They are unending. There’s no way to keep up, much less respond effectively, and it almost goes without saying that they are never to be taken back, corrected, or amended in any way. Call them false claims, lies, untruths, misstatements, whatever you want, but they are what comes out of his mouth just about anytime he opens it. Take, for instance, that moment as 2018 ended when, in a blacked-out plane, he landed at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq for a three-hour presidential visit with the troops. It was there that he swore (as he had before) that he had won those troops a 10% pay raise for 2019 and that, to do so, he had fought it out in the trenches with unnamed military officials. (“They said, you know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3%. We could make it 2%. We could make it 4%.’ I said, ‘No. Make it 10%. Make it more than 10%.’”) He insisted as well that they hadn’t had a raise, not just of such a monumental sort but of any kind, in “more than 10 years.” As it happens, what were once known as the facts went like this: those troops last received a pay raise — of 2.4% — in 2018 (and every year before that for three decades); the 2019 pay raise is for 2.6%, not 10%; and those unnamed military officials evidently won!
For any half-normal president that would have been the trifecta: three outlandish falsehoods in a single try, but for Donald Trump it was just the modest, everyday demonstration of his remarkable ability to adjust reality to his needs, desires, and fantasies, and (as Jean-Luc Picard would once have said) “Make it so”! After all, for the man who, according toWashington Post fact-checkers, managed to make almost 6,000 “false and misleading claims” in 2018 alone, more than 15 a day and almost triple his record-setting pace of the previous year, that was nothing. Land him at al-Asad again in the middle of the night and don’t for a second think he couldn’t do better.
And maybe his example should free us up. After all, only the other day I was myself advising The Donald that, while the government is partially shut, he should begin building a 10-foot“Great Wall” around the White House, give himself a 10% pay raise, make Ivanka his secretary of defense, and send Jared to Afghanistan to evaluate the situation there — and if you don’t believe that, let me tell you another one. Or, alternatively, I might suggest that you check out TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon’s account of what it means to live in a world in which the presidential “credibility gap” that was the heart and soul of the long-gone Vietnam era is now an artifact of Mesopotamian history amid the “incredibility chasm” of the present moment.