Election Day 2020 will serve as a referendum on the truth
Category: News & PoliticsVia: john-russell • 4 weeks ago • 4 comments
Orlando Sentinel Editorial
Every December, the fact-checkers at PolitiFact choose a "lie of the year."
In 2012, it was Mitt Romney for claiming that Chrysler was moving its Jeep production from North America to China.
In 2013, it was Barack Obama for saying the Affordable Care Act would allow people to keep their health care plans when many people couldn't.
By today's lying standards, those two politicians were rank amateurs.
No president in U.S. history - no politician in U.S. history - has lied as often or as shamelessly as Donald Trump during his first term as president. He's a three-time recipient of PolitiFact's lie of the year.
The lies are so obvious, so frequent and so brazen that Election Day on Tuesday is, at its core, a national referendum on whether truth remains a virtue or has become a quaint relic of the past.
Americans will decide whether truth matters, whether moms and dads can tell their kids with a straight face that lying is wrong. Same for nanas and papas when the time comes to teach a beloved grandchild a lesson about the importance of truth.
It's fairly straightforward: A vote for Donald Trump says truth no longer matters.
We know most politicians lie from time to time. Marco Rubio lied when he announced a run for president in 2016 and promised he wouldn't seek reelection to the U.S. Senate. But breaks with the truth, as with Obama and Romney and Rubio, were exceptions to otherwise normal, everyday truthful behavior.
We don't expect Joe Biden will tell the truth all of the time. His political past also includes examples of lies. But his occasional departures from truth are nothing compared to the consistency and ease of Trump's.
Where most politicians' lies are like a drippy faucet, Trump's come at you like a fire hose.
The New York Times analyzed a recent 90-minute speech by Trump during a rally in Wisconsin and found 130 "false or inaccurate statements." Less than one-quarter of what he stated as fact was true, the Times found.
The lies are so frequent we've become desensitized, disoriented or overwhelmed. Some people just go along with the lies, as if they're just an ongoing joke without consequence.
The Washington Post had been updating a database of Trump's lies and was up to more than 22,000 when it threw in the towel in August, so frequent were his falsehoods. Reporters simply couldn't keep up.
In a normal world, Trump's recorded admission to journalist Bob Woodward that he lied to the American public about the severity of the coronavirus would have been so scandalous that his second-term ambitions would have collapsed right then.
"You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one, Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7. "That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff."
That's not what he told us. Trump's statements throughout February were that the virus was under control and nothing to worry about.
"It's going to disappear. One day - it's like a miracle - it will disappear," Trump said on Feb. 27.
It was just the start of his pandemic lying.
In early March, when few tests for the disease were available, he said "anybody that needs a test gets a test." Not true.
He also said in March that the coronavirus was like seasonal flu, a lie he continues to repeat.
In July he said the U.S. had lowest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. Another lie. In September he was still saying a vaccine might be ready for distribution by October. More lies.
At the last presidential debate - and since then - he said of the virus that the United States is "rounding the corner, it's going away." This on a day when the United States had 75,000 new cases and 828 more dead Americans. Florida alone had more than 5,500 cases that day, the second highest number since mid-August.
His lies careen from inconsequential (he was one of Oprah's last five guests on her show) to easily debunked (Mexico is paying for the border wall) to stomach turning (giving credence to the lie that Osama bin Laden wasn't really killed by Navy SEALs).
Trump lies about doing the impossible, as in 2016 when he said the nation's then $19 trillion debt could be paid down in eight years, without increasing taxes. Instead, Trump was tacking on another trillion or so every year - even before COVID-19 came along.
So many of the president's lies are just absurd. Five minutes into an Oct. 23 speech at The Villages, Trump said Biden's energy plan "would mean American seniors have no air conditioning during the summer, no heat during the winter..."
You'd have to be the Villages idiot to believe that. PolitiFact has given 143 of his statements the "Pants on Fire" label, meaning the claim is basically ludicrous, with zero relationship to the truth.
Trump's lies don't just erode American confidence in the presidency, they create a basic mistrust of our political system, whether it's the elected officials making laws and policies or the millions of federal, state and local workers enacting those laws and policies.
Skepticism of government can be healthy, but Trump is corroding fundamental faith in our institutions by normalizing lies. It may take generations to recover from the damage, if it's not already too late.
We understand this editorial comes after millions of Floridians already have cast their ballots by mail or during early voting. Most voters already have their minds made up by now. But when Florida's remaining voters enter their polling places on Tuesday, we urge them one last time to consider the damage four more years of a Trump presidency will do to this nation.
Not because of his court picks or his scattershot policies or even his narcissistic cruelty, but because a nation that becomes untethered to the truth is a nation lost.