Jack DeVine

Headliner in the "everyone knows" department: the President of the United States is a pathological liar.

We hear and read that constantly. Trump can’t help himself. He will say anything that comes to mind, for whatever self-serving reasons and with zero regard for its truth. He seems neither to recognize nor care about the difference between fact and fiction.

We’re told the entire Trump administration lacks credibility because those who work there are inevitably sucked into his web of lies, always doubling down and covering up. Members of the White House press corps rebelled at the idea of a going away party for Sarah Sanders: after all, she’s been lying to them all along.

And anyone who supports Mr. Trump? Or writers of Op Eds like this one? Unprincipled toadies all.

But here’s an old guy tip: things that "everyone knows" are often all wrong.

The New York Times, CNN and other media and news outlets routinely rail about Trump’s lies. But the mother lode of information on Trump deception is the Washington Post Fact Check operation; the folks who hand out Pinocchios.

To make sure you don’t think their accusations are unfounded, the Post employs a staff dedicated to capturing every recorded Trump utterance – speeches, tweets, interviews, whatever –analyzing and scoring each, and tabulating in computer database.

So there it is. The arbiter of our president’s credibility is none other than the Washington Post, the once-proud news organization that is now owned by Jeff Bezos and is fiercely, unalterably opposed to Donald Trump and everything he does.

As of June 7, the Post’s fact checking machine had identified – individually and specifically – 10,769 Trump "false or misleading statements" since he took office in 2017. They even do the math, pointing out that on average he lies 12.2 times per day, more frequently than the average person washes his or her hands.

My guess is that they don’t expect many folks to dig into the details, but it’s easily downloaded and worth a look.

Scrolling at random through the endless Trump statements, tabulated side-by-side with the WaPo assessment of each, led to me to several immediate conclusions. Much of its content is trivial, and many Trump statements are deemed to be false for reasons such as lacking context or numerically inaccurate even if basically true.

The consequential items are treated more thoroughly. Next to each is a lengthy "analysis," essentially a mini Post OpEd explaining the analysts’ determination. On controversial topics such as climate change or immigration, they often present as fact the very same viewpoints that have been the subject of legitimate debate for years. On topic after topic, what a more objective assessment might consider a valid counterpoint, the Post classifies as a lie.

There is no question about the importance of integrity. At the U.S. Naval Academy, an honor offense conviction – an attempt to deceive, through word or action – usually leads to immediate expulsion. It’s a harsh system, and for good reason. Command at sea is an unforgiving profession; distrust of a commander’s integrity can be fatal for all.

The same holds true, in spades, for our government and its leaders. Americans must trust our leaders and our international counterparts, both friends and foe, must take us seriously.

Donald Trump doesn’t help his own case with his casual, careless speech. He brags. He exaggerates. He spins. (Did we ever meet a politician who doesn’t?) Yes, he referred to Meghan Markle as "nasty" and later denied it. Yes, he claimed that his inauguration crowd was much larger than Obama’s (he should have just said "yuge").

But conflating meaningless banter with truly consequential matters is grossly unfair; it defames both the president and the public servants around him, it is dismissive to millions who support his policies – and ultimately it is damaging to the country.

For example, recent commentary argues that Trump’s chronic lack of integrity threatens prospects for successful engagement with our allies in dealing with Iran’s misbehavior. But is the problem his lack of integrity? Or is it the exaggerated assertions of same, transmitted far and wide and swallowed whole by many?

Without trudging through all 10,769 entries, I suspect that the Washington Post’s tabulation is every bit as misleading as the Trump words they contest. It adds nothing of value to the national conversation.

The Post claims that it is important for the historical record. Its real purpose of course is to discredit a president they despise. They should stick to real news.