- When the American public has questions like, “Did the president become so incapacitated by COVID that he needed medical intervention to breathe?” the expectation is that we’ll get something approximating a straight answer.
- But Trump is a fount of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and childish fantasizing, and his White House is filled with bumbling sycophants who can’t keep their stories straight..
- Trump desperately wants us to believe his rosy projections for a complete and imminent COVID recovery. But Americans, rightfully, don’t think he or his White House can be trusted.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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It’d sure be nice if President Trump or his representatives could be trusted on anything.
When the American public has questions like, “Did the president become so incapacitated by COVID that he needed medical intervention to breathe?” the expectation is that we’ll get something approximating a straight answer.
The details of the Commander-in-Chief being laid low by a dreaded disease mere weeks before an election are crucial information in the public interest. The president and his deputies work for the people. They owe us the truth.
To hear Trump’s personal physician Sean Conley tell it on Saturday, you’d think the president’s condition is tip-top, and he’s just a few days away from beating back the deadly virus and getting back to work.
But then an “anonymous White House source” — which turned out to be White House Chief
of Staff Mark Meadows — told reporters that the president’s health situation was far graver and that he wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Then, Conley corrected himself, I think. Or maybe he was just confusing the timeline of when Trump knew he was exposed to COVID and when he tested positive.
I don’t know what’s true — nobody could — because even if Trump’s people weren’t the Keystone Ko ps of public messaging, it’d be hard to trust anything they say on behalf of the president.
It took a real long time, almost a full term in office, but Trump has finally reached the point where his lifelong practice of unapologetic lying has caught up with him.
Trump would really like us to believe him when he tells us, “Don’t be afraid of Covid!” (as he tweeted Monday).
But we’d be fools to believe anything he says.
Trump broke our nation’s collective trust
It’s not just life-and-death stuff Trump will lie about, like early in the pandemic when he misled the public about just how deadly COVID actually is. He’ll just easily lie about completely trivial matters, like easily disprovable claims about the crowd sizes at his rallies. And he’ll unapologetically push nonsense conspiracy theories, falsehoods that a lot of his followers nonetheless passionately believe.
Trump’s shameless, relentless, blabbering of falsehoods always mattered. Psychologists have argued that living under leaders who lie with impunity affects the brain. And on a mass scale, his lies have made us far less trustful in our institutions and of each other.
In a moment where the president is sick with COVID, which has killed over 200,000 Americans with no end in sight to the pandemic, and the presidential election is in 28 days (as of Tuesday), Americans’ kind of need to trust their government, even a little bit.
But Trump has gone above and beyond to spread disinformation about the coronavirus and the democratic process, for his own personal and political convenience.
That creates a hopeless doom cycle where we desperately need to believe we’re getting accurate information, but we’d also be fools to believe anything coming from this administration.
Anne Applebaum, author of “Twilight of Democracy,” wrote of just how impactful is Trump’s aversion to honesty:
“Trump is literally, not metaphorically, the single most important reason so many Americans distrust information they receive about the disease. He is literally, not metaphorically, the reason so many Americans distrust our electoral system too. He is literally, not metaphorically, the reason so many Americans distrust one another.”
Trust is built, earned, maintained. And, for many good reasons, Americans have grown increasingly cynical of their government over the years.
Trump at the head of government has only made that distrust more profound.
A Cornell University study of 38 million COVID-related articles found that 37.9% instances of “misinformation conversation” included mentions of Trump. About 58% of all Americans said they don’t trust Trump to tell the truth about the coronavirus in an August NBC News poll.
A new CNN poll found about 69% of Americans “trusted little of what they heard from the White House about the President’s health,” with just 12% saying they strongly trusted the White House. Almost two thirds of Americans — 63% — said they thought Trump acted irresponsibly in his “handling the risk of coronavirus infection to the people who have been around him recently.”
With a president like Trump — for whom lying is at times deliberate, while at others is merely reflexive — we can’t put faith in anything. He’s a fount of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and childish fantasizing.
Trump desperately wants us to believe his rosy projections for a complete and imminent COVID recovery. But nobody believes a word he says.
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