Readers Write: Trump has an uneasy relationship with the truth

The Island Now

I never got around to reading the issue dated Dec. 24, so I didn’t see the letter by Mr. Goldberg, of Great Neck, to which two of your readers referred in their rebuttals.  However, there are points in those rebuttals that I believe warrant a response.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have long been a registered Democrat and voted against Donald Trump in the elections of both 2016 and 2020.)

First of all, for the sake of accuracy:  It was Josef Goebbels, not Hitler, who said, “If you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”  He explicitly defined the deliberate statement of an untruth as an essential part of propaganda that cemented Hitler’s status as leader of Germany in the 1930s.

That’s a lead-in to the point that whether one admires or disdains Donald Trump and whether or not one agrees with the various policies he proposed and implemented, it was universally acknowledged even by his supporters that he often made statements that were simply and directly untrue.  Indeed, one major American newspaper (which also opposed his elections) actually undertook to count the number and came up with something over 20,000 by the time of his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Many of those misstatements were admittedly trivial and might be considered a quirk in his personality rather than a deliberate effort to mislead the public, reinforce his standing with his base, and possibly increase the number of voters who supported him.  In most of those cases, it can’t be determined (except perhaps by those personally closest to him), whether many of them were made up “on the fly” in response to a question raised and he became trapped rather than admit the mistake; perhaps he heard someone say something (“some people are saying”) and chose to believe it; or he was genuinely convinced of it; or, not to be excluded, he lied deliberately in order to achieve some personal or political objective.  Someday we may find out which of those possibilities applies to which and how many of his statements that were demonstrably and sometimes blatantly false.

However, there are a few points that I believe warrant mention because they illustrate something about his character and motivation.  I’m pretty sure most, if not all, of this publication’s readers will recall them:

1) He said, as a hurricane approached the Florida coast  that he had informed the Alabama governor that the federal government would provide assistance in repairing the hurricane damage.  When he was told, by all (i.e., many) meteorologists and other people knowledgeable about storm tracks that this particular hurricane would turn north over Florida and avoid Alabama, he famously took a Sharpie and, on the map of the region illustrating the predicted path, drew his own black line extending a loop westward to encompass a portion of southeastern Alabama.  In that case, he was unable to concede that his off-the-cuff forecast, as someone who had little or no knowledge of weather science, might have been wrong.

2) In a memorable press briefing during the throes of the developing COVID epidemic, he preposterously contended that the infection could be treated by cleansing the patient’s affected organs with Clorox, or by exposing them to UV light–and he even turned to ask his primary medical adviser, Dr. Birx, “Isn’t that right?”  Her discomfort was visible to all who watched the televised event and/or the many replays, but he never found it appropriate to admit to an error.

There are far too many more examples of such ignorance and/or stubbornness, but I believe that more recent events are indicative of the deliberate use of lies to achieve his personal goals.  In one case, he called the secretary of state of Georgia and asked that he “find” just the exact number of votes in a recount that would  give himself rather than Joe Biden the victory in the state and its eight electoral votes.  In the second case, after the election had been held, the votes counted, and following the attack on the Capitol, he asked the attorney he had only very recently named as acting attorney general to have the lawyers in the Department of Justice all sign a letter stating that, because of widespread election fraud, the reported election results should not be confirmed and the winner, Joe Biden, should not be inaugurated as president.

That letter was never prepared by the DOJ, only because all of the department’s attorneys said they would resign en masse rather than sign such a false statement.

In both of those cases, it is clear that he was not only lying (although he possibly believed it himself) but was deliberately and fully prepared to enlist others in his pattern of lies rather than concede that he had lost the election.  That, along with so very many statements by Mr. Trump himself reinforcing the “big lie” that he had actually won but was a victim of fraud, can be seen as the modern-day application of the approach of Josef Goebbels.

So the question has to be posed to voters who chose DJT in the elections of 2016 and 2020:  Even if you agree with and approve of the policies he chose, can you continue to support a local, state, or federal official –up to and including the president of the United States–who lies so often, whether for trivial, casual reasons or to help achieve his ambition?  How confident can you be that future policy proposals will not be primarily in the service of the nation and its people but rather as a means of enhancing his personal goals, and that his statements about the expected impact are, whether deliberate or not, yet another example of his propensity to lie when he finds it convenient?

Robert I. Adler

Port Washington

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