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Susan Estrich - Truth or consequences

  • Published in Columns

Our new president, it appears, believes that his power includes the right to lie, to insist that black is white and white is black and that the truth is whatever he says it is.

Harsh? I wish.

Take his insistence that more people came to his inauguration than Barack Obama's: Wrong. Not so. Universally debunked.

Trump did not win the popular vote. It was not stolen from him by millions of undocumented immigrants overwhelming polling places, as he insists. As if that's what you would do if you're worried about being deported — go in and lie at a polling place. Very sensible. Anyway, it didn't happen. There is no evidence. No proof. In fact, all evidence is to the contrary. When his team is asked to come up with facts, evidence or support, they offer none.

But the president still believes it. He's Donald Trump. He won. He gets to decide what is true.

Does anyone tell him just how dangerous this little game is?

Or do they stand in a circle, looking like nothing so much as a meeting of the Politburo, ignoring the fact that the orange-haired bully at the table is wearing no clothes?

Okay, so what if Trump can't handle the fact that maybe Obama was more popular than him (and still is today)? And maybe he can't handle the fact that, actually, the American people didn't want him to be president; more of them wanted Hillary Clinton than him, even though he had all those phone banks in Moscow working overtime.

Is it really news that the new president is the biggest egomaniac to hold the office?

Is it so bad if he gives America's comics fresh material on a daily basis?

This is what is bad: It is bad to have a president who does not know or care about the difference between what is true and what is not true.

There are unknowns; there are relative differences; there are differences of opinion.

But there is such a thing as the truth. There is such a thing as a fact. There is also such a thing as a lie.

It is one of the first lessons we teach our children. It is first because it is important, a matter of principle as well as good sense. Lying is not just inaccurate but wrong. Playing games with the facts is one of the things people resent most about politicians. True.

Which is why it is horrifying to see a president — a president of the United States — with utter contempt for cold, hard facts that hardly matter, such as inauguration attendance numbers. If he would lie about anything, would he lie about everything?

"President continues to credit debunked accounts," the headlines read. Has he really surrounded himself with people who dare not, not a one of them, tell him that he is actually wrong, that his "facts" are wrong, that he did not win the popular vote, that it wasn't the illegal immigrants who cost him, that more people actually wanted Clinton and more people came to celebrate Obama's swearing-in? Sorry, Donald, but no, you are not the most popular person on the entire planet. If his advisers won't tell him the easy stuff — the stuff that, frankly, shouldn't matter to someone with the weight of the world on his shoulders — what else will they let him lie about?

Donald Trump makes junk science look good by comparison: There is no science about his lies, just junk. And one of these days, the truth might actually matter.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)