Remember When Lying Disqualified Someone From Being President?
Hey! Yeah, you … the one in the red hat. I am talking to you.
When did you decide honesty and integrity weren’t core values or virtues? I mean, I am no saint, but I consider my moral compass the foundation of my character. Without it, who am I? Without it, how the hell can someone be President?
When I was eight, maybe nine, I watched a neighborhood friend take money from her mother’s purse. A voice inside me told me it was wrong, even when she assured me it was “fine”. We walked to a local art fair and she bought me a small wooden truck with the money. Later, when my father saw me playing with the truck in the yard, he asked where I got it. I told him. After he spoke to the mother, he instructed me to go back to the fair, return the truck, then return the money, apologize to the mom and come home for my punishment. I cried the entire way. I came home for what was, undoubtedly, going to be a spanking. My father simply looked at me and said, “If it feels like stealing, it is, and stealing is like lying. We don’t lie and we don’t steal.” He was right, we don’t.
Thirty years later, I caught my own nine-year-old son in a lie. How could I deliver the same message? I gave him an assignment. He had to write a two-page paper on the importance of honesty and integrity. It had to include quotes from two adults who were not his parents or his teachers. He did it, and it left a lasting impression. We don’t lie, we don’t steal.
Years later, I am in an executive leadership team meeting. Someone looks at me and says, “You don’t always have to be a fucking boy scout.” I pause, make eye contact, “That’s the thing, I will always be the fucking boy scout.” So, except for the language, I guess I am a fucking boy scout. We don’t lie, we don’t steal.
Now fast forward, again, to an analyst on a news show just last week. A panel is debating the potential impeachment of Donald Trump, the Michael Cohen payments and Stormy Daniels. The Trump surrogate says, rather aggressively, “Let’s all remember that Clinton was impeached because he perjured himself, not for having an affair, he lied to investigators!” I almost spit out good scotch — I mean, it was McCallan. I looked at the TV, and then my wife, and said, “You’re damn right he was!” So, yes, let’s all remember that we impeached a sitting President for lying (and, obstruction of justice, but who’s counting). How quaint. We didn’t lie, we didn’t steal.
Just twenty-five years ago, conservatives were deeply offended by such amorality (picked that word for a reason). I know, I was one of them. Oh how we ranted about Clinton’s besmirching of the Presidency and the White House. And just one generation later we, no wait, “you” elected someone “[who] lied strategically. [Who has] a complete lack of conscience about it.” Well, at least, that’s how, Tony Schwartz, described Trump in 2016. Schwartz, probably doesn’t know Trump as well as you do, though, I mean, he only spent a year and half with Trump while he authored (or really, ghostwrote) The Art of the Deal.
Schwartz wasn’t alone in noting Trump’s fundamental dishonesty. Trump’s lack of relationship with the truth has always been evident to anyone who cares to pay attention. I mean, shit, he cheated on his wives — all of three of them. He was the lead proponent of the birther conspiracy theory and doubled down on this offensive falsehood, designed to feed off of his followers’ prejudice and bigotry, over and over again. Hell in 1984, he actually lied about his net worth to get on the Forbes list. But you thought he was telling you the truth, right? Maybe you thought surely he’d be different, now that he was running for President.
On August 25th, 2015, he said the national debt was $19 trillion, adding “it’s actually much more than that.” It wasn’t, it was actually less at $18.2 Trillion.
On September 26, 2016, he said. “”I’m under a routine audit, and it’ll be released, and as soon as the audit is finished it will be released,” They weren’t and he has never released his tax returns.
On October 25, 2016, he claimed “Word is that Ford Motor, because of my constant badgering at packed events, is going to cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.,” They didn’t and their US investment plans dated back to, at least, 2014.
Then you elected him and the cavalcade of lies continued after his inauguration.
On January 23rd, 2017, he says Hillary won the popular vote because of voter fraud. He was right, she did win the popular vote. Of course, there was never any evidence of voter fraud.
On January 26th, 2017, he says we just saw the largest crowd at an inauguration ever. We didn’t.
On March 23rd, 2017, he said the NY Times apologized for their reporting of the election. They didn’t.
And the flagrantly dishonest hits go on and on and on and on. Over 4,000 times and counting. Without flinching. Without a conscience. He barreled toward the pièce de résistance.
On July 24, 2018 he said, ”Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Nearly three centuries ago the English poet, William Shenstone, wrote, “A liar begins with making falsehood appear like truth, and ends with making truth itself appear like falsehood.” I am going to pause there for a second while we let the rest of the class catch up. Focus please because how did you respond?
“But the economy!”
“But the market!”
“But the judges!”
I am sorry, but he shouldn’t get to lead the free world or shape immigration policy, financial policy or even my insurance policy if he can’t be truthful. If his only goal is to shape the facts so that he can self-aggrandize, then he’s not just disqualified from being my President, he’s just disqualified.
So, now, you are going to have to check your moral flexibility at the door. That voice, deep down, you need to listen to it. You have to return the wooden truck, because we don’t steal and we don’t lie.