He repeats falsehoods over and over again even after he’s called on them
New York Daily News
MAY 11, 2016
It’s hard to decide what is the most disturbing part of Donald Trump’s candidacy. His racism, sexism and nativism? His crudity, boastfulness and boorishness? His incessant flip-flopping? His threats against critics and incitement of violence against demonstrators?
All of that is horrifying, but arguably scariest of all is his aggressive contempt for the truth. All politicians spin and twist facts to some extent, but Trump’s lies are so epic and recurring as to put him in a whole other universe of dissembling — a place where facts are meaningless and the truth can be anything he wants it to be at that particular moment.
Having as President a man who treats rumor as gospel and refuses to acknowledge flat falsehoods would be disastrous for the country. A President has to sort through complicated, competing claims, figure out the best course of action and then make a convincing case to the Congress and the country. Trump’s track record suggests he is simply incapable of this kind of mental labor.
Politico examined one week of Trump’s speeches in March and found that on average he misstates the facts once every five minutes. The Washington Post fact checker determined that 70% of the Trump statements he investigated are totally false. These are not simply errors of ignorance. They display a determined desire not to learn anything.
In February, for example, Trump told a story about how a young U.S. Gen. John Pershing supposedly dealt with captured Muslim terrorists in the Philippines: “He took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood . . . And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”
Numerous commentators pointed out this was an urban legend with no basis in history. Yet Trump went right on repeating it.
This same willful ignorance was on display last fall when Trump claimed that on 9/11 he had witnessed “thousands and thousands” of people in Jersey City cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center. Reporters and local officials came forward to show that this never happened. But instead of admitting that he was wrong, Trump — who says he has “the world’s greatest memory,” despite in February supposedly knowing “nothing about” David Duke — doubled down on his erroneous assertion.
On the very day when he clinched the Republican nomination, he suggested on a TV show that Ted Cruz’ father was involved in the Kennedy assassination — invoking the authority of the National Enquirer.
This is only the latest crazy theory that Trump has promoted. He has recited discredited claims that vaccines cause autism. His immediate reaction after hearing of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death of natural causes was to conjure up foul play: “They say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
Most notoriously, Trump was a leading “birther,” claiming that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible for the presidency. The release of Obama’s long-form health certificate in 2011 did not dissuade him.
Trump doesn’t just lie about others. He lies about the subject he knows best — himself. He repeatedly says, for instance, he was against the Iraq War and Libya engagement before they started. In fact, he supported both.
When The New York Times reported that he’d threatened imposing a 45% tariff on Chinese goods, Trump emphatically said, “That’s wrong.” The Times produced the audio. It was exactly right.
Some Trump supporters suggest that smart advisers could make up for his deficiencies. But his proclivity for embracing falsehoods and denying reality suggest that he is, literally, uneducable. That makes him the most terrifying potential President that we have ever seen. Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but she is at least rational.