Heavy Lies the Crown
Yesterday, I responded to a thoughtful User Comment posted by my friend Don Friedman about my piece on Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defending Trump's racist American Indian comments. Among other things, Don wondered if people like Ms. Sanders and Kellyanne Conway realize the moral quagmire they've fallen into when they defend lies with lies. What I wrote back --
"My perception is that Conway might have more realization than Sanders. Conway comes across as flailing, arguing which suggests somewhat of an awareness of other options. She's the one who used "alternative facts," which suggests an aware of facts. Sanders seems like a cult member. Convinced that every word she says is true, at least when it leaves her mouth."
So, it was with great interest when I saw what Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz (author of The Art of the Deal) said to Ari Melber on MSNBC last night. “I believe there are people who are concerned,” Schwartz commented about people working in the White House. “Most of them, I think, are hostages to a cult leader. When you watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you really feel as if you’re watching somebody who is being brainwashed, or has been brainwashed.”
All of this came into play earlier in the same day at the White House press briefing. Reporters questioned Huckabee Sanders about Trump retweeting false videos from a British white supremacist group. Rather than walk anything back, the press secretary doubled-down and bizarrely defended lying. Literally. She said it was okay for Trump to lie with the fake videos he retweeted (one of which was not a Muslim beating up a Dutch kid, as it purported to be, but a Dutch kid beating up a Dutch kid), since the videos spoke to a "greater truth" of a security threat in the world.
So, okay, if I understand this Huckabee Sanders Rule correctly, this means then that people can say Trump shot and killed an innocent man in downtown Baltimore and that's all right since it speaks to a greater truth that there is violence in our cities. Seriously??
But going even further, if one accepts the Sarah Huckabee Sanders concept that telling false stories is acceptable as long as they speak to a greater truth... then "Fake news" which Trump claims upsets him so much is actually okay -- as long as it speaks to a greater truth. And since "greater truth" can cut a wide path, then it covers pretty much whatever you want it to be, no matter how general. By the Huckabee Sanders Gambit, you can report on concern in the White House about Trump's secret deal with al Qaeda to attack our allies, as long as the "greater truth" is how this points to there occasionally being disagreement in the White House. Or report on anything ludicrous that you can make up out of Trump's mouth because the "greater truth" is that he likes to say whatever is on his mind. Or perhaps report that Trump plans to jail all liberals since the "greater truth" is how Trump is harsh on his critics. Whatever.
Not that the stories Trump cries about are "Fake" news, of course. The past year has born out the truth of probably 99% of what Trump has claimed to be "fake." But the point is that if the Trump administration is now officially okay on-the-record with telling lies as long as they serve some other truth, then Trump has no business complaining about what he claims is "Fake" news. According to his press secretary, "fake" is fine. Acceptable. Even noble, apparently.
And no, to be clear, I am not advocating this. Lying to prove a point is, of course, not remotely acceptable. It's idiotic and reprehensible. The lie does not prove some greater truth, it contradicts it.
Ultimately, all this about lying for "greater truths" is just another backhanded way to try and justify "alternative facts." There are no "alternative facts." There are facts. Anything different from a fact is inaccurate -- at best.
It's worth noting, too, that among those white supremacist videos that Trump retweeted yesterday, and did so without comment, just basically, "Here's the video, folks," one was an official al Qaeda propaganda video. Honest. Although a person's first thought might be to imagine Republican Party reaction if Barack Obama had done that, simply presented al Qaeda propaganda as is, what's more appropriate to imagine is if ANYONE -- other than al Qaeda -- did it.
By the way, while people rightly focused on the ghastly, wildly unpresidential racist tweets by Trump yesterday, what's slipped under the wire and gone little-noticed is that when he snarked a tweet back to British Prime Minister Theresa May (which is bad enough, especially since she was upset that he had made her efforts to fight terrorism more difficult by retweeting British white supremacists)...he initially got her Twitter handle WRONG!! Instead, it went to some other woman with the same name and six followers! O dear Lord above, I dearly hope he is more careful deal with Top Secret material. But then, given how he leaked code-level secrets to the Russian ambassador, that's not a given.
Not to worry. I'm sure that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would come up with some way to explain how such a high-level breach is actually a good thing. Because it speaks to a "greater truth." Like, "What the president showed today is how vulnerable our national security is."
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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