Fabrications have long been a part of American politics. Politicians lie to puff themselves up, to burnish their résumés and to cover up misdeeds, including sexual affairs. (See: Bill Clinton.) Sometimes they cite false information for what they believe are justifiable policy reasons. (See: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam.)
But President Trump, historians and consultants in both political parties agree, appears to have taken what the writer Hannah Arendt once called “the conflict between truth and politics” to an entirely new level.
Continue reading: Many Politicians Lie. But Trump Has Elevated the Art of Fabrication.
Commentary by The Secular Jurist: For those who stubbornly insist that neither the phenomenon of Donald Trump nor countless other disturbing trends represent a worrisome systemic decline of civil society, consider the following (from the article):
In part, this represents yet another way that Mr. Trump is operating on his own terms, but it also reflects a broader decline in standards of truth for political discourse. A look at politicians over the past half-century makes it clear that lying in office did not begin with Donald J. Trump. Still, the scope of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods raises questions about whether the brakes on straying from the truth and the consequences for politicians’ being caught saying things that just are not true have diminished over time.
Over the past two decades, institutional changes in American politics have made it easier for politicians to lie. The proliferation of television political talk shows and the rise of the internet have created a fragmented media environment. With no widely acknowledged media gatekeeper, politicians have an easier time distorting the truth.
And in an era of hyper-partisanship, where politicians often are trying to court voters at the extreme ends of the political spectrum, politicians often lie with impunity. Even the use of the word “lie” in politics has changed.
The glaring difference between Mr. Trump and his predecessors is the sheer magnitude of falsehoods and exaggerations; PolitiFact rates just 20 percent of the statements it reviewed as true, and a total of 69 percent either mostly false, false or “Pants on Fire.” That leaves scholars like Ms. Goodwin to wonder whether Mr. Trump, in elevating the art of political fabrication, has forever changed what Americans are willing to tolerate from their leaders.
“What’s different today and what’s scarier today is these lies are pointed out, and there’s evidence that they’re wrong,” she said. “And yet because of the attacks on the media, there are a percentage of people in the country who are willing to say, ‘Maybe he is telling the truth.’”