Daily Maverick 168

Donald Trump: Four years, 25,000 lies later

By J Brooks Spector 31 October 2020
Caption
US President Donald Trump. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Tasos Katopodis / Pool)

Americans should have known better than to believe a single word of Trump’s. A primal scream.

First published in Daily Maverick 168

When a failed real estate developer and pitchman-for-hire, Donald Trump, became America’s president four years ago, even though his opponent actually received almost three million more votes, it was partly due to the peculiarities of the nation’s electoral system. Nevertheless, many voters had indeed embraced his “tell it like it is”, “I will drain the swamp in Washington”, and “I alone can fix it” style as the cleansing fire that would eliminate the bewildering complexities coming from the mouths of political professionals and established experts. Americans should have known better.

In the face of disruptive international economic challenges and job migration abroad, for many the Trump message seemed a breath of fresh air. What they did not realise at first was that embracing the heady but chaotic populist mixture that is Donald Trump also came with serious consequences and real costs. Americans should have learned this very quickly.

Everyone knew Trump understood very little about guiding a government, and that he actually saw the government he was leading as an enemy to be subdued and bent to his partisan and personal purposes. The nation’s media, save for a favoured few outlets, were worse, as he labelled them collectively as “the enemy of the people”.

Regardless of topic, the president aimed for an alchemy that could turn black into white and prevarications and falsehoods into national policy. Americans should have known better than to believe a single word of his.

The citizens of the planet’s leading superpower now stand poised to dispatch Donald Trump back to his gilded gold apartment or beachfront club, after his four-year trail of destruction, one that has been uniquely disastrous and dangerous.

His policies have consistently been at odds with the nation’s interests, but nearly perfectly aligned to his personal political and financial benefit. Even hosting international leaders on their visits has become a conduit to enrich otherwise ailing Trump family businesses. His Florida club even charged the government an astounding R50 for each glass of water consumed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s US visit. And that has been just a drop in the bucket of a torrent of money that has flowed into Trump coffers from conferences visits and events at Trump-owned properties, by those eager to plead their cases with the administration. Americans should have known better, based on his entire business career, but they did not.

From the very first days, a pattern of misstatements, falsifications and outright lies was set in motion. Unable to accept that Barack Obama’s inauguration had attracted more people than his, he insisted his press secretary Sean Spicer lie to the world (complete with altered photographs), saying Trump’s crowd was actually bigger. This first sin led senior staffer Kellyanne Conway to christen such blatant falsehoods as “alternative facts”.

Subsequently, there have been farces such as a presidential sharpie pen-altered weather map showing Alabama in the path of a hurricane even as it was hitting Florida. But then there have also been the president’s consistent stream of misstatements regarding the country’s economic circumstances and wild claims of his administration’s bogus successes.

Enemies of democracy and freedom of expression all over the world have been emboldened, America’s friends and supporters alienated or confounded, and its democratic traditions and ideals corrupted from such behaviour.

And then, addressing the pre-eminent crisis confronting the nation now, there have been the consistent lies and bizarre statements about the Covid-19 pandemic. There was his recommendation about injecting household bleach to fight the disease, and there was his touting of non-certified, powerful medicines with serious side effects as an unproven cure. By then, Americans certainly should have known better.

But there have also been epic lies such as that the disease would soon burn itself out after just a few cases; that the nation’s public health experts were trying to panic everyone with dire forecasts in the fake media; and even the White House’s most recent bizarre announcement, claiming, as yet another Trump success, his administration’s “Highlights include: ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.” (All caps in the original)

Trump ended up being only the third president in US history to be impeached, for trying to use his country’s aid to Ukraine for his own electoral benefit. Americans should have known much better than to believe his claims that it was a “perfect call”.

By now, there have been at least 25,000 such blatant falsehoods. The Washington Post’s factchecking team explained: “As President Trump entered the final stretch of the election season, he began making more than 50 false or misleading claims a day. It’s only gotten worse — so much so that the Fact Checker team cannot keep up.

