Facts and Trust

Mon, 2017-06-26

Medium | Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer 

This week’s Sunday New York Times (P.10) ran a full page op-ed “Trump’s Lies” with the bulk of the page devoted to examples to illustrate the title of the piece.

Op-Ed authors David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson thesis is that the president “is trying to create an atmosphere were reality is irrelevant”. It isn’t exactly news that presidents’ lie and sometimes there are valid national security reasons that require them to do so. If you look at the last 70 years or so LBJ lied about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon lied about Watergate, JFK lied about US intervention in Cuba, Eisenhower lied about there being no U2 spy planes flying over the Soviet Union, FDR lied to the voters in 1940 that he was “fighting to keep our people out” of the war in Europe when he was already working with Churchill, and George W. Bush lied about the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq, to name a few of the most significant ones. What is different currently, as Leonhardt and Thompson point out, is that the frequency, regardless of whether the issue is large or small, creates the sense that reality is irrelevant.

Charles Lewis noted in his book 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity that “Facts are and must be the coin of the realm in a democracy, for government of the people, by the people, and for the people” in Abraham Lincoln’s words, requires an informed citizenry”. And in the current era of fake news and alternative facts we need our elected officials — the people we send to Washington to represent us — to respect us enough to stick with the facts and tell us why they feel idea A is better than idea B.