Yesterday Jay Caruso said conservatives have to stop defending the indefensible when it comes to Trump and his often incredible statements. Today the Wall Street Journal echoes that sentiment with an editorial titled A President’s Credibility bearing the deck headline: “Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust, at home and abroad.” Here’s how it begins:
If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.
The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.
Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims. Sean Spicer—who doesn’t deserve this treatment—was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.
That bungle led to a public denial from the British Government Communications Headquarters, and British news reports said the U.S. apologized. But then the White House claimed there was no apology. For the sake of grasping for any evidence to back up his original tweet, and the sin of pride in not admitting error, Mr. Trump had his spokesman repeat an unchecked TV claim that insulted an ally.
It’s all on target, except maybe for the part that Sean Spicer “doesn’t deserve this treatment.” Spicer looks for all the world like someone who has fully thrown himself into the task of shoveling B.S. for his boss.
When it comes to the credibility of Trump and his spokesholes, to borrow a memorable phrase used by John McCain in a different context: “there’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.” Here’s some more shoes that have dropped recently. Remember this?
I am not trying to get "top level security clearance" for my children. This was a typically false news story.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
As I said at the time:
If Donald Trump denied it happened, you can take that to the bank.
Of course, if the bank is familiar with Trump’s reputation for veracity, they probably won’t accept it.
And of course now we know that Ivanka has gotten a security clearance. Well, I’m sure Trump was telling the truth at the time, right?
Then there’s Sean Spicer on March 13 telling us that all appointees are required to sign Trump’s ethics pledge:
Q Thanks a lot, Sean. I wanted to follow up with you on questions regarding Michael Flynn, who’s no longer in the administration. There’s a five-year lobbying ban that’s been imposed upon all Trump administration employees. Does that also apply to Michael Flynn? Would he not be permitted to lobby now for five years because of the agreement that he signed when he became the national security advisor?
MR. SPICER: That would be correct. I’d have to check and actually figure out when he signed or if he signed the form. But yes, all administration officials who come in are required to sign that ethics pledge banning them from lobbying for five years and then a lifetime ban on lobbying on behalf of any foreign government.
“All” apparently doesn’t include Flynn after all. Today we learn from Lachlan Markay:
The White House’s former top national security official did not sign an ethics pledge ostensibly required of all Trump administration appointees barring them from ethically questionable lobbying activities, The Daily Beast has learned.
Then we have Kellyanne Conway saying President Trump doesn’t know Carter Page:
Kellyanne Conway on FNC on Carter Page and JD Gordon: I've spoken to POTUS and "he doesn’t know these gentlemen, he didn’t work with them"
— Will Rabbe (@WillRabbe) March 21, 2017
Huh. Odd, given that Trump named him as someone on his team advising him on foreign policy, when speaking to the Washington Post editorial board:
RYAN: Thank you… We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly… Any you can share with us?
TRUMP: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names… Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more.
And, of course, Trump promised on the campaign trail to repeal ObamaCare, but yesterday was on Capitol Hill threatening Republican lawmakers’ jobs (as usual, Democrats are let off the hook) if they don’t pass a bill that does not repeal ObamaCare:
I’m asking for your vote on Thursday. I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
I guess someone could always argue that lying from the Oval Office or White House Press Room is hardly unprecedented, and that’s true. But we criticized Obama when he lied — and if we are to maintain our own credibility, we have to hold Trump and his spokespeople accountable for their countless falsehoods as well. The editorial today concludes:
All of this continues the pattern from the campaign that Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.
This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill. These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.
Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.
Tough but fair.