President Donald Trump has broken a lot of norms during his first 347 days as President. But none of these breaks are as disgusting or as important as his tendency to constantly lie or be completely wrong.
According to the awesome Fact Checker blog at The Washington Post, President Trump has made 1,950 misleading or simply false claims since being sworn in on January 20, 2017. That is an average — average — of 5.6 a day. Every day he has been President, he has lied.
Some quick math suggests that Trump will surpass 2,000 false claims for his first year in office in the next week. It could happen sooner than that if Trump chooses to give another impromptu media interview; the Post counted 24 lies in Trump’s 30-minute interview with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt during the holidays.
Trump’s complete lack of commitment to facts as President began in the 2016 presidential race. During the race, 59 of the 92 Donald Trump statements that the Post fact-checked were found to be totally and completely false. That’s about two thirds (64%). By comparison, just seven of the 49 fact-checked statements by Hillary Clinton were determined by the Post to be totally and completely false. That’s 1 in 7 (14%).
The conclusion here is simple: Trump lies with no sense of shame, guilt or remorse. Unlike many politicians who, when caught in a falsehood or a lie, won’t repeat it for fear of the blowback, Trump seems to revel in saying things that have been proven false. The way he sticks to his lies indicates that he may have deeply studied the propaganda chapter in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. According to the Post’s Fact Checker, there are over 60 falsehoods that Trump has repeated at least three times in his first year as president. Sixty!
Trump has normalized a lot of behavior that would have been unthinkable for any past President. (The New York Times’ Peter Baker wrote brilliantly about Trump’s complete disregard for being “presidential” here.)
But nothing is more important — and more harmful to the long-term fabric of society — than Trump’s cheerful willingness to just say and then repeat things that aren’t true. And that he knows are lies.
Trump’s entire life is a story that he tells himself. That narrative sometimes matches up with established facts. Often it doesn’t. Whether it does or not will never be a concern for Trump, just like any other truth. The important thing is that in his life story, Trump is always winning, always the coolest.
And, until he entered politics, that was fine. After all: Trump was hardly the only exaggerating liar at work in the culture.
When he became President, however, Trump’s willingness to say things he knows are lies became far more corrosive. His persistent lies along with an active effort to undermine the truth that facts actually exist — and are not just one’s opinion — are detrimental to having a society in which we all agree on some accepted norms no matter where we are on the political or socioeconomic spectrum.
Whatever awful things Trump does in the next three (or, God forbid, seven) years, his love of lying will be his most lasting legacy.