I know I know I know. You’ve already heard it from John Oliver, Trevor Noah, The Huffington Post, and maybe even CNN, MSNBC, and the broadcast news outlets. So yeah, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge here by quoting John Oliver’s brilliant assessment (full disclosure, I view anything that involves John Oliver AND a lemur as being brilliant… don’t you dare make me eat my words John). Anyway, as he said on an episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight, “I’m not even sure [Donald Trump] knows he’s lying. I think he just doesn’t care about what the truth is. Donald Trump views the truth like this lemur views the Supreme Court vacancy: ‘I don’t care about that in any way. Please fuck off, I have a banana!'”
Ahhhhhh. That was back in the golden days when we didn’t exactly love being showered with his lies, but we knew that at that point that, and getting people to believe them was pretty much the extent of his power. If he had lost the election, nobody would care about what his views on the truth, the Supreme Court Vacancy, or bananas were. But alas, we live in a frighteningly unpredictable, divisive, and oligarchical world now where Trump has so much power it’s impossible not to talk about his relationship with the truth. And bananas. Every concerned citizen has a right to know their president’s stance on bananas. Personally I love the flavor and am all for the potassium they carry, but am not a fan of their texture, or the little stringy things you get sometimes when you peel it, or all the article headlines I’ve seen telling me I’m peeling a banana wrong which is impossible because I don’t peal or eat bananas, though I recommend them for all to consume. Whew. That’s actually a pretty tough thing to take a stance on. So that’s the world we’re in now, as opposed to if Sec. Clinton had won, in which case we would be living in a predictable, divisive, and oligarchical world where 75% of the nation suspects her of doing something corrupt at any given time. Or, the alternate scenario where Gary Johnson wins and we’re all high as shit and don’t give a fuck what the government is or isn’t doing as long as they keep up this free weed.
My very poorly made point among that paragraph of tangents and losing focus is that just because it’s been pointed out in the media a bunch doesn’t mean we can forget about Trump’s interesting relationship with truth and fact. Actually, the way I see it, along with protesting his immoral executive actions and the litany of conflicts of interest that not only he, but his cabinet nominees have, ensuring that we continue to fact check every fucking word that comes out of his smug little mouth (*Trump voice* Actually, my mouth is quite big. As a boy, even, everyone would say, wow, President Trump has a huge mouth. I wasn’t allowed to play trumpet because I couldn’t make my mouth small enough. It’s really a freakishly big mouth).
Why does that hold so much importance? Why can’t we just let the media run it’s typical course with Trump’s fact-aversion and let it die off once they get tired of talking about it or listeners get tired of hearing it? Because he’s the fucking President. The president typically has power over what news gets released from their administration, how it gets released, and when it gets released. More importantly, the president has power (for the most part) of the things they don’t want the American public to know. So we know there’s already a heavy filtration system by the time we get information from the White House. But we don’t know what they’re not telling us. And the way it’s been for decades now is that we have to assume that when they release information, it is correct, accurate, and truthful. Bill Clinton lied under oath and was impeached for it but as we’ve established, who knows if Trump even knows he’s lying? He’s already lied directly to America multiple times in his first week of office, and he (must have) instructed his press secretary to brazenly lie to the public about a trivial thing (crowd size). And he’s still basing his actions on lies he told during the campaign.
It has amazed me, both the actions and words he and his administration have put forward. And it all centers around that complete lack of caring about truth or fact. On the campaign he said we need “extreme vetting” of refugees, and on at least one occasion said of the current system that “we have no idea who [the refugees] are, where they’re coming from, what their feelings about our country are” (AJC.com). On another instance he said “we have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States. We don’t know who they are. They have no documentation and we don’t know what they’re planning” (NPR.org). Earlier that year, however, former President Obama had set a goal of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees, which is not only 16,000 short of the amount of refugees Canada accepted in a 4 month period. And put that all in perspective of the total 5 million fleeing from Syria. Not only was he ridiculously off track in the amount of refugees being let into the United States, but his claims implying that officials were seemingly just picking random people without asking them so much as their name again could not be more off base. Refugees under the former President’s system reportedly went through more security checks than any other traveler to the U.S., especially if they were from middle east war zones (NPR.org). The process typically takes about 2 years and involved multiple background checks and interviews, as well as having their paperwork and transcripts go through 9 different agencies before they can be considered to relocate to the U.S. The demographics of those admitted in 2015 were 50% children, 25% adults over 60 and just 2% were “males of combat age” (telesurtv.net).
But you know most or all of this. So what are the developments? The comments he made during the campaign were baseless and so erroneous that I’m surprised former President Obama didn’t set the record straight (although he probably declined to do so because he may not have been necessarily proud of his administration’s “extreme vetting”). But it was a campaign, and there was no mistaking that Donald Trump was running a fear campaign. He said anything and everything to attack the fear of people were either already holding onto, or didn’t know they had to be afraid. So he either made up those words without ever thinking to check the facts, or he knew the facts and didn’t care because he knew those statements would (A) get him votes, and (B) end up being such a huge task to fact check that most people wouldn’t try. But now he’s done with the campaign, and here is where John Oliver’s quote really starts to sink in. Because he not only made shit up because he could… Once he got in office he acted on the shit he completely made up! He started with a statement that was egregiously false, and used it to put in place an executive order that is only going to hurt people and possibly put the US in more danger. We now have a president who is acting on complete falsehoods that he himself made up. This one we know about. We know that he pulled this “extreme vetting” bullshit out of his ass. We know that because it’s something international that international organizations work on and there are plenty of people for reporters to talk to. What happens when all the information anyone can get comes from within the administration?
What happens when we can no longer distinguish between him lying to our faces, and any kind of truth that that the administration make public or transparent? Do we still trust figures from Trump’s EPA? Do we trust it when the NSA and FBI say that 68 potential terrorist threats were stopped before they could start? Basically, how do we know whether or not to trust any part of his administration if the information they’re giving us is based off of data that’s not publicly available? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that yet, but they’re the questions we’re gonna have to start dealing with because he isn’t changing. And you can hope for an impeachment all you want, but Republicans (who are almost entirely filing in behind him) control both chambers of congress, and even if the dems overtake it and he does an impeachable offense, what happens next? In that situation we would get Mike Pence, who is more staunchly socially conservative, and a much smarter politician (when it comes to working Washington, I think we have to admit that Donald Trump is an incredibly smart politician when it comes to campaigning. He knew exactly the demographic he needed to win and he won it). Would Mike Pence really be that much better?
So we’re stuck with him. He won fair and square, and even though millions of people, from politicians to political science professors, from historians to industry workers have said how ridiculous and undemocratic the electoral college is, those were the rules going into it, and those are the rules he won with, and everybody who campains or follows presidential elections has known those rules for a long time. It’s not like he won by a technicality that no one had heard of, or by forcing the Supreme Court to decide who the next President would be. While it’s very possible the Russian hacking did impact the election, right now we have to assume that he won fair and square.
The problem remains, what do we do when a person who treats facts as a lemur would treat the Supreme Court vacancy is in possibly one of the only positions in the country where you can continuously make your own “facts” and release them to the public. This is different than not having trust in the government. That’s a completely different issue. This is about how we view the presidency. You always knew where President Obama was shaky: basically anything about drone strikes and civilian casualties. We understood where Bush was out of his depth: where to find WMDs. But there’s no one area with Trump. I suppose the only answer is either take everything that comes from his administration with multiple grains of salt, or flat out call bullshit on everything that comes from his administration. Either way, when the federal government is the largest collector, archiver, and distributor of data in the country, Trump’s dishonesty is going to be felt much further than just the words coming out of his mouth.