President Trump says there’s no chaos going on at the White House. Chaos?! It’s “energy.” No one who isn’t on the Trump payroll bought that one.
On Tuesday night, the GOP flacks fanned out on TV and social media to explain Republicans’ embarrassingly weak showing in the deep-red Pennsylvania 18th District. This is a win because in a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016, we thought we’d do even worse! Well. If Conor Lamb won, it is “because he ran like a Republican.” Hmm. A Republican who is pro-choice, anti-Obamacare repeal and anti-Trump tax bill. That sounds to me suspiciously like … a Democrat.
The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee put out a report (it was Monday, although it seems as though it was weeks ago) that declared they had found “no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” None at all. Nope. Nada. But what about the meeting in Trump Tower to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s call for Russians to release more hacked emails (confidant Roger Stone allegedly had advance warning about WikiLeaks dumps), Trump’s compulsive references in the final days of the campaign to the WikiLeaks emails purloined from John Podesta, Paul Manafort’s offer to give “private briefings” to a Russian oligarch, Carter Page’s pro-Russian speech in Moscow and meeting with Russian officials, George Papadopoulos’s reaching out for incriminating information on Clinton and the change in the RNC platform plank on Ukraine to a pro-Russian position? Sorry, the “investigation” is closed. No questions, please.
Republicans’ whitewash (apologies to diligent whitewashers everywhere) did not even pass muster with some Republicans. Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) confessed that the committee had “lost all credibility.” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) did not see collusion either, but granted, it is hard to spot when you ignore publicly known facts, don’t interview all the key witnesses, don’t read all the documents and don’t wait for the special counsel’s findings. Nevertheless, The Post reports that he “sided with the CIA on Tuesday about Russia’s intentions for Trump. … [He] said it was ‘clear based on the evidence’ that Russia wanted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to lose. Russia wanting Clinton to lose is the same thing as wanting Trump to win, a Gowdy aide clarified.”
Even the spin about when and how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing occurred was quickly undermined by State Department undersecretary Steve Goldstein. (Then he was fired, too — so much energy!)
Let’s not forget the infamous memo from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — a cut-and-paste job that resembled an amateur ransom note. That blew up in his face when Democrats quickly provided the missing context and helped him locate a key footnote explaining that the FISA court was told that the dossier had political sponsors.
Chief of staff John Kelly’s spin as to when he learned about Rob Porter’s alleged spousal abuse and how quickly he reacted didn’t pass the straight-face test with White House staff.
You do get the feeling that the pace of prevarication has not slowed, but the White House’s ability to sustain its misrepresentations is flagging. We can surmise why that might be. Too many staffers are eager to sabotage the guy or gal in the next office, so they undercut one another’s cover stories. The press has gotten more jaundiced and justifiably no longer gives the White House the presumption of honesty. Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) have gotten quicker and more precise in exposing untruths. And social media, which Trump has used to great effect, has become a death trap for spin, where silly talking points and blatant lies are zapped within minutes.
Certainly, all those factors contribute to a shorter shelf-life for White House misrepresentations. But mainly — and this is key — Trump’s constant lying (more than 2,500 lies, by The Post’s count) has convinced a large majority of Americans that he’s not credible. The spin put out under his name is immediately suspect; the only suspense is in finding out which part is untrue. White House spokespersons have misled the press again and again, sapping their own credibility. Mention of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s name evokes eye-rolls.
In short, it does all “matter” — the lies, the mean-spirited attacks, the empty conspiracy theories. It matters because if you lie enough, the lies become less and less effective. Come to think of it, even when you are telling the truth, people may not believe you.