“As of Aug. 27, the tally in our database that tracks every errant claim by the president stood at 22,247 claims in 1,316 days…. Just in the first 27 days of August, the president made 1,506 false or misleading claims, or 56 a day. Some days were extraordinary: 189 claims (a record) on Aug. 11, 147 claims on Aug. 17, 113 claims on Aug. 20 …” Of course, there have been many days since 27 August. By now, the overworked fact checkers have been unable to stay even with the flood of falsehoods (now standing at about 25,000 by most measures) from the president since his inauguration. They even had to establish a new category, a “Bottomless Pinocchio”, to classify the lies he most widely (and wildly) repeated. So far Trump has collected 48 of those coveted lying trophys.

But beyond the deliberate confusion and lying about policy disasters, there has been the deeper cost of having a leader who lies and distorts things big and small without regard to the truth, until the very concept of reality has been defiled; with the nation now led by a leader who cannot tell the difference between a fairy tale and truth.

Enemies of democracy and freedom of expression all over the world have been emboldened, America’s friends and supporters alienated or confounded, and its democratic traditions and ideals corrupted from such behaviour.

In erasing the difference between truth and falsehood, Donald Trump has gone a far way towards warping the fabric of American civil and political discourse. In its place, an American president has offered a world where lies, distortions, and casual calumnies are the new currency, and citizens’ cynicism of their government is ever more deeply engrained. Politicians are emboldened to lie with him — if they believe it gives them even marginal political advantage.

Simultaneously, he has continued to run his private businesses such that lobbyists, interest groups, foreign actors, and others “pay to play” in their dealings with the government, in what has in effect become a sale of secular political indulgences.

Running in tandem with his casual disregard for truth, the president has repeatedly drawn upon and encouraged the fever swamp of the worst of the racist, anti-Semitic, white supremacist conspiracy theorists, making them part of the regular currency of political life. Longstanding public norms against a president giving succour to such bizarre, dangerous theories have been traduced, normalising violence by such people.

Instead of tackling them, this president has continually chosen to fan such flames, rather than douse them. By now, Americans should know better.

From those dangerous falsehoods about how the nation must deal with Covid-19, to outright lies about bringing millions of manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt, persistent false-

hoods about taxes and tariffs, and flogging base rumours about his opponents’ personal lives and families for political gain; this president of the United States has been shameless in trafficking ugly, deceitful statements as if they were perfectly normal barbershop chit chat. In doing so, he has followed the playbook of long-gone dictators who have understood that a drumbeat of repetition for such lies can turn them into beliefs for many. Now, in the final days before the election, Trump’s White House increasingly resembles the last days of the Berlin bunker in 1945. As war was crashing to its conclusion, Adolf Hitler was issuing orders to cowering subordinates to deploy nonexistent military units and wonder weapons.

But of course such behaviour has been a feature of Donald Trump’s career since the beginning. (A small but telling example was his adding 10 storeys to his descriptions of the height of one of his buildings to inflate its value for investors and potential tenants.) And, of course, his political career also began with a big lie about Barack Obama’s place of birth — and thus his lack of legitimacy as president.

Years before even that campaign, he had pursued a campaign to convict a group of young men, “The Central Park Five”, on contrived rape and assault charges. And none of this even speaks to his aggressive misogyny and other taunts, before and during his presidency. Collectively, all of this should have made us fully aware of his character, but it seems for many it did not, or perhaps the content of his character simply has not mattered, compared to personal financial and ideological benefits some were hoping to score.

Instead, his kind of poisonous speech has been deeply injected into national politics, cheapening and poisoning the national conversation, and so warping political discourse that it may not be able to return to normal in the future.

In recent days, the deeper truth about a lifetime of financial flim-flammery has been exposed for all to see, along with truths of Donald Trump’s vast debts to as yet unrevealed organisations and individuals.

Simultaneously, he has continued to run his private businesses such that lobbyists, interest groups, foreign actors, and others “pay to play” in their dealings with the government, in what has in effect become a sale of secular political indulgences.

This should have been enough to disqualify him for further consideration as a president, but it has not.

