All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random -- even compulsive.However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump's falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating "an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with."
By some measures, the most important aspect of the 2016 presidential election is also one of the least recognized: Donald Trump lies at an almost uncontrollable pace, but he's earned a reputation for racism and buffoonery, not dishonesty. Polls show Americans generally consider him more truthful than Hillary Clinton, which is a bizarre conclusion for any objective observer who's watched these candidates closely.But as the race enters its home stretch, some are starting to take Trump's penchant for dishonesty more seriously. The New York Times published this striking piece on the Republican candidate's "week of whoppers" over the weekend:
In this study, the paper chose a week seemingly at random -- Sept. 15 through 21 -- and singled out Trump's "biggest whoppers," many of which were "uttered repeatedly," leaving "dozens more" on the editing room floor for a variety of reasons.And if it seems as if news outlets all stumbled upon this dynamic simultaneously, it's not your imagination. The Washington Post published a related piece the same day that reviewed one week's worth of Trump's speeches, tweets, and interviews. The analysis found a presidential hopeful "who at times seems uniquely undeterred by facts" and demonstrates a "disregard for the truth in numerous cases."The L.A. Times ran a similar story of its own, explaining that the "scope" of Trump's falsehoods is "unprecedented for a modern presidential candidate," and adding, "Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has."Politico published a related piece, too, fact-checking the major-party candidates over the course a week. It found, "Trump's mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration so greatly exceed Clinton's as to make the comparison almost ludicrous.... Trump averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds over nearly five hours of remarks. In raw numbers, that's 87 erroneous statements in five days."Keep in mind, we're talking about analyses that covered just seven days -- at a point in the campaign at which Trump tends to stick to teleprompters and scripted remarks. It's hardly outlandish to think he told even more lies months earlier, when he was even more likely to say whatever popped into his mind.Slate, meanwhile, published a piece ostensibly intended for debate moderators, noting, "Donald Trump lies. A lot." The piece broke up Trump's most frequently told lies into categories for easier reference.To an important extent, all of this is woefully overdue. For much of the last year and a half, the political media has cultivated a certain profile on Donald Trump for voters: he's the narcissistic racist who doesn't know or care about public policy. His former Republican rivals tried to focus on Trump's near-constant lying, but it never really became part of the media's "narrative" about his candidacy -- in part because of misplaced assumptions about Hillary Clinton's veracity.
But at this late date, the reporting is starting to change, and news consumers are starting to hear more about Trump's appetite for deception. Is it too late to make a difference? We'll find out six weeks from tomorrow.