A politician on center stage calls Mexican immigrants rapists and killers for those people send their bad guys here; says Syrian refugees are snakes and they and other Muslims could harbor ISIS among them; says African countries are sh*tholes and Haitian immigrants carry aids … . Then without a hint of irony or embarrassment — except a permanently red face — he proclaims, “I am the least racist person anybody is going to meet.” What would a rational individual call him?
The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Bella De Paulo on Donald Trump’s lies and lying, drawing on her research work and the Post’s Fact Checker. It turns out he is an inveterate liar and, worse, a cruel one for his lies are often malicious. The op-ed was also taken up by the right-leaning Chicago Tribune, the leading such organ in Chicago.
Bella De Paulo is a social scientist who earlier on in her career as a professor at the University of Virginia studied lies and liars jointly with some colleagues there. Since October 2017, President Trump, she notes, “told a remarkable nine lies a day outpacing even the biggest liars in our research.” It gets worse.
Most of the lies (about half) in their study of college students and general community members in the area were self-serving intended to advantage the liars. Less often they told kind lies, like the woman telling her mother she did not mind taking her shopping. These constituted about a quarter.
One category was so small as to warrant just a footnote in their study. This was the cruel lie intended to hurt or disparage someone. Only 0.8 percent of student participants’ lies and 2.4 percent of community members’ lies fell in this category.
President Trump is different, shockingly different. To use his favorite adjective, an amazing 50 percent of his lies were in the cruel category, the content hurtful or disparaging. His kind lies were few, outnumbered 6.6 times by self-serving ones. It is not surprising then that 58 percent of voters questioned in a Quinnipiac University poll last November thought he was not honest. As most people tend to believe others, there has to be a good reason to label someone dishonest. The old adage, one can’t fool all of the people all of the time appears to be working — the people have caught on.
The departures from the Trump administration took in the most prestigious cabinet post. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired; Mr. Trump apparently furious at his enthusiastic support for the British in their reaction to the poisoning in Salisbury of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The pair remain in critical condition. The nerve agent used, Novichok, was developed in Russia. Mr. Skripal acted as a double agent for the UK in the 1990s and early 2000s betraying many agents. Would that assemble enemies?
President Trump, therefore, had a point. However, within a few days he had flip-flopped. He is now projecting a united front with the British, the Germans and the French on the issue. Clearly, there were also other reasons for his unhappiness with Mr. Tillerson, including the latter’s reported pithy description of him as ‘a f***ing moron’. Disagreements on political appointees was another issue. Moreover, Tillerson’s radical reorganization efforts were not popular with career officials in his department.
Trump’s chief economic adviser resigned last week. His successor Larry Kudlow is a long-time media personality. He is not what one would call a professional economist. In fact, he does not even have an economics degree. He is a journalist. He is also an ardent supply-sider and trickle-downer though — no doubt to Trump’s liking — and he played a role alongside the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore on Trump’s tax plan during his campaign.
So the arrivals and departures at Trump Junction continue, a busier place than almost any previous administration and with numerous government vacancies. But then, are there many who want to risk a job with the mercurial Trump when it is also difficult to believe much of what he says?