Donald Trump lies. A lot. This isn’t fake news, but it is old news. Yet here we are, a little more than six months into his presidency, and his fibs are real news once again.
In part that’s because his latest lie involving a speech last month to the National Scout Jamboree was startlingly narcissistic and just plain weird. But it’s also because lying has consequences (as your mama surely told you) and we’re starting to see those with President Trump.
First, that Boy Scout lie: In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published this week, someone suggested that reaction to Trump’s Jamboree speech was “mixed.” Trump disagreed. “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” he said. “So there was – there was no mix.”
Problem is, the Boy Scouts of America said no such call happened. So on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was forced to offer Version No. 2 of events. Trump, she said, didn’t actually get a phone call praising his speech, and it wasn’t actually the “head” of the BSA who heaped that praise on him, just officials at the Jamboree.
Even if all that is true, it still means the president was making stuff up. The same seems to be the case about Trump claiming this week that Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto “called me” to praise Trump’s border control measures. That also didn’t happen.
Why does this matter? Because as any serial fibber learns, people eventually stop believing what you say. That’s already happening to the president with congressional Republicans, who have more openly defied him of late. When Trump threatened to rescind their health care subsidies last week after the failed Senate heath care vote, Republicans ignored him. They didn’t believe him. They practically dared him to do it.
They and others have learned that Trump’s words are, at best, unreliable. The president, meanwhile, is discovering that lying can accomplish the opposite of what you intend. Instead of bolstering his stature, it has weakened him. In the past week alone, China mocked a Trump Twitter blast directed its way regarding North Korea, and the Russian prime minister openly ridiculed him. What happens when the inevitable crisis arrives, and our president has little credibility with both allies and foes?
We don’t expect Trump to realize this, nor his core supporters who continue to stand by their man. But even that support is peeling away as the president’s fibs accumulate, including this week’s revelations that Trump dictated a misleading explanation last month for his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer and was dishonest about a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
And while we’ve sadly become conditioned to the dishonesty that comes from our politicians, the Boy Scout fib was a reminder of just how prolifically, casually and bizarrely Donald Trump lies about things big and small. It matters. His presidency, and our country, is weakened by it.