Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

It's Easy to Believe Trump's Lies, Just Ignore the Truth



What does it mean to approve of someone who lies?

“What does it mean to “approve” of Trump?”

This headline is from another slippery Byron York column (Tribune-Star, June 9, 2018). It hides behind this and that, a poll here, a few grab quotes there. “Mean?” “‘Approve?’” Does York get close to answering the question posed? Far from it. If he was truly interested in answering such a query he would have to ask and answer this: What does it mean to approve of a leader who lies incessantly?

3,000 lies in 466 days from Donald Trump, the President of the United States. (Reminders courtesy of David Leonhardt: “ ... [Trump] has lied about Barack Obama’s birthplace, his own position on the Iraq War, his inauguration crowd, voter fraud, the murder rate, Mexican immigrants, the Russia investigation, the Stormy Daniels hush money and several hundred other subjects.”)

Reputable sources fact-checking Trump’s public statements all arrive at nearly the same numbers. Even the gnomes who keep track of infinite baseball statistics and the computer geeks in the sub-basement of Fortress Google would find numbers like this hard to make sense of. Mere mortals paying attention reel in alarm and anger.

One lie a month is an awkward thumb in the nation’s eye. And 10 a month is a handful of fingers poking holes in reality, blurring clear vision. But 200 a month! A total in the thousands! This constitutes a spectacle to behold, and we are living in it.

Yet for many, Trump’s lies — so abundant, so often adolescent and self-aggrandizing, and so seriously dangerous in their potential repercussions — are not worth a disturbed glance. Why is this? Why aren’t these lies indelible markers calling for a vote against his regime of mendacity?

It’s complicated. But try thinking about it all in a personal way.

At some point in your life you have probably had a friend who was in love with someone who was a toxic blend of the Fox sisters, Charles Ponzi, and P.T. Barnum. Taking your friend aside, you tried to warn this gulled goat about the rolling disaster he or she was refusing to face. First casually, then using reasoned, serious, fact-based diplomacy, and finally playing the “because I love and respect you” card, you aggressively pointed out that the object of your friend’s affections had deep moral and ethical flaws.

How did that work out? Most of us know the answer to that question from hard experience.

With Trump, we know that those lied to, deceived, and duped are not really in a very good place to accept well-intentioned facts and truths. Love can be blind and politics can put one in a myopic rut. The middle-class, educated, economically secure Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 now grimace and bear the man’s uninformed incompetence. They grasp at diversions and rationalizations to shade and gloss over his never-ending torrent of lies.

And so Trump has morally bankrupted the Republican Party. Party loyalists and the hard-headed, hard-core Trump faithful can’t go off and hide with the wronged and lied to Melania. Party leaders in and out of Congress either cannot or refuse to think with the clarity of the conservative George Will. And all lack the courage of John McCain.

In 1788, arguing for the ratification of the Constitution, James Madison warned: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure.”

3,000 lies in 466 days! So we ask again: What does it mean to approve of a leader who lies incessantly? And this as well: Who do we become when we lie to ourselves?

— Gary Daily, Terre Haute

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