AFRICA Four years, 25,000 lies later - Bukipress

Four years, 25,000 lies later – Bukipress

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Americans should have known better than to believe a single word of Trump’s. A primal scream.

First published in Daily Maverick 168

When a failed real estate developer and pitchman-for-hire, Donald Trump, became America’s president four years ago, even though his opponent actually received almost three million more votes, it was partly due to the peculiarities of the nation’s electoral system. Nevertheless, many voters had indeed embraced his “tell it like it is”, “I will drain the swamp in Washington”, and “I alone can fix it” style as the cleansing fire that would eliminate the bewildering complexities coming from the mouths of political professionals and established experts. Americans should have known better.

In the face of disruptive international economic challenges and job migration abroad, for many the Trump message seemed a breath of fresh air. What they did not realise at first was that embracing the heady but chaotic populist mixture that is Donald Trump also came with serious consequences and real costs. Americans should have learned this very quickly.

Everyone knew Trump understood very little about guiding a government, and that he actually saw the government he was leading as an enemy to be subdued and bent to his partisan and personal purposes. The nation’s media, save for a favoured few outlets, were worse, as he labelled them collectively as “the enemy of the people”.

Regardless of topic, the president aimed for an alchemy that could turn black into white and prevarications and falsehoods into national policy. Americans should have known better than to believe a single word of his.

The citizens of the planet’s leading superpower now stand poised to dispatch Donald Trump back to his gilded gold apartment or beachfront club, after his four-year trail of destruction, one that has been uniquely disastrous and dangerous.

His policies have consistently been at odds with the nation’s interests, but nearly perfectly aligned to his personal political and financial benefit. Even hosting international leaders on their visits has become a conduit to enrich otherwise ailing Trump family businesses. His Florida club even charged the government an astounding R50 for each glass of water consumed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s US visit. And that has been just a drop in the bucket of a torrent of money that has flowed into Trump coffers from conferences visits and events at Trump-owned properties, by those eager to plead their cases with the administration. Americans should have known better, based on his entire business career, but they did not.

From the very first days, a pattern of misstatements, falsifications and outright lies was set in motion. Unable to accept that Barack Obama’s inauguration had attracted more people than his, he insisted his press secretary Sean Spicer lie to the world (complete with altered photographs), saying Trump’s crowd was actually bigger. This first sin led senior staffer Kellyanne Conway to christen such blatant falsehoods as “alternative facts”.

Subsequently, there have been farces such as a presidential sharpie pen-altered weather map showing Alabama in the path of a hurricane even as it was hitting Florida. But then there have also been the president’s consistent stream of misstatements regarding the country’s economic circumstances and wild claims of his administration’s bogus successes.

Enemies of democracy and freedom of expression all over the world have been emboldened, America’s friends and supporters alienated or confounded, and its democratic traditions and ideals corrupted from such behaviour.

And then, addressing the pre-eminent crisis confronting the nation now, there have been the consistent lies and bizarre statements about the Covid-19 pandemic. There was his recommendation about injecting household bleach to fight the disease, and there was his touting of non-certified, powerful medicines with serious side effects as an unproven cure. By then, Americans certainly should have known better.

But there have also been epic lies such as that the disease would soon burn itself out after just a few cases; that the nation’s public health experts were trying to panic everyone with dire forecasts in the fake media; and even the White House’s most recent bizarre announcement, claiming, as yet another Trump success, his administration’s “Highlights include: ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.” (All caps in the original)

Trump ended up being only the third president in US history to be impeached, for trying to use his country’s aid to Ukraine for his own electoral benefit. Americans should have known much better than to believe his claims that it was a “perfect call”.

By now, there have been at least 25,000 such blatant falsehoods. The Washington Post’s factchecking team explained: “As President Trump entered the final stretch of the election season, he began making more than 50 false or misleading claims a day. It’s only gotten worse — so much so that the Fact Checker team cannot keep up.

