What do you do with a president who lies, even when there is valid evidence that they are lies . . . and who then continues to repeat the lies, despite the obvious facts? That's what Donald Trump does, and the TV news hosts are beginning to call him on it.
On Monday night, according to three sources who were there, President Trump used his first official meeting with congressional leaders to go on at some length about his great election win. He repeated the debunked claim that he really won the popular vote, except for the 3 to 5 million "illegals" who voted for Hillary Clinton.
He presents no evidence for this, and election officials have said they have no evidence of intentional voter fraud. In fact, officials have said that only a few cases were reported; and each one proved to be some mixup, like the woman who had voted early and was told by an election worker that her vote had not been recorded and advised her to vote again. Then it turned out the first vote was later also recorded.
There are many disturbing aspects to this presidential lying; one that concerns me most is that (1) either he actually believes the lie, which raises the alarming assumption that he is relying on partisan liars who feed him such distortions, which he then appropriates without any skepticism; or (2) he knows what he's saying is false but thinks he can get away with lies if he repeats them enough. Either possibility does not bode well for what's coming.
Some have even suggested that he literally cannot distinguish between what his inner world and the external real world -- i.e., if he thinks it, it's true. Think about that possibility when there is some world crisis that requires a quick decision that could mean the difference in the survival of millions of people.
Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, insisted that Trump really believes that 3 to 5 million "illegals" voted for Clinton, which is why he lost the popular vote. But we already know that Spicer will repeat Trump's lies, as he's told to do; so should we believe this? Or is this just another (perhaps lying) tactic? This issue, like the size of the inauguration crowd, does not rise to a serious level. But the issue of the president's mental processes is a very serious issue.
Fortunately, it looks like the media is beginning to do its job of holding the powerful accountable. Trump got away with his lies during the campaign, because he always had an enthusiastic rally crowd to reassure him. But now that he is president, he will be under sharper scrutiny with higher standards of truth.
This meeting with congressional leaders is but another example of his inappropriate choices in meeting with government officials. When he went to the CIA headquarters and met with high level CIA officials in the room that honors those CIA men and women who have died in action, he showed minimal respect and understanding of the sacredness that this memorial room has for the CIA.
Instead, he spent most of his time on what former CIA Director John Brennan called disgraceful self-aggrandizement. Can't you see it now? The first national tragedy, like the Sandy Hook school shooting; and President Trump goes to console the families but winds up bragging about himself the whole time.
Completely aside from important policy positions, both domestic and foreign, and completely aside from whatever this connection with Russia is, we have a president who has no clue, or maybe just doesn't care, about "being presidential." Ronald Reagan at least knew how to play the part, even when he was lying about 'welfare queens in their limousines."
And it matters.
PS: Here's an example of our tendency to just accept, to "normalize," Trump's lying -- as members of Congress are now doing by just ignoring it and moving on. And as I was doing. . . . Until watching TV feed of Sean Spicer's Tuesday press meeting, I had not considered this very cogent question one journalist brought up: If Trump really believes that 3 to 5 million non-citizens voted illegally in the election, then why is he not initiating an investigation of such a major scandal?
Asking this question flings down the gauntlet. Show us the evidence that led you to believe this. If you have no evidence, then this is a serious problem to have a president who accepts such obvious falsehoods -- or who can't think critically enough to realize it is not credible. Or, even worse, that he knows it's false and yet insists (according to insider accounts) that his press secretary go out there and lie to the world.
Update: By mid-morning on Wednesday, Trump had called for an investigation into the voting fraud in the 2016 election. Don't say he doesn't listen to the voice of the people. Investigating probably hadn't occurred to him before someone cited that as suggestion that he didn't really believe what he was saying.