Malacandra.me

Loving the liar

Loving the liar

by digby

This story in the NY Times surveys the history of presidential lying, showing how we are now in a new era of mendacity:

On the theory that politicians who get caught in lies put their reputations at risk, Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College (and contributor to The New York Times’s Upshot) and some colleagues tried to study the effects of Mr. Trump’s misstatements during last year’s presidential campaign.

In a controlled experiment, researchers showed a group of voters a misleading claim by Mr. Trump, while another group saw that claim accompanied by “corrective information” that directly contradicted what Mr. Trump had said. The group that viewed the corrections believed the new information, but seeing it did not change how they viewed Mr. Trump.

“We know politicians are risk averse. They try to minimize negative coverage, and that negative coverage could damage their image over time,” Mr. Nyhan said. “But the reputational consequences of making false claims aren’t strong enough. They’re not sufficiently strong to dissuade people from misleading the public.”

Of course, lying to court voters is one thing, and lying to federal prosecutors quite another. When Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, was accused of a long list of federal corruption counts related to claims that he tried to sell Mr. Obama’s seat in the United States Senate, he was asked quite directly about lying.

While Mr. Blagojevich was testifying under oath, a prosecutor pressed him on whether he made a habit, as a politician, of lying to the public. They sparred over whether Mr. Blagojevich had fed a misleading story to a local newspaper.

“That was a lie,” the prosecutor, Reid Schar, was quoted as saying.

Mr. Blagojevich refused to fess up. “That was a misdirection play in politics,” he answered.

He was sentenced to a 14-year prison term in 2011.

Joel Sawyer, a Republican strategist in South Carolina, said there were two ways for a politician to deal with deceit.

“One is to never acknowledge it, which seems to have been employed pretty successfully by our current president,” Mr. Sawyer said. “The second is to rip the Band-Aid off and say: ‘I screwed up; here’s why. Give me another chance, and I won’t disappoint you again.’”

Mr. Sawyer worked for a politician — Mark Sanford, then the governor of South Carolina — who took the latter approach. On a June weekend in 2009, Mr. Sanford slipped out of the South Carolina capitol and flew to Buenos Aires to be with his lover, but told his staff that he had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail. His aides, including Mr. Sawyer, unknowingly passed the lie on to reporters.

Mr. Sanford later apologized profusely. Voters eventually rewarded him; today he serves in Congress.

Many of Mr. Trump’s lies — like the time he boasted that he had made the “all-time record in the history of Time Magazine” for being on its cover so often — are somewhat trivial, and “basically about him polishing his ego,” said John Weaver, a prominent Republican strategist.

That mystifies Bob Ney, a Republican former congressman who spent time in prison for accepting illegal gifts from a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, and lying to federal investigators about it. “It really baffles me why he has to feel compelled to exaggerate to exonerate himself,” Mr. Ney said.

But other presidential lies, like Mr. Trump’s false claim that millions of undocumented immigrants had cast ballots for his opponent in the 2016 election, are far more substantive, and pose a threat, scholars say, that his administration will build policies around them.

The glaring difference between Mr. Trump and his predecessors is the sheer magnitude of falsehoods and exaggerations; PolitiFact rates just 20 percent of the statements it reviewed as true, and a total of 69 percent either mostly false, false or “Pants on Fire.” That leaves scholars like Ms. Goodwin to wonder whether Mr. Trump, in elevating the art of political fabrication, has forever changed what Americans are willing to tolerate from their leaders.

“What’s different today and what’s scarier today is these lies are pointed out, and there’s evidence that they’re wrong,” she said. “And yet because of the attacks on the media, there are a percentage of people in the country who are willing to say, ‘Maybe he is telling the truth.’”


People believe what they want to believe. On some level many of Trump's followers know he's a con man. But he's their con man. As long as he's sticking it to the people they hate, they don't care.

I don't know where this all leads but it isn't good.