Updated: Jul 4, 2019
One would expect that the presidential administration that coined the phrase “alternative facts” would play fast and loose with realism, but this week, he may have officially jumped the shark. Speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention this week, President Trump said the following:
“This country is doing better than it’s ever done before economically…. it’s all working out. Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” (Italics added)
That’s right. The president is essentially asking Americans to ignore what they’re seeing and reading in the mainstream media, which he has repeatedly referred to as the "enemy of the people." The implication is that instead, we should only believe what he and the administration tell us.
Yes, the president for whom news outlets have a running tally of lies he’s told (more than 3,200 through the end of May), is asking us to believe him instead of mainstream news.
It would be funny if it were an episode of the Simpsons, but it isn’t so comical if you’re an American citizen clinging to the freedoms of Democracy, fighting the spread of false news, and pushing back against the creeping signs of fascism.
If the president is to become our official news source, we’re going to be awfully busy just trying to decide which of his contradictory statements and positions is the one the president would have us believe.
Did They or Didn’t They, Mr. President?
Do we believe the President Trump who stood on a platform at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 and denied Russian interference in our election? Or do we believe the president’s sharp reversal on his remarks the next day -- only after bipartisan condemnation of his slap in the face to U.S. intelligence agencies that have confirmed that Russia did indeed try to meddle in our presidential election?
On July 16, when asked by a reporter if he believed that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said: “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Then, 27 hours later at a meeting in the White House, Trump walked back that statement and said, “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t’ or why it wouldn’t be Russia instead of why it would.’”
Just a few days after that, Trump once more denied Russian interference, leaving the White House communications team to interpret what the president meant when he said yet again that Russia didn’t interfere.
The problem is this: clear communication and information sharing is a fundamental responsibility of the presidency that shouldn’t require interpretation by the White House communications team. Moreover, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are full and complete declaratory responses. They need no interpretation.
Yet, the president’s responses have vacillated from one to the other with seemingly no rhyme or reason for taking the reverse opinion. If we’re to believe the president, he must be consistent and truthful with the American public, and that’s proven to be difficult for him.
Consider the Source
While Americans are certainly well within their rights to believe either the media or the president, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the former is a more reliable source for truth than the latter.
Unbiased, non-partisan, well-established and credible news outlets accurately and consistently portray the details of what happened or what exists – the facts. Yes, those outlets occasionally get the details wrong and must run corrections, but they don’t intentionally aim to deceive or lie to the American public. Of course, Trump has brainwashed his true believers to believe that this exactly what the "fake news" media deliberately does.
Conversely, the president has with alarming frequency made demonstrably false statements to the American people and called them truths.
If the goal is to obtain honest information, consider the source.
Stacy Fitzgerald is a Washington, DC area Gen Xer whose obsessions include politics, traveling and food and wine ventures.