On the list of presidential liars: Shortly after being told of the 9/11 attacks of 2001, George W. Bush confers with administration members at a Florida school he was visiting. Months later, he would lie to the American people as he sought to justify an i
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Four days ago, The Washington Post reported that the epic pathological liar Donald Trump made 4,229 false statements during his first 558 days as United States president. Trump spoke or tweeted falsely, on average, an astonishing 7.6 times per day during that time.
We have no historical database of presidential untruth on which to rely to make detailed comparisons, but it is certain that Trump's rate of falsehood is beyond anything ever seen in the White House. Armed with Twitter and a mad and malignantly narcissistic penchant for twisting facts and truth in accord with his own ever-shifting sense of what serves his interests and hurts his perceived foes, this monstrosity is gaslighting the last flickering embers of civic democracy at a velocity that would make Goebbels green with envy.
Keeping up with Trump's erroneous and duplicitous statements is exhausting work, hazardous to one's own sanity. Just as depressing as Trump's serial fabrication and invention is the apparent willingness of tens of millions of ostensibly decent and honest ordinary Americans to tolerate, dismiss or even believe the endless stream of nonsense and bullsh*t.
Still, if much of the populace has become inured to presidential lying and misstatement, it's hardly all the current president's fault.
Deception and misstatement are "as American as Cherry Pie" (to quote H. Rap Brown on violence) -- though here perhaps I should say "as American as George Washington's childhood cherry tree fable."
While we've never seen anything on Trump's psychotic scale, the problem of U.S. presidential deception goes way back in American history.
Eager for a back-door pretext to enter the war against German fascism (a good thing in the opinion of many), for example, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt lied to Congress and the American people when he claimed that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was "unprovoked" by the U.S. and a complete "surprise" to the U.S. military.
President Dwight Eisenhower flatly lied to the American people and the world when he denied the existence of American U-2 spy plane flights over Russia.
President John F. Kennedy lied about the supposed missile gap between the United States and the Soviet Union. And Kennedy lied when he claimed that the United States sought democracy in Latin America, Southeast Asia and around the world.
President Lyndon Johnson lied on Aug. 4, 1965, when he claimed that North Vietnam attacked U.S. Navy destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. This provided a false pretext for a massive escalation of the U.S. war on Vietnam, resulting in the deaths of more than 50,000 U.S. military personnel and millions of Southeast Asians.
Regarding Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg recalled 17 years ago that his 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers exposed U.S. military and intelligence documents "proving that the government had long lied to the country. Indeed, the papers revealed a policy of concealment and quite deliberate deception from the Truman administration onward. " A generation of presidents," Ellsberg noted, "chose to conceal from Congress and the public what the real policy was. ""
President Richard Nixon lied about wanting peace in Vietnam (his agent, Henry Kissinger, actively undermined a peace accord with Hanoi before the 1968 election) and about respecting the neutrality of Cambodia. He lied through secrecy and omission about the criminal and fateful U.S. bombing of Cambodia -- a far bigger crime than the burglarizing of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate complex, about which he of course famously lied.
The serial fabricator Ronald Reagan made a special address to the nation in which he lied by saying, "We did not -- repeat -- we did not trade weapons or anything else [to Iran] for hostages, nor will we."
President George H.W. Bush falsely claimed on at least five occasions in the run-up to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War that Iraqi forces, after invading Kuwait, had pulled babies from incubators and left them to die.