The sheer range of President Trump's various untruths is staggering. One that always stands out, at least to me personally, is the asinine claim that Sen. Ted Cruz's father was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK. That lie went out on the eve of Indiana's Republican primary vote, a contest Trump won easily. He didn't need to smear Cruz, certainly not with a fib so big-league ludicrous. Ergo, it's not surprising that journalists would want an interview with Trump on the subject of lies. What is surprising is that Trump agreed to just that, sitting down with Time for a chat on the topic of "truth and falsehoods." And one of the last lines from that interview works as a deeply upsetting summary of Trump's justification for his many, many deceptions.
"I guess, I can't be doing so badly, because I'm president, and you're not."
In Trump's mind, this fact sweeps away virtually all ethical hangups that most other people might find problematic. Unpacking this simple declaration is important. For starters, no one on Time's staff ran for president (obviously), so the point is moot from the get-go. Much more importantly, it is illuminating to see Trump be so candid about his views on the morality of lies. To his mind, as long as you win — "I'm president" — then whatever wrongs committed to get there are no longer important.
As Jonathan Chait points out, this demonstrates the Trump team worldview: "The only measure of his veracity is power, which he has, and his critics do not." Presumably then, had Trump lost the election or the Republican primary, then his lies would be recognized as wrongs. (Color me skeptical on that front.)
Either way, this is a dangerous ideology. It is an ethos of might making right, anathema to democracy. There are actual facts out there — a set number of voters who cast a ballot for Trump, a definitive number who voted for Clinton, a real rate of unemployment, an actual count on the number of Syrians killed in Bashar al-Assad's atrocity-filled civil war. Those numbers correspond with issues that range from the less important to the more urgent, and none of them have been handled with anything resembling candor from the POTUS.
Here's another data point from the land of facts: A recent poll shows Trump with a much lower approval rating at this stage in his presidency, compared with each President Obama and President George W. Bush.
👏🏽 👏🏽 👏🏽— Fusion (@Fusion) February 16, 2017
Trump tried to claim his electoral college win was the largest ever—but this reporter brought the receipts: pic.twitter.com/sh9aXtPSEw
Trump may try to spin all those points, or keep peddling outright falsehoods. But as some old wise person once told me, just because you don't "believe" in gravity, that doesn't mean you won't plummet to the ground if you jump off a cliff.
That's something the Trump team — and his supporters — might want to keep in mind.