Trump will say literally anything to get re-elected
Everyone who covers President Donald Trump with even the slighted bit of integrity will tell you he's prone to lie and distort the facts with little compunction. But the media is still struggling to cope with this fact.
And as we head into the crucial stretch of the 2020 campaign, reporters and the voting public need to prepare themselves. Because the fact is, not only does Trump lie prolifically — but he is clearly prepared to say literally anything if it thinks it will help him get re-elected.
This may sound like an exaggeration, but it's hard to think of any other limiting principle to his dishonesty and manipulation. Being willing to say anything, of course, doesn't mean he will say anything, because many lies wouldn't help him be re-elected. If he tried, for instance, to tell the American people that Hillary Clinton had been locked up, or that everyone will get a million dollars if he's re-elected, these lies wouldn't help. Everyone could see that Clinton isn't in jail, and even his hardcore supporters aren't gullible enough to believe we could all get a million dollars.
But as the 2018 midterm elections drew to a close, Trump showed how shameless he could be. He fearmongered endlessly about the caravan of South American migrants coming from Mexico, fueling conspiracy theories and anti-immigrant myths.
Then, in an even more desperate and transparent move, Trump promised that he would push a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class. He never explained why, if that was his plan, it wasn't a part of the tax bill he signed the previous year.
“We are giving a middle-income tax reduction of about 10 percent,” Trump said in late October of 2018. "We're doing it now for middle-income people. This is not for businesses. It's for middle."
He added: “We will do the vote after the election.”
You might recall that this vote never happened, no such tax cut was ever enacted. It was never going to be enacted. Trump just lied. He feared the blue wave that was coming, and he didn't let the truth get in the way of a frantic campaign gambit. While it seems the tax cut lie didn't help him much — the blue wave came crashing down, after all — it's disconcerting that he never paid a price for this shameless move.
And after the 2016 election, he cooked up the idea that he actually won the popular vote, despite losing it to Clinton by nearly 3 million. He said millions of people voted fraudulently in California, despite the obvious absurdity of the claim.
Now, he and his allies are pushing a new swath of conspiracy theories and allegations, under the umbrella of the farcical term "Obamagate," about the previous administration's actions regarding the Russia investigation. These charges, thus far, seem transparently frivolous, but that doesn't stop Attorney General Bill Barr and Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell from trying to spin the facts in a way they hope will benefit Trump.
But Trump isn't as devoted to the art of spin as, say, Barr is. Though he's undoubtedly crossed the line into outright lies at times, Barr's preference is to deceive through a careful twisting of the facts, presented in a misleading and tortured way. Whether this is because of his instincts as a lawyer or his need to justify his actions to himself, it's not clear.
The president has no such instincts. He's not content with spin. He will just make up whatever claims he likes, as he's always done. He's already called Obamagate the "biggest political crime in American history," despite not being able to name what crime he's talking about.
He certainly doesn't care if he contradicts himself. When he was running in 2016, he claimed the administration's unemployment numbers were bogus, hiding a massive jobless crisis in the United States. But once he became president, these same numbers were used to tout his supposed success as president. He even had his press secretary deliver this flip-flop with a joke: "They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now."
There's one other subject Trump is almost guaranteed to lie about in the run-up to the election: the pandemic. In fact, it seems he's already begun. Despite extreme caution about predicting the course of vaccine development among experts, Trump and his team are promising to deliver a vaccine by the end of the year — a pace that has no precedent in medical history.
Defense Secretary Esper said Friday: "We will deliver by the end of this year a vaccine at scale."
What's convenient, of course, is that this bold promise can't be disproven for sure until after the election. Which is why it's so important for Americans to realize that not only does Trump lie a lot, but he'll say anything to win. If something coming from his mouth sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
The most terrifying possibility, though, is that Trump will lose in November, but claim, once again, that his opponent's success was due to voter fraud. He will then fight with everything he has to hold on to power. The factor likely to determine his success or failure is whether his right-wing supporters in Congress and the judiciary go along with his lies.