President Donald Trump has threatened to “send in the Feds!” if Chicago doesn’t “fix” the violence that has continued into the new year.
Does he mean what he wrote in a tweet sent late Tuesday? Is he talking about federal agents assisting police or outright martial law in one of America’s largest cities?
Who knows. The man is a liar.
I don’t mean our new president is a liar in the casual, all-politicians-are-liars sense. I mean he’s a liar without conscience, without purpose or strategy. He’s not cunning, he’s simply unabashedly dishonest and, even in the first days of his presidency, has made it impossible to know whether he means anything he says or tweets.
Donald Trump’s presidency, at the moment, is terrifying to people who acknowledge a difference between truth and fiction.
Still bothered that Hillary Clinton received about 2.8 million more votes than he did, Trump lied to congressional leaders in a meeting earlier this week, saying he would have won the popular vote had it not been for as many as 5 million illegal votes. That is false. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support that claim. Even simple logic doesn’t support that claim.
If it were true — if there was evidence that even suggested millions of illegal votes — we would have voter fraud on such a massive scale it would threaten our democracy and render the results of the November election illegitimate.
But we don’t, and saying otherwise is — you guessed it — a lie.
For Trump, it’s a lie seemingly without purpose. He’s president. He won. The popular vote doesn’t matter. Spouting an outrageous falsehood about illegal voters does nothing to advance his legislative agenda or his vision for improving the country. It only undermines his presidency and the Republican lawmakers eager to set a conservative agenda.
The only possible purpose of such a lie is to soothe Trump’s disturbingly fragile ego.
Some supporters like to say that Trump messes with the truth just to stick it to the media and keep us off balance. But the president wasn’t poking the media with his illegal voters comment. He was speaking to — and lying to — lawmakers.
Some even acknowledged the absurdity of his comments.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said of the supposed illegal voters: “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said: “To continue to suggest that the 2016 election was conducted in a fashion that millions of people voted illegally undermines faith in our democracy.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox Business Network he didn’t understand why Trump brought up the voter non-issue: “I have no evidence whatsoever, and I don’t know that anyone does, that there are that many illegal people who voted.”
So why lie?
In a visit to CIA headquarters over the weekend, Trump wasn’t just needling the media when he claimed that as many as 1.5 million people were on the National Mall for his inauguration. That’s false. It’s a lie. And he said it to about 400 CIA employees who, quite frankly, deserve better.
Again, why lie about the crowd size? The number of people at the inauguration doesn’t make him any more or less the president of the United States. The lie doesn’t help him make America great again. Quite the opposite.
It makes him a leader who can’t be trusted.
So where do you stand on this? Are you shouting “fake news” out one side of your mouth while out the other side saying “go get ’em” as the leader of the free world pointlessly prevaricates?
Do you condone these bald-faced lies? Or do you see the damage they do, not just to Trump’s presidency, but to the country as a whole?
They’re certainly not as consequential as some of the lies of past presidents, ones that led us to war or promised us we could keep our doctors. Trump’s lies are frivolous.
But that’s what’s so rattling. He’s lying not to promote a policy or cover his tail or to gloss over predictions that might not be reliable. He’s lying only to make himself feel better.
That is not a leader. That is, to borrow a term of fragility popular among Trump’s more vitriolic supporters, a snowflake.
So what do we make here in Chicago about Trump’s tweet-threat to send in federal forces. Is it legal? Would it work? Could it happen?
There’s no sense even asking those questions because, sadly, you first have to ask this: Is the president of the United States of America lying?