A Presidency Getting Built On Lies?

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught public policy at USF, UC Berkeley and other institutions and is Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

Some readers of this column may not like what follows—-and for those who favored Donald Trump enough to vote for him, my conclusions will be disagreeable or worse.

I say this in advance not because more justification is needed—the “facts” speak for themselves.

However, we are in an over-heated atmosphere of clashing values and viewpoints unparalleled in recent history which is magnified and perhaps distorted when the integrity of those chosen to govern us is open to question.

Trust in what our leaders say—not just now but in every Administration—Republican or Democrat—is vital to our national well-being. Words uttered by presidents have especially significant impact and actions even more. Although the record is very scanty only weeks into the new Administration, alarm bells are already going off and big storm clouds are forming.

The exploding and increasingly influential social media has obligations which responsible news organs have traditionally recognized and generally try to observe—-namely seeking independent corroboration from multiple sources before declaring something to be fact.

In this halcyon era of idiotic discourse where familiar words seem to have lost all meaning, news outlets, social networks and self-styled bloggers regularly cross the line spewing blithering nonsense that passes for truth.

This doesn’t appear to bother the alleged truth-tellers now running the government who have turned lying into an art form and have become skilled at using unregulated media and ultra-partisan talk shows as reliable messaging services.

It gets more problematical when the words are spilling from the mouths of the most powerful people in Washington, including the President of the United States who is in the habit of twittering blatantly meretricious messages to the masses.

When the size of the crowd—greatly inflated— that showed up for his inauguration becomes the principal concern of the Chief Executive his first day in office, this is cause for anxiety.

Likewise, blaming voter fraud without a stich of evidence for the millions more who cast votes for someone they felt was the superior candidate is childish petulance—and particularly  curious coming from the winner!

So is persisting in the quixotic scheme to construct the Great Wall “at not a dime’s cost to the American taxpayer” even though the Mexican president has said he will not be accepting the invoice and Congress is not likely to foot the bill.

Fictional accounts are nothing new coming from bloviating politicians, but when they masquerade as absolute truth we have problems. When the person with the loudest microphone on the planet is spinning them, it is an invitation to anarchy.

Such is the case with the splatter now pouring out of Washington from an administration that appears to have a little regard for the distinction.

“Alternative facts” roughly translated means truth is whatever anyone at any time decides it is.

Those who insist on believing the world is flat and not round, or that human evolution is pure hokum, or that changing climates are a figment of our imagination are certainly entitled to their opinions.

Still, these fanciful notions are trifling matters compared to the grave damage that may be inflicted on the nation and the world by a faux emperor with Brobdingnagian visions of power.

Alternative facts can be ridiculed. However, Trump and his closest advisors seem bent on inventing a wholly alternative universe where all the clashing elements are expected to somehow fall into alignment.

If there are consequences—let’s say an accidental nuclear confrontation with a foreign power that misinterprets our words or there is widespread civil unrest because a law-and-order administration could be promoting lawlessness, scripted clarifications coming from the White House press secretary will not buy much support.

With the stroke of the presidential pen, an incendiary comment, or an impetuous act we are playing a dangerous game that does more than just disrupt long-standing relations; it makes a mockery of respected traditions that have served us reasonably well for several centuries.

The phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not throwaway lines describing rights only for those selected to receive them and “equal protection under law”applies to every segment of the populace.

Banning immigrants for religious reasons is not a constitutional option, and a press conference without participation by the press requires a novel reading of the First Amendment.

Trump’s triumph did not “give government back to the people” as he boasted in his 16-minute rather disappointing Inaugural Address.   It has merely transferred power to an ambitious group of power-hungry advisors, admiring relatives, and some heavy-weight Cabinet plutocrats who appear so far to have sworn loyalty mainly to themselves and the man who can fire them.

Whether there are among them any willing and capable of imposing restraints on the president if they think he is overstepping his bounds remains to be seen.

Accountability in a democracy runs to the people—ideally the vast majority of them—and that does not change with a new Administration. If anything it is imperative in the early days of a transition—and especially one this jolting.

The Tea Party sparked a rebellion that helped propel Trump to the heights. Are the protests the precursor to a counter-movement more representative of a badly fractured nation?

Are we seeing the emergence of a post-partisan coalition—call it the We Party—able to unite Left, Right and center behind new leaders that will not confuse our common interests with naked self-aggrandizement?

Presidents unlike businesses are not extended a line of credit, and interest payments are not automatic. They must be earned. Trump will need to set up a new bank account with the public and start making deposits.

Share this article: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.