(Tom Toles)
Editorial cartoonist

The only noticeable difference in President Trump’s newest attempt to get us to believe anything he says is how uncomfortable he looked saying it. He had all the contrition and sincerity of a kid sent to the chalkboard to write 100 times, “Vladimir Putin is NOT a good friend of U.S. democracy.”

As to the plausibility of his meaning to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would,” little needs to be added. It’s not plausible at all given the context of his other remarks at the time, his obvious squirming demeanor, his track record for not telling the truth, or his adding the gratuitous qualifier “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.” The cosmos was also signaling us as the room faded to black as he spoke. Did somebody say “Democracy Dies in Darkness”?

No, this new version of reality wasn’t particularly even meant to be believed. The story is now 180 degrees different? It’s 1984! Now we’re allied with Eurasia and always have been! Use your Memory Hole!

And this is where Trump drew yet another step closer to Putin. Putin says a lot of things, too. He doesn’t expect Russians to believe him either. He said himself at the Helsinki news conference, “As to who is to be believed, who is not to be believed, you can trust no one.” The point for Putin, for Russia, for any controlled propaganda state, isn’t that you believe or don’t believe. It is that you have no choice. There is one official source of information, and that’s all that counts. It has the power to make you act as if you believe it.

And that, of course, is the danger here, with Trump’s relentless assault on the truth. His goal is to undermine the very idea of truth. “You can trust no one.” The independent media is fake news. Let him say it a few thousand more times. Fake news. Fake news. Fake news. All of it. Any of it. Until all assertions are equal, though some assertions are more equal than others. The assertions of the leader. Of Trump. As of Putin in Russia, so as of Trump in America.

Don’t believe that’s what’s going on? Then Trump’s mission is half completed.