April 7, 2020

Bizarre and Unnecessary

By Stephen Tuttle | July 7, 2018

Why does he keep doing it?  Why does a president who seems to be winning keep exaggerating and lying? It is bizarre and completely unnecessary.

One theory suggests it's all part of some diabolical strategy to benumb the public to the horrors yet to come. Another claims he actually believes the nonsensical things he says. Yet a third says he's trying to appeal to his base.

It's not as if there isn't already plenty of actual good news for his beloved base.

The president has himself an impotent and compliant Congress. His legislative failures have mostly been the result of squabbling Republicans who can never agree on immigration or the budget. Democrats, outnumbered and usually outsmarted, continue to wander around dazed and confused. 

Unemployment continues at extremely low levels, and the economy is still gurgling along despite predictions of bubbles about to burst and corrections about to be made.

The dismantling of environmental regulations is on track, as are the nullification of trade agreements. His travel ban has been approved by the Supreme Court. Congress easily passed his tax cuts. He appointed a true conservative, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. His nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy will likely be the same.

Trump's federal appellate court choices have been a group of fairly young, conservative jurists his base must love. His influence on the courts will last for decades.

And there isn't much Senate Democrats can do to stop him. You might recall they unleashed what they called their “nuclear option” during the Obama Administration. In an effort to free a backlog of Obama judicial nominees who had yet to have confirmation hearings, they eliminated the filibuster. Now instead of the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster and force a vote, a simple 51 vote majority confirms nomination. The “nuclear option” has exploded in the Democrats’ faces. 

These are all issues Trump could legitimately tout to his base without the need for his nonsensical exaggerations. His need to make his accomplishments grander than they are seems pathological. 

The recent agreement with North Korea is a perfect example. It was good the two leaders met — a necessary starting point to what might be productive down the road. Instead, Trump and his minions declared it was “historic” and “guaranteed” that North Korea would immediately begin “total and irreversible” denuclearization.

But that isn't at all what the agreement document says. What it says is that both sides will “ ... work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” (Emphasis added.) Nowhere does it say anything about a time table or anybody doing anything immediately. It really doesn't specifically require North Korea to do anything. In fact, there are now reports North Korea is back to working on another nuclear facility capable of weaponizing material.

It should have been a nice public relations win with an accompanying caution regarding North Korea's long history of breaking agreements. Instead, the exaggerated claims have turned it into a muddled mess. In one of his books, Trump advocated what he called “strategic hyperbole” — some would call it lying — as a sound business tactic. It's quite a bit less appealing as a method of communicating with the public.  

Sometimes the lies are completely pointless. Recently, while campaigning for somebody in Wisconsin, Trump grandly announced he was the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Wisconsin since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Why he's still trying to rewrite history to elevate his 2016 victory is an ongoing mystery. And his claim wasn't even close. Eisenhower carried Wisconsin again in 1956 — as did Richard Nixon in '68 and '72, and Ronald Reagan in '80 and '84.

(Anyone alive and coherent at the time should remember the 1972 election. Richard Nixon won 49 states, and the single state he lost, everyone knows, was not Wisconsin.)      

There is now research indicating the president's support among his base is deepening. They believe he's being unfairly maligned by the media and don't care if he tells lots of whoppers. They have closed ranks.

But his support is not broadening, and those opposed to him have also deepened their resolve. The president has done little to bridge that divide. His verbal assaults on American institutions, calling the press “the enemy of the people” and some FBI agents “scum,” don't help much.

We expect and accept a certain amount of “strategic hyperbole” from our politicians; accentuating the positive and ignoring the negative has always been a solid political strategy. We don't, however, expect them to create their own reality while rewriting history in the process.

The point is that it's all so unnecessary. The president has a straightforward story to tell that his base would like just fine. In fact, he's winning, which makes it difficult to understand why he keeps talking like a poor loser. 


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