President Donald Trump is consistent about almost nothing. Which is what makes his long-running war on truth and facts all the more remarkable.
The President’s lack of concern for established facts is long and well-documented. According to the latest tabulations by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Trump has said 8,718 false or misleading things in his first 759 days in office. That’s, roughly, 11.5 lies or misleading statements a day. Every day.
Of late, Trump has expanded his war on truth to those who do the work of fact-checking him.
“The Washington Post is a Fact Checker only for the Democrats,” tweeted Trump on Tuesday. “For the Republicans, and for your all time favorite President, it is a Fake Fact Checker!”
That tweet came hard on this one from Trump on February 11: “Fact checkers have become Fake News.” @JesseBWatters So True!”
And sandwiched in between those two tweets was this remarkable exchange between Trump and CNN’s Jim Acosta during the President’s Friday national emergency declaration regarding stats on border crossing and illegal drugs that seemed to contradict Trump’s conclusions:
TRUMP: I get my numbers from a lot of sources, like Homeland Security primarily, and the numbers that I have from Homeland Security are a disaster.
And you know what else is a disaster? The numbers that come out of Homeland Security, Kirstjen (Nielsen), for the cost that we spend and the money that we lose because of illegal immigration, billions and billions of dollars a month. Billions and billions of dollars, and it’s unnecessary.
ACOSTA: So your own government’s stats are wrong, are you saying?
TRUMP: No, no, I use many stats. I use many stats.
ACOSTA: Could you share those stats with us?
TRUMP: Let me tell you, you have stats that are far worse than the ones that I use, but I use many stats, but I also use Homeland Security. All right, next question.
“Many stats.” Which stats? The President never said.
It’s important to take a step back here to see what is happening: The President of the United States, one of the most powerful people in the county and the world, is not only entirely unconcerned with telling the truth but is also actively working to discredit those who try to keep the capital “T” in truth.
He is aggressively eroding the idea of fact and truth for a simple reason: Because it furthers his own political interests. Trump ran as the “anti-elites” candidate, casting himself as someone not bound by the political correctness and liberalism that Democrats, the media and even many establishment Republicans had foisted over the average person over the past decades. Somehow, the notion of “facts” and “truth” became elitist in Trump’s hands: These fact-checkers work for the mainstream media. The mainstream media is liberal and biased. Ergo, their “truth” can’t be trusted.
It worked. And as his campaign against facts proved successful, Trump has grown more and more brazen about it.
“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2018. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
So, yeah. That’s where we are: A President at war with the truth and the idea of objective facts. And a cohort of his supporters who believe that Trump’s truth is the only one that matters and revel in the consternation their unwillingness to acknowledge that facts exist causes.
This will be one of Trump’s lasting legacies. More than the travel ban. More than the wall. More than all of the bullying tweets. More even than his alleged war with the “deep state.” The attempted elimination of truth and fact has had — and will continue to have — hugely deleterious effects not just on politics but on the broader culture. If we can’t agree on a basic set of facts, how can we even talk to each other — much less find ways to compromise?
Remember: Facts are not a partisan position.