting ready to make millions for his dad's racially discriminatory real estate company.
Whoa—Trump hasn't even taken that oath of office yet, and I'm already fired up. I've got to pace myself—this is gonna be a long haul. v