Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump's war on facts a losing gambit -- Jan. 26, 2017 column


I am 5’10,” speak French like a native and play the piano flawlessly. Oh, and Donald Trump just released his tax returns and resigned as president.

Not one of those facts is real. They’re falsehoods, fibs, fantasy. OK, whoppers.   

They would be lies -- and I a liar -- if I intended to deceive you. I don’t. Like most Americans, I respect facts, evidence and truth, which is more than you can say for President Trump.

Trump’s revolution showed its disdain for science by scrubbing the White House web site of all mention of climate change and gagging the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A president has every right to change policy, but stopping the free flow of facts is wrong. It goes against the grain of our history.

Long before the American Revolution, John Adams, later our second president, said in 1770: “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Americans have prized truth in our leaders, sometimes honored in the breach more than in the observance, since George Washington. The myth of the boy, his hatchet and the cherry tree -- “I cannot tell a lie” – gave generations a role model.  

In the 20th Century, Jimmy Carter won the White House promising: “I’ll never tell a lie.” People rolled their eyes, but Carter’s earnestness was refreshing after the lyin’ Nixon years and Watergate scandal.

Politicians and presidents do lie, of course, but we’ve never had a president like Trump, who wields fake facts as emotional prods to rile up his followers.  

Trump tried for years to prove the lie that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and said Hillary Clinton and her 2008 campaign started the rumor – claims that were repeatedly debunked and yet built him a following.

He backed off last September when the lie began to impede his path to the White House, still insisting that Clinton started it.

Trump won despite his loose affiliation with truth during the campaign. As president, he has turned to alternative facts.

“Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts” that the crowds at Trump’s inauguration were the biggest ever, despite photo evidence to the contrary, Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide, said last Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Chuck Todd, the show’s moderator, replied, “Alternative facts aren’t facts. They are falsehoods.”

The phrase, alternative facts, was a chilling reminder of George Orwell’s “1984,” a novel published in 1932 that envisions a dystopian future where the Ministry of Truth subverts facts and history. This week, “1984” jumped to No. 1 on Amazon.

Sales of  “1984” have soared 9,500 percent since the Trump inauguration, and publisher Penguin is rushing out a reprint of 75,000 copies.

The Amazon Top 20 included “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, about the election of an authoritarian president wonderfully named Buzz Windrip, and “Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley, also a dark view of the future where an authoritarian regime quashes thought.  

If Trump’s alternative facts were as benign as his wish for longer fingers or thicker hair, we could ignore them. But he’s no longer a billionaire private citizen with kooky ideas or a candidate crying “rigged election” in case he loses.  

Unable to let go of his baseless claim that he would have won the popular vote were it not for up to five million people illegally voting for Hillary Clinton, the president tweeted his call for a “major investigation” into voter fraud.

No matter that state election officials insist there’s zero evidence of widespread fraud. Voter fraud is one of Trump’s unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

It’s “a longstanding belief he’s maintained,” Sean Spicer, White House Press secretary, told reporters.

It’s encouraging that some powerful Republicans in Congress want no part in investigating this particular longstanding belief of Trump’s.  

“I don’t see any evidence,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters. “But the president has 100,000 people at the Department of Justice, and if he wants to have an investigation, have at it.”

Facts are stubborn things, and people want a president whose facts they can trust. Playing fast and loose with truth is no way to govern.

As someone who hates to lose, Trump should realize this gambit won’t win.

©2017 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


  1. djt: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.........true, but if only he were that benign.
    nice stuff mdg.