Is it journalism or silly nitpicking to point out that President Donald Trump has been lying lately about where his father was born?
Last week I wrote a blog post pointing out that among Trump’s most recent lies is one in which he says his father was born in Germany. That isn’t true.
I heard from readers about that post pretty quickly. For example, one supporter of the president wrote: “He ‘lied’ about his dad’s birthplace? That’s the best you got, Eddie? That’s not journalism. That’s desperation.”
Actually, it’s journalism.
Why little lies matter
In fact, it’s vital journalism.
It is vitally important to point out that the president of the United States is willing to tell a lie — more than once — that is so easily disproved.
After his meeting with European Union leaders, Trump said in an interview with CBS News, “Maybe the thing that is most difficult — don’t forget both my parents were born in EU sectors, OK? I mean, my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany. And — you know,I love those countries.”
His father, Fred, was born in New York City. Like Trump.
Why is that important?
No fear of being caught
First, Trump has to know he’s not telling the truth. Second, he has to know how easily the lie can be exposed. And third, he clearly doesn’t care.
The president’s lies keep coming, and the people in a position to do something about it — Republicans in Congress — do nothing.
And the people who can do something about the Republicans in Congress — voters — do nothing.
The Republican-controlled government under President Donald Trump has gone full-blown “1984.” Or, as George Orwell wrote in the novel: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
Recording setting pace of untruths
The Toronto Star and its Washington bureau chief, Daniel Dale, have been unrelenting in cataloging Trump’s lies.
In a recent article, Dale wrote, “The pace of the president’s dishonesty has increased significantly in 2018. After averaging 2.9 false claims per day in 2017, he is averaging 5.1 per day in 2018.”
The New York Times now reports that Trump was provided with “highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election” two weeks before he was inaugurated.
The article says the evidence included “texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.”
Even after seeing the evidence…
And yet, a year into his presidency, Trump said of a meeting with Putin, “I don’t know how many times I can ask him if he meddled in the election, but I pressed him again and he denied it, and I believe him.”
He continues to provide cover for Putin. Or is it for himself?
I understand the inclination to turn a blind eye to a bad actor with whom we happen to agree or who’s helping our “team.”
During the worst of the steroid era in baseball, when Barry Bonds was winning games for the San Francisco Giants, the slugging outfielder was booed in every ballpark outside his home field and universally vilified by just about every fan except those in … San Francisco.
There’s the old story as well, explaining American foreign policy, in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt supposedly said (but probably didn’t) about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza: “He (Somoza) may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
Imagine if Hillary did this
Maybe you look at Trump that way. But is it worth 5.1 lies per day, some of which may do irreparable harm to national security?
Imagine if Clinton had then cozied up to Putin and dissed our oldest and most valued allies in Europe.
Imagine if a special counsel’s investigation into all this netted more than two dozen indictments and numerous guilty pleas, and Clinton called it a “witch hunt.”
Imagine you then found out that Clinton was provided intelligence-agency proof of the meddling weeks before her inauguration, and proof as well at Putin had ordered it.
Would you still forgive the lies?