The Consequences of Presidential Lying

Paul Samakow
Displayed with permission from Communities Digital News

The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of Trump’s lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it.

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2017 – Sustained lying presents a problem for individuals. More than 20 years ago, Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert observed that people see the world in two steps. First, briefly, they hold the lie as true. But then, the second step kicks in: In order to accept something, information must be gathered and assessed. At this point, the individual completes the mental certification process and either accepts the statement as true, or rejects what was said as untrue.

The first step happens automatically as a natural part of thinking, according to Maria Konnikova, a best-selling author and contributing writer to the New Yorker. Konnikova says the second step, unfortunately, can get disrupted. That second step takes work, and individuals must actively choose whether to accept or reject each statement that is heard.

Gilbert said it is often too hard for human minds, faced as they are with shortages of time, energy or conclusive evidence, to reject the ideas they initially accepted involuntarily. Konnikova says that when we are overwhelmed with false or potentially false statements, our brains pretty quickly become so overworked that we stop trying to sift through all the available information.

So President Trump, recognizing (but probably not) this phenomenon, will continue to lie to the American public and to any others willing to listen.

Everyone lies

Everyone lies, despite consequences and precepts such as the Commandment Thou shall not bear false witness against they neighbor. Lying begins at infancy when children perceive that crying or by telling mommy little brother broke the vase are excellent ways to get attention.

Lying has consequences for most people and can harm others. In the legal arena in a courtroom, lying is called perjury. Perjury is the offense of willingly telling an untruth after having taken an oath or affirmation to tell the truth.

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We all know this mantra thanks to dozens of televised court hearings and dramas. The statement is so commonly known that we often overlook its significance.

Perjury can derail the basic goal of the justice system: Discovering the truth. Other lies in whatever form can even result in the worst of all consequences: death, as in “We found weapons of mass destruction.”

Perjury has taken many individuals to task. The Barry Bonds prosecution, the imprisonment of Marion Jones, and the impeachment of Bill Clinton are just a few.

Every newly elected President of the United States also takes an oath:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Somewhere in the understanding of that oath there must be a link, a connection to honesty and integrity.

In commenting upon the recent fraud and perjury conviction of Norfolk Virginia’s City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot, Martin Culbreth, an FBI Special Agent who had worked the case said “public officials are entrusted with authority by their constituents and are expected to serve with integrity and honor. Greed and self-interest are a fundamental betrayal to the community and have no place in public service.”

Presidents lie.

Franklin Roosevelt repeatedly lied to the American public when he claimed that his one goal was to keep America out of World War II. His extensive behind-the-scenes actions proved otherwise.

Lyndon Johnson lied with regard to the Vietnam War, claiming “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

Richard Nixon lied about the Watergate break-in, stating “I am not a crook,” and, “I can say categorically that… no one in the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in any way…”

Ronald Reagan lied on hundreds of occasions. One example: He stated explicitly “…the pope supports my policy of aiding the contras.”

William Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky, stating “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

George W. Bush lied about the existence weapons of mass destruction: “We found the weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq). We found biological laboratories.”

Barack Obama lied about the ACA: “If you like the health care plan you have, you can keep it.”

Hillary Clinton (obviously not a President) lied about Benghazi: “I turned over all my work related emails on my private email server to the State Department.”

Ms. Konnikova says that lying in politics transcends political party and era. She says it is, in some ways, an inherent part of the profession of politicking. Bue Donald Trump, she says, is in a different category:

“The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it.”

The non-partisan fact checking site PolitiFact checked Trump’s statements during the election, determining that 70 percent were false, 4 percent were true and 11 percent were mostly true.

Hillary’s statements: 26 percent were deemed false.

On Trump’s third day in the Oval Office, he said of his administration, “our intention is never to lie to you.” On the same day he intentionally lied, claiming “the reason I lost the national popular vote was because 3 million to 5 million illegals cast ballots for Hillary Clinton.”

John Nicols, of The Nation: “Trump has no mandate. That fact has so unhinged him that he is shaming himself and his office by promulgating obvious lies.”

History has shown that Ronald Reagan may well have been the most prolific liar to have ever held the office of President (Trump will easily eclipse him, and soon.) Reagan pioneered a method of using the media to disseminate things without regard to their truth. The “error” would appear on the front page, and if called out by the media, a “correction” would appear in a less prominent place the next day. The result was of course that most people heard the deceptive claim and a much smaller number heard the correction.

Mark Green, a Mother Jones writer, and Gail MacColl, published There He Goes Again: Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error in 1983. Their book was a compilation of 300 documented misstatements. Green says the book showed Reagan’s “standard operating procedure to be a blend of ignorance, amnesia and dissembling. Like a panicky passenger lunging for a life preserver, under stress he would concoct almost any fact, anecdote, or analysis to advance his ideological beliefs.”

Sounds like Trump.  Panicky… concoct.. to advance his beliefs…

Donald Trump has taken Ronald Reagan’s playbook and placed it on steroids.

Trump has shattered the rules. It appears there is no longer a political price to be paid for lying. There was a time not so long ago, when lying to the American public would be devastating, particularly in the middle of a political campaign.

Today, past political rules have become unrecognizable. Trump: “Don’t pay any intention to what I just said or did. Let’s talk about crooked Hillary.”

President Trump’s most recent lie is his denial about what his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said. Trump has repeatedly criticized Federal judges. Gorsuch said Trump’s comments about judges were “disheartening and demoralizing.” Two people without reason to lie-Judge Gorsuch’s communications director and former N.H. Senator Kelly Ayotte-corroborated the fact that Gorsuch indeed made that statement. Nonetheless, Trump lied and said Gorsuch never made the statement.

Trump will not stop lying, despite any consequence. The tactic has worked for him over his entire lifetime. He became a public figure in New York by promoting himself as a high-achieving real estate mogul before he’d built a single project. During this period in his career he was quoted as saying he owned the Empire State Building.

Another of Trump’s most recent lies: he’s revived unproven voter fraud allegations, telling a group of senators in a private meeting last Thursday that he lost New Hampshire last November because thousands of Massachusetts residents were bused to the neighboring state to cast ballots against him. He offered no evidence to support the claim.

Law Professor and author James Douglas offers that Trump

“…may implode, being brought down by the damage done by perverse cabinet choices (an education secretary who disparages public education and who badly botched her own effort at creating an alternative, men charged with responding to climate change who deny its existence, and a national security adviser who purveys paranoid fantasies), or by words and actions so intemperate and ill-advised that Congress and the courts will call him to a terminal account.”

Crossing your fingers behind your back doesn’t count.

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Posted by on February 13, 2017. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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One Response to The Consequences of Presidential Lying

  1. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    February 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    I have a consistent record of predicting American elections. I’m not saying talent, because it isn’t. I just try to think of the most ridiculous outcome and that’s usually it. Nixon was elected twice. W was elected Twice and sorry to say, I think Trump will be elected twice, but it’s still too early to put too much faith in the essential irrationality and self-destructiveness of the American voter (and non-voter)

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