President Trump has escalated his war on facts and fact-finders. On issues ranging from climate change and missile testing to intelligence estimates and economic statistics, the Lord of the Lies consistently fabricates evidence to fit his own misshapen view of reality.
As a result, he is polluting the whole policy process. It’s totally legitimate to have different priorities, preferences and constituencies. But sensible — and effective — programs are impossible if there is no agreement on independent information gathered and analyzed by professional procedures.
The Emperor of Error has extended his pattern of perversion to the political sphere where he retweeted a video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi that deliberately distorted her speech cadence to make her seem incoherent.
That went too far even for some Republicans, like Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who told CBS, “You shouldn’t disseminate information that you know is ultimately doctored.” The president’s strategy of deception, Hurd added, is “something that gets at the heart of our democracy.”
There’s nothing new about any of this. The Washington Post calculates that the president has made more than 10,000 “false or misleading statements” since taking office. But the problem is getting worse. It’s bad enough for the president to attempt to deflate the intelligence of a political rival, or inflate the size of his crowds or his wealth. It’s far more damaging for him to undermine the essential functions of government.
Take the issue of North Korea’s missile tests. National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters there was “no doubt” that Pyongyang had violated United Nations Security Council resolutions by launching at least three short-range ballistic missiles earlier this month. Yet the president, with absolutely no evidence to support his view, blithely remarked, “My people think it could have been a violation. I view it differently.”
“Lying about what the North Koreans are doing is a recipe for disaster,” Jeffrey Lewis, an arms expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told the Washington Post. It only will encourage North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to test more and bigger weapons as a way of ratcheting up pressure on Trump, who longs for a deal with Kim to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
The president long has clashed with his own intelligence analysts because they documented Russian meddling on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 election. Now he’s retaliated by assigning a political ally, Attorney General William Barr, to investigate how the CIA and the FBI handled their inquiries.
James Baker, the former general counsel of the FBI, told the Post that Barr’s appointment is “a complete slap in the face to the director of national intelligence.”
Now, reports Catherine Rampell in the Post, “Slowly but surely, the Trump administration has been chipping away at the independence and integrity of our federal statistical agencies, whose data is critical to keeping our democracy functioning and our economy healthy.”
One devious proposal: Recalibrate how the poverty line is determined so that fewer Americans will fall below it and qualify for various forms of federal aid.
Government can work only when decisions are based on facts, not fantasies. The “heart of our democracy” is truly threatened when the president violates that principle — over and over again.