White House of Lies

We never had much hope for Donald Trump, who ran for president as a fake populist on trade and economic issues who promised to protect American workers and “drain the swamps” in Washington. But for years Trump has shown a reckless disregard for the truth in his public statements, acted as a grifter with authoritarian leanings and has a history of stiffing contractors, fighting unions and looking out for No. 1.

Since he has been presidenting, Trump has been caught lying at a dizzying pace. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, as of Oct. 10, had counted 1,318 false or misleading claims in the 263 days since he was inaugurated. PolitiFact, which has been checking Trump’s claims since 2011, has examined 462 Trump statements and found fewer than 5% of Trump’s statements checked out as entirely true while 48% were entirely false. At the same time, Trump has reneged on campaign promises, packing his administration with half a dozen former executives of Goldman Sachs as well as pro-corporate administrators at federal agencies to prevent health and human services, environmental protection, public schools, federal lands and fair labor and housing standards.

Now it appears the Grifter in Chief’s mendacity has infected Chief of Staff John Kelly, who joined in Trump’s efforts to slander a Florida congresswoman who criticized Trump’s awkward attempt at a condolence call to the widow of US soldier killed in West Africa.

Kelly, a retired Marine general, was widely seen as the grown-up who was grounded in the real world, and who could instill order in the White House when he was moved July 28 from Homeland Security to become the gatekeeper to the Oval Office.

Kelly was sucked into the Trump vortex on Oct. 19 when US Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) criticized Trump after the president told Myeshia Johnson on the phone that her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in action with three other US soldiers in Niger, “must have known what he signed up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

Trump denied Wilson’s account, stating that he had proof it was “totally fabricated,” without producing evidence. But Wilson’s account was corroborated by Johnson’s aunt, who was with the widow and Wilson when Trump spoke to Mrs. Johnson on a speaker phone.

Kelly, in a press conference, said he was “stunned” that a member of Congress listened in on that conversation. “It stuns me. I thought at least that was sacred,” said Kelly, who was also listening in on the conversation with Trump. Kelly actually confirmed much of Wilson’s account, though he clarified that the president meant that Johnson knew the risks but he enlisted anyway.

Kelly went on to criticize Wilson as an “empty barrel” who, at the dedication of an FBI building in Florida in 2015, disgusted Kelly by hogging the credit for securing funding of the building.

Video of the event showed Wilson actually was responsible for naming the building for two slain FBI agents, and she fulsomely praised the dead agents, along with other law enforcement personnel at the dedication, as well as bipartisan members of Congress who helped rush the naming of the building in time for the dedication.

Kelly did not apologize for his slander and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said Kelly was justified in accusing the lawmaker of grandstanding. “As we say in the South: all hat, no cattle,” Sanders said of Wilson, an African American who is known for wearing brightly colored cowboy hats.

Showing contempt for the First Amendment, Sanders also warned reporters not to criticize Kelly, because he was a four-star general: “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate,” she drawled.

After Sgt. Johnson’s funeral, Mrs. Johnson on Oct. 23 confirmed that Wilson’s version of events was “100 percent correct” and said her conversation with the president left her “very upset and hurt; it made me cry even worse,” particularly when she heard the president stumble trying to remember her husband’s name.

Not long after the interview aired, Trump disputed Johnson’s account with a tweet: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

That prompted Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, to respond, “If you find yourself defending President Trump after he is attacking the widow of a fallen warrior, you might rethink that.”

Trump ignores repeated attempts at correction and refuses to admit he was wrong, instead usually claiming that the media is engaging in “fake news” when it points out his statements are at odds with the facts. For example, several fact-checking organizations have noted that his repeated claims that the US is the highest-taxed nation in the world are false.

The US has the highest statutory tax rate for corporations among developed nations, at 35%, but thanks to the thousands of deductions and exemptions in state and federal tax codes, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office report, the effective average corporate tax rate is 22%. That puts the country in the middle of the pack among our economic peers, PolitiFact noted.

As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the US tax burden — covering all levels of government — was 26.4% in 2015, which ranked 28th out of 32 developed nations ranked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). When PolitiFact ran the numbers based on federal revenues alone, the rankings stayed about the same.

On a per-person basis, America’s tax burden ranked 13th out of 31 developed nations, according to OECD figures.

So when Trump said that the US is “the highest developed nation taxed in the world,” and said his view is “exactly correct,” some might believe him, but in fact, PolitiFact found, he is incorrect.

Trump’s record as a liar has done a great deal of damage to the reputation of the United States, as world leaders wonder what they can believe, but at least his untrustworthiness has undermined the Republican Congress as its leaders begin an effort to rewrite the tax code to give major breaks to billionaires and corporations, and congressional leaders find they can’t trust the president either.

The Washington Post reported Trump called Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who was leading a bipartisan effort to fix the Affordable Care Act. Trump left Alexander feeling he had the president’s support. Ten days later, the president abruptly changed his mind.

In September, Trump hosted Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi at the White House and left them thinking they had his support on a deal to protect “Dreamers” who had been brought to the US as children. A month later, Trump added a list of conditions that Democrats could not accept, topped off with funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

In May, Trump celebrated House Republicans’ Obamacare repeal passage in the Rose Garden. Later, he called the House version “mean,” though it’s basically the same plan Trump later tried to get the Senate to pass. When the Senate failed to repeal Obamacare with bills that would cause millions to lose health coverage, Trump blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and John McCain.

Trump’s political strategy is “divide and conquer,” and deflect blame. Let’s hope the Democratic Party sticks together in the Senate and Trump rattles at least three senators from the Grand Oligarch Party. On Oct. 19, all the Republican senators except Rand Paul stuck together to approve the 2018 budget with $1.5 trillion in cuts from Medicare and Medicaid. The GOP needs the money to give their billionaire donors the hefty tax cuts they demand as a return on their investment. And don’t give Paul too much credit — he voted no because the budget cuts don’t go far enough. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2017


Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652