Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

There are lies, and then there are lies that make sentient humans do a double-take.

Anyone who follows the news knows that Donald Trump lies routinely. What makes his constant prevarications different from the spin (and worse) engaged in by more stable political figures is how pathetically inartful they are (you really have to want to believe them, in which case it helps to avoid reputable news sources).

But even those of us who have become inured to the constant tweets, the misspellings and weird syntax, and the widening chasm between Trumpism and reality had to be stunned by his transparent lie at the G7. As the Washington Post reported,

Cohn said that Trump did not want his G-7 partners to think he did not care about the environment, so the president told them, “The environment is very, very important to me, Donald Trump.”

Trump also told his counterparts that he has won environmental awards in the past, Cohn said. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has found no evidence of any such awards — aside from one issued by a golf association for his New Jersey golf course — and environmentalists have strongly criticized many of his real estate projects over the years.

Yes–unreal as it seems, the man who has repeatedly called climate change a “Chinese hoax,” the man who wants savage cuts in the EPA budget, the man who put a climate change denier/fossil fuels apologist in charge of the nation’s environmental agency–that man pretended to be an award-winning protector of the environment in order to make himself look important to people he was trying to impress.

What is really terrifying about this episode isn’t the lie itself. It is Trump’s evident belief that it would be accepted at face value, that no one would question or fact-check it–that none of these knowledgable, sophisticated and informed heads of state would see his pathetic pose for what it so clearly was. (What’s even more terrifying is the distinct possibility that Trump actually believes whatever nonsense he’s spewing at any particular moment.)

As Ed Brayton points out, this particular lie has been trotted out previously, fact-checked, debunked, and awarded four Pinocchio’s. But in Trump’s universe, evidently, the fact that knowledgable people know he is lying, the fact that his obvious untruths are undermining whatever credibility he might have had with anyone but his most cult-like supporters, is irrelevant. It’s what makes him feel important in the moment.

Americans who followed Trump’s first trip abroad were repeatedly embarrassed by his clownish behaviors, his ignorance of history, policy and protocol, and his multiple gaffes. We cringed at the obvious disdain he elicited from the leaders of our longtime allies.

His constant compulsion to lie confirmed–and displayed– his emotional neediness.

This man isn’t just a lazy and intellectually-challenged buffoon. He’s mentally ill. And far from making America great, his self-important, fact-free posturing has made the United States a laughingstock and diminished any claim to global leadership.

On the other hand, it has certainly strengthened the European Union…


Maybe No One In The White House Can Read?

News organizations, pundits and bloggers all continue to express their amazement at the number of bald-faced lies uttered by the current occupant of the Oval Office. And it is certainly baffling; after all, virtually all of these falsehoods are easily disproved. Why would someone who presumably wants to be taken seriously provide political opponents and the general public with constant evidence of his lack of credibility?

Every day brings a new example. In his address to Congress, Trump cited a study by the National Academy of Sciences; according to Trump, that study showed illegal immigration costs the country billions of dollars a year. The authors of that study immediately responded that it said no such thing.

As the chair of the panel of scientists convened to write that report and one of the consultants who analyzed the effect of immigration on government budgets, we can state unequivocally that this was not our conclusion. Our report looked at the evidence from all sides and found that the economic and fiscal consequences of immigration are generally positive, or at least not likely to be negative. How, then, can the report be used to argue the opposite?

As blatant as that mischaracterization is, it is of course nothing compared to Trump’s evidence-free accusation that President Obama had wire-tapped him–an accusation that has been debunked by the FBI, the Department of Justice and all of America’s intelligence agencies. But hey–what do they know. He saw it on Fox, so it must be true….

Observers have attributed this behavior to Trump’s obvious mental instability, and although that’s certainly plausible, I have another theory. I don’t think Trump or the people around him know how to read.

For example, immediately after he unveiled his proposed budget, his crack team sent out their  “Daily Update” to their email list, with a prominent link to the following article:

The Washington Post: “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why”

I’m sure the geniuses who sent it out loved the headline; unfortunately, the article was a biting–and very effective– satire. The first two paragraphs should have given them a clue:

Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a “hard power budget” which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.

Or maybe it isn’t that they can’t read; maybe the Trump Administration really is the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

On Friday evening, following the day’s earlier, humiliating defeat of the GOP’s  Obamacare “replacement,” advertisements praising several congressional Republicans for “keeping their promise” to replace the Affordable Care Act aired during national basketball games. Evidently, none of those “best people”with whom Trump has surrounded himself, thought to pull the  ads, which had obviously been prepared and scheduled beforehand.

This level of incompetence would be funny if our Buffoon-in-Chief didn’t have the nuclear codes…..


Pants on Fire

The interminable GOP debates continue to offer entertainment, if not enlightenment. Michelle Bachmann continues to display total ignorance of the Middle East (as Pierre Atlas notes, she clearly has no clue that there are differences between the Shia and Sunni–but then, she has little comprehension of the US Constitution, either). And in the most recent debate, Mitt Romney claimed that Obama’s policies have been the most costly of any President–a clear “liar, liar, pants on fire” statement that may have played well to the debate audience, but is wildly untrue.

As a helpful graph in the New York Times makes clear, George W. Bush’s “policies” cost 5.07 trillion dollars. Obama’s, by contrast, have cost 1.44 trillion.

But what is more revealing by far is what that money bought. Bush waged wars he didn’t pay for–one of which was an unnecessary and ruinous war of choice. Obama’s spending was primarily on the stimulus–to prevent the economic depression that Bush’s policies would otherwise have ushered in–and health care reform. And if the health economists I know are correct, the initial costs of health care reform will eventually be recouped as the reforms force efficiencies and savings in our patchwork, bloated “system.”

Faced with the stark differences between the two administrations, I can understand why Romney might duck the issue entirely. But he is apparently unable to refrain from pandering–even at the expense of the truth.

Commentators continue to puzzle over the “anyone but Romney” attitude of the Republican base. It may have something to do with this pandering, which is painfully obvious. The current base wants authentically crazy, not just pretend.