“As of Aug. 27, the tally in our database that tracks every errant claim by the president stood at 22,247 claims in 1,316 days…. Just in the first 27 days of August, the president made 1,506 false or misleading claims, or 56 a day. Some days were extraordinary: 189 claims (a record) on Aug. 11, 147 claims on Aug. 17, 113 claims on Aug. 20 …” Of course, there have been many days since 27 August. By now, the overworked fact checkers have been unable to stay even with the flood of falsehoods (now standing at about 25,000 by most measures) from the president since his inauguration. They even had to establish a new category, a “Bottomless Pinocchio”, to classify the lies he most widely (and wildly) repeated. So far Trump has collected 48 of those coveted lying trophys.

But beyond the deliberate confusion and lying about policy disasters, there has been the deeper cost of having a leader who lies and distorts things big and small without regard to the truth, until the very concept of reality has been defiled; with the nation now led by a leader who cannot tell the difference between a fairy tale and truth.

Enemies of democracy and freedom of expression all over the world have been emboldened, America’s friends and supporters alienated or confounded, and its democratic traditions and ideals corrupted from such behaviour.

In erasing the difference between truth and falsehood, Donald Trump has gone a far way towards warping the fabric of American civil and political discourse. In its place, an American president has offered a world where lies, distortions, and casual calumnies are the new currency, and citizens’ cynicism of their government is ever more deeply engrained. Politicians are emboldened to lie with him — if they believe it gives them even marginal political advantage.

Simultaneously, he has continued to run his private businesses such that lobbyists, interest groups, foreign actors, and others “pay to play” in their dealings with the government, in what has in effect become a sale of secular political indulgences.

Running in tandem with his casual disregard for truth, the president has repeatedly drawn upon and encouraged the fever swamp of the worst of the racist, anti-Semitic, white supremacist conspiracy theorists, making them part of the regular currency of political life. Longstanding public norms against a president giving succour to such bizarre, dangerous theories have been traduced, normalising violence by such people.

Instead of tackling them, this president has continually chosen to fan such flames, rather than douse them. By now, Americans should know better.

From those dangerous falsehoods about how the nation must deal with Covid-19, to outright lies about bringing millions of manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt, persistent false-

hoods about taxes and tariffs, and flogging base rumours about his opponents’ personal lives and families for political gain; this president of the United States has been shameless in trafficking ugly, deceitful statements as if they were perfectly normal barbershop chit chat. In doing so, he has followed the playbook of long-gone dictators who have understood that a drumbeat of repetition for such lies can turn them into beliefs for many. Now, in the final days before the election, Trump’s White House increasingly resembles the last days of the Berlin bunker in 1945. As war was crashing to its conclusion, Adolf Hitler was issuing orders to cowering subordinates to deploy nonexistent military units and wonder weapons.

But of course such behaviour has been a feature of Donald Trump’s career since the beginning. (A small but telling example was his adding 10 storeys to his descriptions of the height of one of his buildings to inflate its value for investors and potential tenants.) And, of course, his political career also began with a big lie about Barack Obama’s place of birth — and thus his lack of legitimacy as president.

Years before even that campaign, he had pursued a campaign to convict a group of young men, “The Central Park Five”, on contrived rape and assault charges. And none of this even speaks to his aggressive misogyny and other taunts, before and during his presidency. Collectively, all of this should have made us fully aware of his character, but it seems for many it did not, or perhaps the content of his character simply has not mattered, compared to personal financial and ideological benefits some were hoping to score.

Instead, his kind of poisonous speech has been deeply injected into national politics, cheapening and poisoning the national conversation, and so warping political discourse that it may not be able to return to normal in the future.

In recent days, the deeper truth about a lifetime of financial flim-flammery has been exposed for all to see, along with truths of Donald Trump’s vast debts to as yet unrevealed organisations and individuals.

Simultaneously, he has continued to run his private businesses such that lobbyists, interest groups, foreign actors, and others “pay to play” in their dealings with the government, in what has in effect become a sale of secular political indulgences.

This should have been enough to disqualify him for further consideration as a president, but it has not.

The nation can no longer afford the luxury of praying that high office will turn him into a responsible adult. It would not and it did not. There has been four years in which to watch the terrifying truth. By now, no one can underestimate the harm that four more years of him would inflict on America and the world. No American has the right, any more, to say, “I didn’t know”. Donald J Trump must go. DM168

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