Everybody lies. Sometimes. A little bit.
But Donald Trump lies to a degree that far surpasses any other president, and indeed most human beings in general, aside from pathological liars such as psychopaths.
I have to give the Washington Post credit for having staff with the fortitude to chronicle Trump's lies since he took the oath of office. On May 1 the Post reported "President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims so far."
In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.
That’s an average of nearly 6.5 claims a day.
When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. Slowly, the average number of claims has been creeping up.
Indeed, since we last updated this tally two months ago, the president has averaged about 9 claims a day.
So we can add about 300 additional lies to Trump's tally, given that the month of May is almost over. Now, the Post uses the term "false or misleading claim" rather than lie, since "lie" implies that someone knows the truth but speaks a falsehood anyway.
Me, I think lie is a perfectly fine word to describe what Trump is doing. Here's a couple of reasons why.
First, a Politico piece, "Trump's Lies vs. Your Brain," points out that Trump has been lying for a long time, not just after he became president. Lying is his habit. Trump does it knowingly and proudly.
The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it. A whopping 70 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked during the campaign were false, while only 4 percent were completely true, and 11 percent mostly true. (Compare that to the politician Trump dubbed “crooked,” Hillary Clinton: Just 26 percent of her statements were deemed false.)
Those who have followed Trump’s career say his lying isn’t just a tactic, but an ingrained habit. New York tabloid writers who covered Trump as a mogul on the rise in the 1980s and ’90s found him categorically different from the other self-promoting celebrities in just how often, and pointlessly, he would lie to them. In his own autobiography, Trump used the phrase “truthful hyperbole,” a term coined by his ghostwriter referring to the flagrant truth-stretching that Trump employed, over and over, to help close sales. Trump apparently loved the wording, and went on to adopt it as his own.
Second, Trump often lies about the same thing repeatedly.
Thus even after the truth has been pointed out to him, Trump persists with his lying. This is despicable behavior for anyone. It is horrific when someone is President of the United States, since citizens have a right to expect that their president is being truthful with them.
The Washington Post has an interactive graphic that documents Trump's most frequently repeated lies. For example, he's repeated this false claim 72 times: “So we have the biggest tax cut in history, bigger than the Reagan tax cut. Bigger than any tax cut.”
The truth is:
Trump’s tax cut is nearly 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, meaning it would be far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest tax cut — and even smaller than two tax cuts passed under Barack Obama.
What's almost as astounding as the frequency with which Trump lies is the unwillingness of Republicans to hold him accountable for those lies. Amazingly, GOP Congressman Jim Jordan has said that he's never heard Trump lie.
An adult human possessed of all his sensory capabilities said he has never heard the president lie. By The Washington Post's count, Trump hit 2,000 lies with 10 days to spare in his first year in office. As Cooper rightly asked, do none of these qualify as falsehoods for Jordan?
Did Jordan think the president was saying true things when he suggested Ted Cruz's father was involved in the JFK assassination? When he said Mexico was going to pay $12 billion for The Wall, which will now cost American taxpayers $25 billion? When he started saying in private that it wasn't him on the Access Hollywood tape?
Of course he didn't. But Jordan, like pretty much everyone else in his party, is terrified to cross the president in public.
History is going to judge all those conservative apologists for Trump harshly.
In fact, I'll go further and say that everybody who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election should be held accountable for their willingness to put politics over morality and love of country, since Trump's propensity for lying was on clear display all through his campaigning.
I find it decidedly depressing that 38% of voters in Salem, Oregon, where I live, cast their ballot for Trump. This means that an awful lot of people in my town are totally fine with having our country led by a pathological liar. And that is indeed... awful.
Look -- I'm almost 70. I remember many presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama.
None of them lied anywhere near as much as Trump does. Further, Trump's lies are having the effect that he desires: destroying the fabric of our democracy so his totalitarian desires can come to fruition. The Politico piece says:
The dynamic we are seeing unfurled in the United States is not merely hypothetical. We already have a model of this process—a country regressing when its leader goes from progressive to deceptive: Russia under Vladimir Putin.
“This worldview”—a zero-sum, I win-you lose one—“is relatively more prevalent in Russia and other cultures with weak rule of law, high corruption and low generalized trust, as compared with Western democracies,” Cushman says. But when Western democracies start looking like those cultures, the norms can quickly shift.
The distressing reality is that our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena, and especially when that sense of truth is twisted by a figure in power. As the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain put it, “The great master fallacy of the human mind is believing too much.”
False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. A leader who lies constantly creates a new landscape, and a citizenry whose sense of reality may end up swaying far more than they think possible. It’s little wonder that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations.
“You are annihilated, exhausted, you can’t control yourself or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost,” as one man who had been subject to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” campaign in China put it to the psychiatrist Robert Lifton. “You accept anything he says.”