The Man Who Cried Wolf

When it comes to the Big Lie, one must turn to the master, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief who theorized:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”

The incompetent President Donald Trump and his equally challenged agency heads, sychopants and allies aren’t clever enough to pull deceitful and cunning Machiavellian maneuvers outlined in the Renaissance philosopher’s “The Prince.” So, they revert to boldly telling lies outright, with abandon. Their rightwing propaganda outlets, Fox News, Breitbart and others, are sure to amplify them. And millions may believe them.

Truth is the biggest casualty of the Trump administration (18,000 lies told by the president, says The Washington Post. And those are the ones caught publicly). Even the scales of justice at Atty. Gen. William Barr’s so-called Justice Department have toppled because of excess weight as it twists and turns the truth at his and Trump’s behest. And the big fibs come every now and then (See Barr’s feeble attempt to whitewash special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.)

The objective of spreading falsehoods in the Trump administration is to blame others for the president’s failings or to distract and deflect from them as if they never occurred. Leave us not forget that he is an impeached president. And probably the worst in American history, saving James Buchanan from that dishonor in his ineptness before the Civil War.

Maybe Trump lies because he has nothing positive to offer the majority of people, merely, as economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says, tax cuts and deregulation – good only for the wealthy minority such as Trump’s donors, Wall Street hedge fund managers and a plethora of industries, oil and gas perhaps chief among them. Or all of the above. There’s no moral compass connected to repeated lying, no conscience in play, no shame.

It’s worse than Aesop’s boy who cried wolf. And the moral of that story is don’t lie.

Why the constant in-your-face pathological lying?

Trump lies so often that when he told reporters he has been taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to fight off Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19), the first reaction among much of the mainstream media was to question whether he was telling the truth.

Hasn’t the White House caught on that lying has its consequences? Don’t they know that Goebbels’ theory contains a timeline: that people can accept a lie so long as there are no “political, economic and/or military consequences.” COVID-19,  the resulting lockdown’s jolt to the economy and widespread unemployment of millions of people just could be the consequences for Trump’s re-election chances.

The brazen falsehoods started from Day One of the Trump presidency when Trump kept insisting that his inauguration crowd was bigger than President Barack Obama’s. All it took were photos of both inaugurations to show that the turnout for Obama was huge compared with that for Trump’s. How can someone lie about something that is so simple to prove false? Little children do that because they don’t know right from wrong. Trump & Co. must think we’re all stupid.

Another example: There’s absolutely no truth to Trump’s charges that Obama had left him a mess, specifically with reference to materials about how to confront a pandemic. To be shown up for the lie that it is, all Obama administration officials had to do was produce a 69-page outline of how to deal with a major viral disease.

Even Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader from Kentucky, had to walk back his statement that the previous administration did not prepare for a pandemic. To his credit, he publicly apologized. “I was wrong,” he said.

Trump was mum because it’s an article of faith with him never to admit he’s wrong.

It’s Trump’s lies that create chaos, a state of being in which the president seems to thrive.

What of the imposition of tariffs on China that Trump told the American people would be paid by Beijing? Not only was that not true, but the tax on Chinese exports to the United States led President Xi Jinping to stop buying such U.S. exports as farm produce and hogs. That cost Washington billions of dollars in aid to farmers to make up for their lost income, a sop in a bid to ensure they would vote for Trump.

And what of the lie that Mexico would pay for his wall? Instead, he shifted money from the Pentagon for an expensive boondoggle (Trump’s Folly?), which already has been breached by smugglers.

And the latest? Trump’s insistence the United States does more testing for the virus of its people than any other country and that the numbers of deaths from the disease – now headed north toward 100,000 — are exaggerated.

“. . . We do, by far, the most testing,” Trump said in a recent meeting with Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. “If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases.”

Do I dare mention his recommendations to those afflicted with the virus to inject oneself with a disinfectant or bleach, both deadly poisons.

Where does Trump come up with these things? He went through military school, to college, to the renowned Wharton School of Business. He must have learned something, no? But he won’t reveal his grades. Why not? That bad, Mr. President?

And he has the temerity to assert former Vice President Joe Biden, Jr., his presumptuous Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, is losing his mind. Trump calls him “Sleepy Joe.” He slanders everyone who criticizes or opposes him, fires anyone who contradicts him.

Goebbels would have hired Trump.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.