The nation can no longer afford the luxury of praying that high office will turn him into a responsible adult. It would not and it did not. There has been four years in which to watch the terrifying truth. By now, no one can underestimate the harm that four more years of him would inflict on America and the world. No American has the right, any more, to say, “I didn’t know”. Donald J Trump must go. DM168

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All Comments 14

  • Unfortunately this article on lies, falls short because it is full of lies. The Daily Maverick purports to Defend Truth but alas. The part where everything unravels is “There was his recommendation about injecting household bleach to fight the disease” firstly the words used was disinfectant, not bleach many things that qualify as disinfectant is not bleach but I guess if you want to cherry pick words, use poetic freedom in reporting etc anything is possible. Secondly a recommendation would be something like “You should inject yourself” however, if you watch the actual interview he asks someone and I am paraphrasing “Is there a way to bring it into the body?” If anyone hears that as a recommendation then we have a third force here because clearly neither British English nor American English is at play here. He continues to say “Investigate”, “Work with medical doctors” etc. I am obviously not going to fact check all 25000 lies as it is clear that there are some misrepresentation there and it would be a waste of time to point out lies about lies.

  • The venom which you spew may well blow up in your face! Your opening statement in fact says it all . You are so consumed by hatred for the man that facts fly out of the window . I dispute your Rep/Dem voting statistics and you omitted to say that unemployment figures recently released are the lowest in many years.

  • Saying “when”, shows you believe Trump will win.. and granted, it’s not entirely impossible – we saw that four years ago. Let’s hope he doesn’t.

    Human beings need hope as much as we need air, water, food and shelter. If Trump wins again it will merely be one more piece of evidence that even completely false hope (of the same type as peddled by rabbis, priests, pastors and imams – in other words, hope based on fantasy, lies, make believe and blatant fraud) is good enough.

  • I haven’t read your article yet, i will do though, but i would like to see a comparison of the achievements of each of the last 5 Presidents, on a matrix. For easy comparison, up to & before the Covid 19. Money is on that Trump, Trumps them all. Come on lets be brave and show the truth. You guys are like the Bully Boys i remember from my school days.

  • Imagine this.

    Trump is re-elected and, emboldened by his far-right support, restructures the US government into an oligarchy of wealthy businessmen which he heads as lifetime president. Just as he is freed from the distractions of elections, members of his “cabinet” are freed of legal challenges to their pursuit of unimaginable wealth and power through their global business empires, but can be removed from office with a simple “you’re fired!”

    The new government’s first order of business is to restructure society into a throwback to the golden age of America, the 50s and 60s, where women are “homemakers”, men are “breadwinners”, and minority groups are obsequious “hewers of wood and drawers of water”. This is easily accomplished by imposing a simplified Christian doctrine on the nation, which also serves to differentiate the USA from heathen nations worshipping other gods.

    Their second priority is to force vaccines on the entire American population to decisively end the pesky Covid epidemic, even as the virus continues to weaken and isolate governments that refuse to impose their will on their citizenry (or harbour irrational concerns about vaccines) and who, as a result, cannot achieve the necessary immunization to re-open their economies and their borders.

    Unfortunately it turns out that an unexpected side-effect of the vaccines delivered by Operation Warp Speed is a dramatic reduction in female fertility – almost immediately the American population starts to shrink, threatening Trump’s vision of world hegemony. The obvious way to maintain the population – and to enhance the American gene-pool – is to force women who are known to be fertile to bear children for the elite, and then wait until these children grow up, strong and fertile, to take over.

    Many of these women are fertile because they managed to escape the mandatory vaccination program, so they are politically unreliable and will not be allowed to raise the children themselves. Instead they become surrogates for the wives of the elite, handing over their newborns before being re-assigned to another commander in the oligarchy or member of their inner circle for impregnation.

    These women are called Handmaids. For the rest of the story, see Margaret Attwood’s 1985 novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

  • You know why i wont read your article, cause i see Nancy Pelosi’s face, the epitome of bias & hatred towards Trump. No balanced talk of the pro’s & con’s of his tenure. We have endured years of pathetic Democrat Presidency, i fear 4 years of geriatric Joe Biden, more than any other Democrat. Where are all those young democrats, please rather them than lying Joe Biden. 🙏

  • @Wessel, if you don’t agree with DM, and are not better informed after reading them, you’re welcome to stop paying and unsubscribe.

    You don’t convince anyone of Trump’s integrity or character or leadership by pointing out an example of a misquote. He has access to some of the best medical and public health experts in the world (USA!), but instead he chooses the path of spectacle, hype, disagreement, etc in the way he operates.

