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The Distractor-in-Chief

President Donald Trump’s lies have broken all records, having in recent days gone beyond the 2,000 mark. Facing strong criticism, most people would probably stop repeating such deviant conduct. Not our president, though, since he seems to have internalized this behavior, and continues lying.

One has to admire the broad range covered by his lies and falsehoods. Let’s see what Trump says about taxes. He repeatedly claimed that the United States has the highest corporate taxes in the world (untrue); President Trump should pay a visit to the Scandinavian countries to understand what high taxes really mean.

President Trump also said that the tax cut he signed was the biggest tax cut in the history of the U.S., trying to give the impression that most people would benefit from it; in reality it mainly benefits the corporations and the rich and punishes the poor, either directly or by cutting their benefits and health care rights.

When President Trump said that the Affordable Care Act was dying or is “essentially dead” he was disproved by a Congressional Budget Office assessment. The assessment stated that the Obamacare exchanges, despite shortcomings, are not imploding and will probably remain stable for the foreseeable future. That Trump’s repeated efforts to repeal that law failed –despite the Republican majority in the Senate- is the best repudiation of his statement.

Regarding the diverse visa lottery he said, “…they put people in that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people.” In this context, however, the term “lottery” implies that applicants are selected by a randomized computerized drawing; however, the applicants go through a background check before coming into the country, and some applicants even undergo an additional in-depth assessment if they are considered a security risk.

Building a wall in the border with Mexico has been the president’s long time obsession. “We can build the wall in one year and we can build it for much less money,” he said. However, not even the most optimistic scenario indicates that the wall would take less than four years to be built.

Trump also claims that the wall would stop the illegal entry of drugs into the country, a statement refuted by the Drug Enforcement Administration that says that most drugs are smuggled through legal ports of entry or underground tunnels. In addition, the drug problem in the U.S. will only be solved when the demand for and the use of drugs in the country are properly addressed.

In a considerable display of “chutzpah” the President also said, in an interview with The New York Times, that “virtually every Democrat” had stated that the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians. This is, in fact, one of the main points of contention of the Democrats against the Trump administration.

Why does the President lie and why does he repeat his lies several times? There may be a psychological mechanism behind a person’s repeated lies. “The compulsivity of pathological liars means that these are not people who choose to lie. Lying here becomes automatic. It is a mechanism for maintaining psychological safety and reducing interpersonal anxiety,” wrote psychologist Rune Moelback.

There is an alternative way of looking at the President’s lying. Consciously -or more probably unconsciously- he tries to deflect attention from more important and dangerous policies. Henry Ahumada, a communications expert, says, “While people are paying attention to the President’s lies, an attack on civil liberties, the economy, the environment and education is being systematically carried out.” If he lies consciously, then it is possible that the Distractor-in-Chief may be more intelligent than people assume him to be. Which could be truly dangerous.

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Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

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