The front of Sunday’s New York Times featured David Barstow, known for blessing the paper’s readers with dubious Pulitzer bait every couple of years, tackling the story of authoritarian President Trump’s falsehoods , backed up by liberal good-government types, liberal plagiarist authors, and liberal “fact-checkers”: “‘Up Is Down’: Unreality Show Echoes a History of False Claims.”
As a businessman, Donald J. Trump was a serial fabulist whose biggest-best boasts about everything he touched routinely crumbled under the slightest scrutiny. As a candidate, Mr. Trump was a magical realist who made fantastical claims punctuated by his favorite verbal tic: “Believe me.”
Yet even jaded connoisseurs of Oval Office dissembling were astonished over the last week by the torrent of bogus claims that gushed from President Trump during his first days in office.
“We’ve never seen anything this bizarre in our lifetimes, where up is down and down is up and everything is in question and nothing is real,” said Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity and the author of “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” a book about presidential deception.
The Times managed to endure eight years of the Clintons (plus Hillary Clinton's email lies) and Obamas, telling fibs about Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky...then Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Obamacare...but only now does the paper decide that we have a lying politician in the White House?
But for students of Mr. Trump’s long business career, there was much about President Trump’s truth-mangling ways that was familiar: the mystifying false statements about seemingly trivial details, the rewriting of history to airbrush unwanted facts, the branding as liars those who point out his untruths, the deft conversion of demonstrably false claims into a semantic mush of unverifiable “beliefs.”
Is historian and plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin really the best source for a lecture on deception?
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Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has written about Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, said in an interview that Mr. Trump’s brazen willingness to deny “objective reality” had, if nothing else, succeeded in diverting public attention from matters of more lasting consequence, like his flurry of executive orders. “I don’t know that he is doing it strategically,” she said, “but it certainly had the impact of a magician’s sleight of hand.”
Deception, dissembling, exaggeration -- what Fortune magazine called his “astonishing ability to prevaricate” -- has deep roots in Mr. Trump’s business career....
Once he stepped into the political arena, however, fact-checking operations began cataloging his false statements in ways he never experienced during his years as a real estate developer and reality television star. PolitiFact, for example, has scrutinized 356 specific claims by Mr. Trump and found that more than two-thirds of the claims were “mostly false,” “false” or, in 62 cases, “Pants on Fire” false.
“Trump is a different kind of figure than we’ve ever seen before in our 10 years of fact-checking,” Bill Adair, the creator of PolitiFact and a journalism professor at Duke University, said in an interview. “No one has come close to Trump in the high percentage of falsehoods.”
(It’s no secret that Politifact, a liberal media creation, presses a left thumb upon the scales of “truth” to make Democrats come out cleaner than Republicans.)
Barstow let Goodwin do a bank-shot bash of Trump as an authoritarian.
For Ms. Goodwin, Mr. Trump’s week of reality distortions brought to mind Lincoln’s address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill., on Jan. 27, 1838, where he made an appeal to Enlightenment values as the best antidote to what he called the “mobocratic spirit.” “Reason -- cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason -- must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense,” he said.
“He was worrying about authoritarian behavior,” Ms. Goodwin said.