Donald Trump and lies

There was a very strange article last week in the WSJ, written by the editor, Gerard Baker. In it, he argued that Donald Trump told a lot of falsehoods, but they weren't technically lies because a liar needs to know they are lying when they utter the statement. If you don't know something is a lie, and it turns out to be false, you may be guilty of several things but lying may not be one of them.

In the article, Baker seemed to go out of his way to distance himself from Trump. I guess that makes sense because the WSJ itself has been at the very least hot and cold towards Trump from the beginning.

I'm no Donald Trump expert but I see no evidence of "lying," but for an entirely different reason than Baker. I think Baker actually missed two important points.

First, Trump is an exaggerator, not a liar.

Some people purposely lie but for a good cause. These lies are called white lies. Telling someone their clothes look good when they make the person look fat is a white lie.

Other people speak in generalities to make a point, and are simply not concerned with the specifics. A fisherman who catches a ten-pound bass and brags about it, when the fish was really only eight pounds, is not lying. They are telling a story and embellishing. Lying is when you try to get a trophy or win a cash prize for your ten-pound fish that otherwise wouldn't qualify at eight.

When Trump says that "millions" of people voted illegally, he doesn't mean "over two million." He means a ton, a lot, a huge number. We will never know exactly how many for lots of reasons but it is "millions."

When he says that "thousands" of people cheered when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, he doesn't literally mean thousands. There is no way to know how many. But there were hundreds and maybe hundreds of hundreds. Thousands is probably an exaggeration but he is making a point, not trying to be statistically accurate.

I remember when this story of people cheering the terrorist attack first broke, and reporters were falling all over themselves to prove that Trump "lied." Surely nobody was celebrating right after this terrorist had to be a total fabrication, right? And then, a news article out of New Jersey surfaced in which this was reported. So then the narrative against Trump changed to focus not on this outrageous behavior by some offensive people, but on how many were "celebrating." The media appeared to have assumed Trump's original statement was a complete fabrication and they sought to cover their own tracks when it turned out they were wrong.

[Since I posted this article, I was looking for a graphic of this celebration, and I came across a very extensive article on it posted on the Washington Post website. If you are interested, here is the link: Note that the article starts out by claiming that it is a total lie, then slowly, very slowly, starts morphing into partially true...definitely not "thousands" but at least "dozens" and who knows, maybe "hundreds." Honestly, I don't see how anyone can "know" years later whether people were celebrating on a rooftop unless there were witnesses or TV crews. But it clearly seems that Trump saw "thousands" of people celebrating, mostly in the middle-east but some even in New Jersey, and he put them together mistakenly. Still, his point was mostly valid even if he exaggerated the numbers, in my opinion.

And here is another summary on Breitbart: ]

You know this is his personality by the way he describes everything. Things are "huge." Things are a "disaster." These words are all imprecise but everyone knows what he is trying to say. When Trump says that NAFTA has been a disaster, he doesn't mean that people died. When he says he will build a wall, he doesn't mean it will be made of bricks.

I can see why Trump critics would latch onto these verbal imprecisions because they are easy targets. But now let's talk about real lies and how Baker's definition falls short.

When the first President Bush said "read my lips, no new taxes," he lied. But I have no doubt he meant it when he said it. Under Baker's definition, this would never be considered a lie.

But it is a lie, because he made an explicit promise. Breaking a promise, even when you have no intention of doing so at the time the promise was made, is lying.

The lie isn't that Bush raised taxes. The lie is that he broke his promise not to raise taxes. This promise was within his control. If he had vetoed the tax increase but Congress overrode it, he would not have lied.

If Bush had said, "I have no intentions of raising taxes" and then raised them after getting elected, he would not have lied. But then people could have considered his equivocation and voted for someone else, like Howard Baker (remember him?).

When President Obama said that "you can keep your healthcare," "you can keep your doctor," and "you will save $2,500 a year," those were all other words, broken promises. People relied on those promises to not only support the "affordable care act" but re-elect the president. Had Obama been truthful, we would likely be enjoying Mitt Romney's second term right now. This is why people have learned not to trust politicians because many of their statements are self-serving.

If Trump builds a wall but most of it is made of fence, he kept his promise. If he tries to build a wall but Congress refuses to fund it so it doesn't get built, he did not lie. If, however, he builds it but purposely leaves a five-mile gap and invites anyone to illegally cross there because there won't be any border security, then he would have lied even if the wall is 99.9% complete.

And if he gets into office and, after his classified briefings and advice from all his staff, decides not to build the wall, then he lied and maybe he shouldn't be re-elected because if it. We do need to allow for our leaders to change their minds because maybe they do what is best for the country despite suffering from the political repercussions. Perhaps that's what happened to the first Bush, and he probably lost his reelection campaign because of it.

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