Once again, I awoke to news about disturbing comments by the President of the United States. It has become almost routine and this morning was no different. On three counts, the news was deeply troubling, leading me to compare Donald Trump to a flailing ball player who comes to the plate.
Strike One: President Trump—in his own inimitable way of butchering the language so it is hard to pin down, or even fully understand, what he is saying—seemed to imply to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he would consider “dirt” on political rivals supplied by foreign governments. He said, “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
This careless statement comes after more than two years of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe on foreign intervention by the Russian government in the 2016 US Presidential election. Has he learned nothing? Is his mouth so out-of-control that he cannot be discreet in his comments? The President views the Mueller Report as fully exonerating him. Is his ego so large or his self-confidence so shallow that he cannot understand his susceptibility to foreign intervention when he makes statements like this? Should he not have taken the opportunity afforded by this question to draw a very bright line, stating categorically that such behavior is always wrong and should be rejected out of hand?
Strike Two: In the same interview, President disputed the conclusion of Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, that any such overture from a foreign power should be reported to the FBI, saying that “the FBI Director is wrong.” One can only begin to imagine how this public scolding of the FBI Director impacts both his own service and the morale of thousands of FBI, and other law enforcement, personnel, who defend the safety and security of Americans every day. How do you do your job—often with life and death consequences—if your boss is challenged in such a demeaning, public way by the President himself?
Strike Three: In response to another reporter on the same day, in a brief exchange at the White House, President Trump claimed the Mueller Report not only showed there was no collusion but that his administration rebuffed efforts by the Russians to intercede on his behalf in the 2016 election. The President said, “It said no collusion and no obstruction and no nothing. And, in fact, it said we actually rebuffed…Russia, that we actually pushed them back, we rebuffed them.”
The Mueller report said no such thing. Once again, the President has played fast and loose with the truth. This has been an ongoing concern I have had with Donald Trump, and have written about often in these posts, here, here and as early as July, 2017 here. The constant drumbeat of lies has a long-term detrimental effect on our democracy. Like the moral in the fairy tale, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” there will come a day–climate change, the situation in the Straits of Hormuz, renewed hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, the trade war with China, the upcoming 2020 election–when we will need to know the truth in order to craft a thoughtful response. In an age of highly partisan division, a White House with so little regard for veracity cannot serve as an honest arbiter of truthfulness. To whom do we turn for the facts?
All this, on just one single day.
And when I wake up tomorrow, the President will still be at-bat. A basic rule in baseball is three strikes and you’re out; it’s more than past time to apply this rule to the President himself.