Does A President’s Denial Have Meaning?

Does A President’s Denial Have Meaning?


Leonard Zwelling

Mr. Trump says he is not a racist. Yet, his utterances belie his disclaimers and his past remarks about people all over the world as well as his fellow Americans (remember the “Mexican judge” who was born in Indiana?) suggest otherwise. His history and that of his developer father indicate that Mr. Trump judges people on the color of their skin and their birthplace. That, as you remember, included his judgment of his predecessor in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump is clearly a racist his denials not withstanding.

His denials of his obvious shortcomings put him in good company.

For those of you old enough to remember Richard Nixon, he claimed he “was not a crook.” Well, it turns out that he was a crook as he obstructed justice and was the impetus to all kinds of dirty tricks that finally did justify his nickname of Tricky Dick. Richard Nixon denied what was patently true. He was dishonest about being dishonest.

Flash forward about twenty years and we have the Clinton denials of his having an affair with a White House intern. “I did not have sex with that woman,” he said. Yes, he did. He lied about what he had obviously done. Unlike Mr. Nixon, he got away with it. I am not so sure he would have in today’s environment of #MeToo moments and the clear elucidation of the abuse of power on the part of many prominent men.

The real damage here is to the truth. When three of the past few presidents can flout the truth on national television when the entire world knows they are lying, reality itself comes into question. (And what about the Pentagon Papers and how many presidents played fast and loose with the truth about Vietnam?) This is the world of Trump’s alternate facts and it is a world that the media and the rest of us should not tolerate.

The problem is how can the truth be discerned when one is presented with two opposing sets of facts as is the case with Mr. Trump’s expletive ridden rant in the Oval Office over a discussion of immigration policy? The easy answer is that each of us will have to make up his or her own mind with regard to what they believe about what the current president says and eventually what he does. He had signaled that if the Republicans and Democrats brought him a deal on DACA he would sign it. Senators Graham and Durbin did just that and were high jacked by a group of right-wing members of the Senate and House who probably got to the president’s staff and prevented Mr. Trump from fulfilling his pledge. What a tragedy! What a useless shutdown!

I have worked for people whose decisions were that of the last person they talked to. It made doing business very difficult indeed. A leader must know what he or she stands for and what he or she believes. It is best if the leader acts in accordance with those stances and beliefs. If he or she deviates from them, he or she needs to explain why without using four-letter expletives.

Even a president needs to stand for something or he’ll fall for anything. That includes Mr. Trump.

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