The Critical Mass

People who lie to you think you’re stupid

On this morning’s dog walk, I noticed that the neighbors across the street have already taken down their New York Yankees flag after last night’s loss. They’ve replaced it with a Buffalo Bills flag. Which seems to be an invitation to yet more heartbreak.

Around the corner we walk, to the next street, where a Trump flag is flying over one of the houses.

People lie for many reasons. Greed, spitefulness, jealousy. Self preservation, as in “I don’t know honey, I must have caught it from a toilet seat.” Or self-aggrandizement, as in any discussion that involves golf scores. Lies are often a need to cover inadequacies, fill in a vacuum in the liar’s life. We lie to ourselves: “I’ll start working out next week.” Sometimes, we even lie to be nice: “No George, one more beer won’t make your ass look too big.” Lying is so much a part of our society that we often don’t even think much about it when we hear one.

But we should. Liars lie because they believe they’re smarter than you. They think you’re too dumb to catch them. And while many lies are harmless and easy to dismiss, some are not.

Donald Trump.

I have never seen anything like this. Trump is like a character from a Ring Lardner short story. It’s not just the sheer volume of lies that this guy spins. It’s the willingness of so many people to simply dismiss what’s happening as politics as usual.

This past week was a typical White House week, with a handful of crises, mostly self-created, at which we can marvel. Let’s recap one:

On Monday, Trump was asked why he hadn’t commented on four American soldiers killed in Niger nearly two weeks earlier. He claimed he had written letters to their families and that they would be mailed that day or the next, as though all presidential correspondence is simply tossed into a U.S. Post Office mailbox, in the same way as you or I would send a birthday card.

He added that previous presidents rarely sent letters or made calls to the families of American soldiers killed in action. Trump was implying that his empathy for their sacrifice was far greater. People who had worked for both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama immediately refuted that comment; both had been quite active in consoling grieving families. Lie No. 1 exposed.

It kept getting worse. Trump claimed he had called “virtually” all of the families who had lost a member in service to our country since he took office. True, if “virtually” all means less than half. Meanwhile, an email surfaced which showed that hours after Trump made his claim, the White House asked the Pentagon for the names of all of the U.S. servicemen who have died since January, and contact information for their families. If Trump had already contacted the families, why did the White House need their names and contact info? By the end of the week, those families began receiving rush-delivered condolence letters from Trump. Lie No. 2 exposed.

Trump called the widow of one of the four soldiers and, in his familiar ham-handed manner, told her that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.” She was understandably shocked at his lack of empathy. As were an aunt and a family friend, Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, who were listening in on speakerphone. When Wilson gave her account of the conversation, Trump immediately announced Wilson had “totally fabricated what I said,” and also claimed to have proof. Of course, just as Trump had once claimed his investigators had found proof that Obama was not born in Hawaii, the proof that Wilson had lied also did not emerge. Lie No. 3 exposed.

In serious need of damage control, the White House sent Chief of Staff John Kelly to speak to the media. Kelly is a sympathetic figure, his own son was killed in Afghanistan. Kelly said Trump had merely mangled the talking point he was delivering to the soldier’s widow (thereby admitting Trump had indeed said those words, exposing lie No. 4). Then Kelly went on the usual Trump White House tactic of diversion, claiming that Rep. Wilson was “selfish” and had falsely claimed in a speech that she was responsible for the federal funding of a new FBI building in her district. Of course, a video of Wilson’s speech then turned up. She said no such thing, but instead talked about her role in naming the building after two FBI agents who had been killed. Lie No. 5, with a direct line connected to Trump, exposed.

And that’s just one of this week’s White House crises. That’s not even getting into the Puerto Rico hurricane recovery fiasco, the heath-care scramble, the national debate over sexual harassment and more news on the Trump campaign and administration’s Russia connection.

Trump has no redeeming qualities. He is uninformed and mentally unstable. He is a man whose gilded course in life was launched with a $1 million gift from Daddy. How many of us got that kind of break and squandered it as a racist, bigot, misogynist and liar?

Yet that guy on the next street is still flying his Trump flag.

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