President Donald Trump recently talked with Fox News about his tweeted claim that he’d been wiretapped by former President Barack Obama.
There’s no evidence Trump’s allegation is true. That didn’t stop the tweeter-in-chief.
“Don’t forget I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes,” the president said. “Nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing.”
Here’s what else is important: telling the truth. At that, Trump continues to fail. Dangerously.
Friday, he refused again to back away from the wiretapping whopper.
The president’s predilection for stretching facts into unrecognizable shapes has been well-known for months.
Some statements have been relatively benign. He once claimed America has no chess grandmasters. We have 90, Politifact found.
Other false statements have been ugly. He famously claimed to have seen video of thousands of Muslims celebrating after 9/11. He linked Sen. Ted Cruz’s father to the John F. Kennedy assassination. He said massive voter fraud cost him the popular vote in November.
As president, Trump has factually misled the country on immigration, employment, health care, the Keystone XL pipeline, crime, the travel ban, Guantanamo detainees, his national security team, voting in New Hampshire, even the size of the crowd at his inauguration.
Some of the president’s stumbles can be explained by his inexperience in government and politics. Some missteps come from his unquestioning reliance on dubious sources of news.
Other problems are a result of his compulsion to use social media, particularly Twitter, without asking someone to check his facts.
We were warned, of course: Take him seriously, but not literally.
That can’t be the standard now. The president’s words matter — not just on the specifics of policy, but as tests of his credibility on other issues.
Tensions are escalating between the U.S. and North Korea over nuclear proliferation. The president eventually may need to convince the country to support an armed conflict there.
How will we know if Trump is telling the truth? We won’t.
Credibility must be built. It can’t be turned on and off like a switch.
All presidents stretch the facts. Obama said you could keep your doctor. George W. Bush said America’s mission in Iraq had been accomplished. Bill Clinton never had sexual relations with that woman.
And then there’s Richard Nixon.
Their statements were damaging, yet each dealt with a policy dispute or a specific scandal.
Trump, on the other hand, prevaricates with reckless abandon on issues large and small. He embarrasses his supporters and angers his opponents.
He’s the air quote president.
After two months in office, Trump’s credibility gap has become a dangerous chasm. It threatens his administration and the nation he serves. He must learn to tell the truth.
By the way: Two of Trump’s wiretap tweets did not use quote marks.
He isn’t telling the truth about that, either.