    It’s easy to be entertained by him (he is a showman), and it seems you are, but if you can’t connect his behavior to damaging instead of strengthening society, then I hope you feel the show is worth it?

  • The comments about this article prove its credibility. Trump has corrupted intelligent discourse to the point of it becoming farcical. Tweeting insulting epithets at everyone who offers even constructive criticism is evidence of an ego that has never matured as he has physically matured into adulthood. This job is way too important not to have an adult in the White House. As an American living in South Africa, I am profoundly embarrassed how his behavior has torn apart our country and detrimentally affected civil discourse in other parts of the world. For the world to get to a better place, we need to think of how we can build up together not tear down! The Donald Trumps and Julius Malemas (two sides of the same coin) of this world are simply a disaster for the future of our planet!!

  • Tellingly, none of the comments critical of the article even attempt deny that Trump lies. A lot. Some of his tales are of the type that his book Art of the Deal called “truthful hyperbole”, the type all politicians indulge in. However, a vast number of his lies are so easy to disprove that the fact he tells them over and over, showing his disrespect for everybody else, including his die-hard supporters. He says over and over that his father was born in Germany, which he was not. In the bigger scheme of things this seems unimportant, but it shows how untouchable he regards himself. There are Mexico that has paid for the wall, the Coronavirus pandemic has turned a corner, that his administration “inherited a broken test” for SARS-C0V-2, suggested Ted Cruz’s father was connected with the assisination of JFK, repeatedly lies about why he has not released his tax returns, citing a fictional regulation. The list goes on and on and on.

    Only the most uninformed of Trump supporters deny that he lies a lot. A vast number of his supporters acknowledge that he isn’t the purest of characters, but they still support him because he supports policies they want to see implemented: Immigration, military, tax cuts, anti-abortion, “law & order” etc. Something that fascinates me: What criteria do these people use to select which of Trump’s statements they choose to believe? If you catch a second-hand salesman lying about the mileage on a car, would you believe anything else that he says about the car?

  • @Giovanni, The unfortunate truth is that I am not better informed after reading this particular article, I am less informed because of the misrepresentations made. This article is better suited to the Opinianista section perhaps.

    How you interpret my post as defending Trump’s integrity, is unclear (perhaps that third force again). I did no such thing, I didn’t defend him, I didn’t support him. The only thing I did was point out DM’s lack of integrity in publishing this as “news”, that is what I am speaking up against. This article can be tagged with many of the words used in this article to describe the “Trump Situation”.

    Trump doesn’t really entertain me. CNN is funny though, I do watch that! In terms of my subscription, this article inspired me to speak out, and I subscribed for this purpose only. I do not intend to make a recurring contribution.

  • This pertinent description of a ‘gangster state’ contains one unfortunate statement… ” …the nation now led by a leader who cannot tell the difference between a fairy tale and a truth.” This is person with a criminal mind who knows exactly what he is doing, and is playing the system including the judicial one, like a mafiaso boss, to his advantage. Not unlike his middle eastern pals like MBS. Psychiatrists or psychologists describe it as psychopaths. And the tragedy of it is that they are able to convince many otherwise reasonable people of their ‘genius’ as in a cult, which is what the so-called ‘evangelical’ (of various faith/religions) movement is about. To answer Frik’s question…it simply means there are a lot of Trump cult members in America ! Rather dispute any of the facts placed before you by the author . Remember we had our own cult in the apartheid regime …which was replaced by the ANC cult, until the start of the ‘state capture’ enquiry. AND quess where the apartheid regime here got their memorandum from …the US ‘jim crow’ laws, which Trump is updating.

  • As in the days of apartheid, where listening to the SABC TV left you with a very biased view of the country, so also only listening to the leftist liberal USA media, will leave one with a very biased view of what’s going on in the minds of ordinary citizens in the US. The leftist liberal media completely missed it in 2016, and one wonders how correct they will be this time. It seems most of Daily Maverick’s articles regarding the USA elections also follow this leftist liberal media view. I have requested (via comments) for the other side’s views for some time now, but have not seen any.
    In the alternative USA media, I have seen many views raising the issue of abortion as being the deciding factor for this election. It seems many ordinary Americans no longer want to support a party that is further promoting the murder of around 2 million innocent babies per year, even right up to the point of birth.

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