What’s not to believe?

bjaycooper
Jun 12 · 3 min read

In these days of a President who lies often and a mainstream media that is giving its best available version of the truth, it is very difficult to know what’s going on.

President Trump has more than 10,000 documented instances of lying, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker. The media, on TV and in print, slowly are learning how to fairly out the President’s lies.

What are we to believe?

Take the recent negotiations with Mexico over what to do at our southern border about illegal immigration (and legal to it seems). The Mexican government gives their version of what happened. President Trump gives his, including an alleged secret agreement with Mexico. The media reports it all, sometimes relying too heavily on unidentified sources because the media trust little of what Trump says. (I’d say this isn’t too different than they’ve covered other presidents but it is more intense now.)

Who’s to blame? As in most situations, there is blame to go around.

The President lies. That is documented. So it is difficult to rely on his version of events even when he may be telling the straight-up truth. The media are even more questioning of the president because the president is known to lie, as do many of his people.

I tend to believe the mainstream media when I’m in doubt. That’s partly because I’m a former journalist and partly based on years of being a government/political spokesman where I had more facts than I do now to judge a news story’s accuracy. Still, sometimes, of course, the media are wrong. It is not a science, it’s a craft.

Donald Trump has lied so often that too many, including me, believe nothing of what he says. That does not bode well for when the country is in a crisis — which we could be at any minute with North Korea or Russia or China. In those circumstances in the past, we’ve always looked to our President as the one to tell us what’s going on. With Trump’s track record, who’d believe him? I do not say that lightly.

That’s the problem. In this negotiation with Mexico, yesterday Trump pulled from his jacket pocket a piece of paper that he claimed was the “secret agreement” he has with Mexico that will be triggered on only his say so. Of course, he didn’t release the document so for all we know it was his grocery list (I jest). An enterprising Washington Post photographer got close enough to take a picture and it seems the document is an agreement of some kind signed not by Trump but by lower level government representatives.

For those of you sitting back and saying “all presidents lie,” I’d say no president — whichever party — has lied so much that he has no credibility in the bank with most Americans — or even I imagine most of his fellow Republicans in the Congress.

So, it isn’t a straight up (“binary” as they say now) choice between Trump and the media for who’s telling the truth. The media definitely get it wrong sometimes. Trump definitely lies, a lot.

Yesterday he talked about receiving a “beautiful…warm” letter from Kim Jong-Un. But he, of course, couldn’t show it. He said he had a fabulous, secret agreement with Mexico, of course, he couldn’t show it. The Mexican government denies any secret agreement. (By the way, did I mention that in high school I dated a gorgeous world-known model who wrote to me every day, but of course I can’t give her name nor can I show you those very private letters?)

These are not good times for our democracy. Trump attacks the media as the “enemy of the people” which some of his followers believe. He does this so that he, to that base, is the source of all truth and facts.

It’s too bad this is such an issue — truth v lies — because it distracts us from the serious things going on — North Korea, Russia, China and more. (Not to mention health care, drug prices, living wages, to name just a few). But the President does tell us everything is away better since he was elected.

What’s not to believe in that?

bjaycooper

Written by

Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.