The controversy on the front burner at the White House this week is Donald Trump's weakness towards Saudi Arabia, which the president justifies by pointing to a $110 billion arms deal that, in reality, does not exist. On a daily basis, Trump has pointed to the deal in staggeringly dishonest ways, lying about its size, its job impact, and the effort he invested in the non-existent agreement.
This is, by any fair measure, a powerful reminder that this president is a uniquely dishonest figure, not only in White House history, but in modern American public life. Trump lies about matters large and small as a matter of course -- even when he doesn't have to, even when the truth would be equally effective.
And yet, some on the right believe this is the wrong metric upon which to evaluate the Republican's truthfulness. As odd as this may sound, some conservatives believe Trump's lies and Trump's honesty are two entirely independent things that need not overlap.
The Washington Post's Marc Thiessen, for example, a former speechwriter in the Bush/Cheney White House, wrote a deeply strange column -- which delighted Donald Trump -- praising the current president for, of all things, honesty.
Donald Trump may be remembered as the most honest president in modern American history.
Don't get me wrong, Trump lies all the time. He said that he "enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history" (actually they are the eighth largest) and that "our economy is the strongest it's ever been in the history of our country" (which may one day be true, but not yet). In part, it's a New York thing -- everything is the biggest and the best.
But when it comes to the real barometer of presidential truthfulness -- keeping his promises -- Trump is a paragon of honesty.
Just so we're clear, I didn't edit this excerpt in a misleading way. Thiessen really did write, in successive sentences, that Trump "lies all the time" and that he may be remembered "as the most honest president in modern American history."
And for the conservative columnist, this makes perfect sense.
Similarly, Politico spoke this week with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was asked if he'd consider the current president a role model to his young children. "I think he is a role model in that he's actually following through on his promises," the far-right congressman replied.