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Trump 65: Liar, liar

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Sometimes, lying can be a good thing. It can smooth social interactions. It can help with diplomacy. It is not always a terrible thing.

And, famously, it happens in politics; nearly all (or should we make that “all”?) major and successful politicians have at the least told the occasional white lie, and many have gone beyond that. Our greatest presidents have dissembled, to some degree or another – mostly not as usual, common practice, but effective political activity does sometimes rely on something other than brutal honesty from time to time. George Washington, for all that innocent talk about the cherry tree, was also a spymaster, a pretty good one too, and adept in the arts of deception.

Dissembling on occasion for a greater good is one thing. Lying as a matter of ordinary, standard practice is something else, and here statistics about Donald Trump jump out.

On the Q&A website Quora the question arose of why Trump is so often described as a liar. One answer cited Politifact, the “independent Pulitzer Prize wining website that evaluates the truthfulness of political statements. Look at how they rate the statements of Donald Trump. Over 70% of the time Trump’s statements are Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. If you include Half True it jumps to 86% of the time. Even if you (incorrectly) believe that Politifact is somehow biased, it is hard to conclude that Mr. Trump is not a habitual liar.” Trump rates in a whole different environment from the other presidential candidates of both parties this year.

And that is the point. Another Quora writer noted this: “There was a great profile of Trump a while back by a tabloid reporter who was assigned to follow him. The guy said that he expected covering Trump to be pretty easy, but it turned out to be hard because no matter what story he was writing, most of what Trump told him wouldn’t turn out to be true. Trump lied about who he was dating, about the status of business deals, about anything at all.”

In that article, reporter Susan Mulcahy recalled, “It should be simple to write about publicity hounds, and often it is, because they’ll do anything to earn the attention they crave. Trump had a different way of doing things. He wanted attention, but he could not control his pathological lying. Which made him, as story subjects go, a lot of work. Every statement he uttered required more than the usual amount of fact-checking. If Trump said, “Good morning,” you could be pretty sure it was five o’clock in the afternoon.”

Say what you will about lying politicians: This is not normal.

PoliticsUSA reported in one headline, “Donald Told No Less Than 21 Fact Checked Proven Lies During His Acceptance Speech.”

Around the end of march DailyWire compiled a list of 101 lies he had told.

That list, of course, was woefully incomplete even at the time and wildly out of date now, which must be why the New Yorker has started a new and unusual online series specifically on the lies of Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, does not so much struggle with the truth as strangle it altogether. He lies to avoid. He lies to inflame. He lies to promote and to preen. Sometimes he seems to lie just for the hell of it. He traffics in conspiracy theories that he cannot possibly believe and in grotesque promises that he cannot possibly fulfill. When found out, he changes the subject—or lies larger,” writer David Remnick said.

He seems not even to live in the same world the rest of us do. – rs

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