A Normal Week

February 2, 2020

by Steve Stofka

Tuesday was the first day of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Mr. Trump borrowed former President Clinton’s impeachment playbook and got busy. He flew to Davos, Switzerland to give a speech at the World Economic Forum.

The speech was constructed of many truth stretchers. Instead of boasting about the economy’s strong employment, Mr. Trump had to say that the numbers are the best. They are not. Doesn’t matter. While Mr. Trump’s political opponents are spending time and energy disputing his boasts and lies, he is on to the next speech, the next carefully arranged event.

Facts are musical notes in a score designed to showcase his greatness. Mr. Trump is the bandleader. In politics, performance is key and he is a good performer. He is the boss of facts. Disagreeable facts are out of tune and “fake.” Sit down fake news media. Stop playing.

President Trump cites a statistic that there are more women than men in the workforce for the first time in history. They are not. That happened in 2009 under former President Obama’s watch. This is not a good statistic. It means that men in traditional male jobs are losing their jobs. In 2009, it was the massive unemployment in construction after the housing crisis. Until a year ago, job openings in manufacturing had climbed steadily (BLS, n.d.). In 2019, Mr. Trump’s trade war with China led to thousands of factory job losses and a sharp decline in job openings.

Those who do follow economic numbers know these are truth stretchers or truth wreckers as soon as the words leave Mr. Trump’s lips. That’s a small percentage of the general population. In an age of ready access to information, there is too much information. We struggle to separate the wheat – reliable information from a reputable source – from the chaff – those who shade or hide the truth to push a point of view.

To a casual ear, Mr. Trump sounds like he knows what he is talking about when he says 150 billion of this and 200 million of that. He pulls numbers out of the air just as a magician pulls a quarter from behind a child’s ear. When questioned by reporters, members of his own party answer that they can’t speak to what Mr. Trump says or tweets. They are afraid of retribution. He is the Teflon President. No accountability and no shame. 

A president must perform. A good performer tells enough of the truth to tell a convincing story. Lying is a part of any president’s job. They must lie to foreign leaders as they play the international game of political poker. Presidents lie to hide uncomfortable truths from the American people. They lie to protect themselves, members of their cabinet and party. Until a presidential candidate takes the oath of office, they may not realize the full extent of the lies they must tell. It’s one of the stresses that make the job so difficult.

There is important and unimportant stuff to lie about. Mr. Trump lies about silly stuff that matter only to him. Who cares whether some people think he has small hands? He does. Whether he had a smaller inauguration crowd than Mr. Obama? Mr. Trump cares. Whether he understands the dictator of N. Korea better than everyone else? He does. He insists that he is a better president than George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Braggadocio?

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Notes:

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (n.d.). Job Openings: Manufacturing JTS3000JOL. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/JTS3000JOL

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

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