Trump may be no good at leading America – but he's really, really good at lying

Richard Wolffe
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

It’s outrageous to say that Donald Trump is good at nothing.

He may be no good at leading the country through a pandemic and recession. He may be no good at healing a nation that is deeply scarred by racist power. He may be no good at diplomacy with his allies, or even recognising America’s enemies for what they are.

But he is really, really good at lying. An Olympic-standard, Guinness Book of Records fabricator of falsehoods. He regurgitates lies as rapidly and copiously as Joey Chestnut swallows hotdogs.

Trump represents the historic high-water mark for verbal cheating, which is surely the only part of his short legacy that will feature in US history exams in 2030.

According to the exhausted and exhaustive factchecking team at the Washington Post, Trump’s rate of lying is shaped remarkably like the country’s exponential rise in Covid-19 cases.

It took him 827 days to reach his first 10,000 lies, but just 440 days to reach his second 10,000 lies.

The team’s forensic book on the subject calls this “his assault on truth”. But it’s really an assault on our ability to understand what truth looks and sounds like.

This is nothing new for Trump, but it is something new for a democratic nation that proudly used to call itself the leader of the free world.

Credibility was one of the most potent weapons in America’s arsenal of soft power. The kind of potency that allowed Kennedy’s secretary of state to convince Charles de Gaulle to support his case against the Soviet Union in the Cuban missile crisis. Based on Kennedy’s word, not the photographic evidence.

Today America’s credibility has been contorted to protect the feelings of one man-child, not the security of a nation. That’s why someone like Anthony Fauci is so deeply offensive to the factory of fraud built inside this White House.

Fauci is the most senior expert on Trump’s coronavirus task force, but he says he hasn’t briefed the president in two months. In that time, the daily number of new American cases has tripled to more than 60,000.

Rather than deal with the underlying raging wildfire, Trump’s team set about attacking the man best placed to quell the inferno. According to multiple news organisations, the White House sprayed out its oppo research about all the times Fauci supposedly got things wrong.

It’s possible that the captain of the Titanic felt equally aggrieved by the quality of the previous week’s shipping forecast. But history has not looked kindly on his care of human souls nonetheless.

After three decades in charge of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Fauci is clearly an expert in at least three things: science, politics and the sophisticated art of not giving a flying flask.

Fauci dares to say that America is not, in fact, doing great, even when the red baseball cap claims otherwise. Even when all of the president’s minions tell him he looks awesome in a face mask.

This is not a fair fight. In the blue corner is a world-renowned scientist whom 67% of Americans trust for accurate information about the coronavirus. In the red corner is a world-renowned grifter whom 26% of Americans trust for the same information.

Only one of them suggested injecting disinfectant as a cure for Covid-19, which would obviously disappear like a miracle, after he protected the nation with a travel ban that was clearly perfect. He’s the one who paid someone to take the SAT exam on his behalf.

It’s tempting to blame one sociopathic man for what we’re suffering. But it truly takes a village to allow such a spectacular village idiot to thrive.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary who promised she would never lie to the press, has spent the past two months, well, lying to the press.

“There is no opposition research being dumped to reporters,” she claimed on Monday. “We were asked a very specific question by the Washington Post, and that question was President Trump noted that Dr Fauci had made some mistakes, and we provided a direct answer to what was a direct question.”

Kayleigh: here’s the thing. In another six months, you’ll be looking for a new job. One of your predecessors is now trying to sell grills on Instagram. That market is already crowded, and there aren’t many other household goods to endorse on social media.

In Trumpland, there is no herd immunity to this disease. They have been infected for so long, they are happy to sneeze full viral loads in the hope that everyone succumbs to the same lies.

So what if the polls consistently show their boss losing to Joe Biden by such large numbers that they are outside the margin of error? The only margin of error that matters is saying something that might break the mirror that Trump stares at every day.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, claims that polls are “the biggest joke in politics” and “the fakest thing.” This is from the genius behind the mostly empty rally in Tulsa that was more effective as a coronavirus comeback than a political one

It’s that kind of fact-denying brilliance that leads our antihero to sit on the wrong side of precisely every issue of the day.

On Monday Trump tried yet again to smear Biden by claiming he was on the side of “radical” and “reckless politicians” who are opposed to what he called “our law enforcement heroes”.

This was just the first working day after Trump commuted the sentence of a convicted felon who lied to protect him – in opposition to the career prosecutors who might be considered “our law enforcement heroes”.

Irony may be dead in Trump’s America, but the polling isn’t.

While Trump is trying to whip up opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, the country has already made up its mind. A clear majority of Americans – 60% – agree with the ideas of Black Lives Matter, and similar numbers support major reforms to policing. As it happens, around the same numbers disapprove of Trump’s handling of the protests.

Why would anyone campaigning for reelection waste a whole day talking to just 40% of the country?

Because Donald Trump has lied so often, to so many people, that he believes his own version of reality. It is just one of the multiple truths that is so familiar to anyone living in Putin’s Russia.

Restoring sanity and science is impossible inside a White House where Trump’s fantasies rule. We will endure six more months of Fauci-bashing before we can turn the tide on this pandemic.

Fauci will of course survive. But it will take many more years to restore America’s credibility after this confederacy of dunces is swept out.

• Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist

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