Barely one week into the reign of the Donald as America’s 45th President, I’m reminded of what the late Art Buchwald said during the crazy days of Watergate almost 45 years ago. He said columnists usually had to be creative to come up with eye-catching content. During Watergate, all that was required was ‘packaging’. The truth was far more compelling than anything that might be made up.
But the question that’s becoming more and more difficult to answer in the Trump era is “What is the truth, and does anyone care about it any more?”
Without presenting any evidence of any kind, the President claimed this past week that somewhere between three and five million Americans voted illegally in the November election. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who is quickly coming to resemble Baghdad Bob when it comes to credibility, spent his first weekend in the West Wing fighting with the media about crowd estimates on Inauguration Day.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway was undoubtedly the star of the week though for coming up with the classic synonym for lies – just call them Alternative Facts! In the world of political doubletalk, that outshines Ron Ziegler’s famous ‘inoperative statement’ during Watergate.
Another man who made his career during the great scandal that brought down Tricky Dick Nixon in 1974 might have said it best not that long ago about the role of the media in the digital age.
Carl Bernstein said “Our job is to give readers and viewers the best available version of the truth”. Please, always remember this. Just because a person holding high office says something, it does not mean it’s the truth.
The legendary Washington reporter I.F. Stone may have nailed it many years ago when he declared that politicians are lying almost every time they open their mouths. He seemed to be saying, if you pay too much attention to the obvious lies, you might just miss the real story.
Photo by Gage Skidmore