The reality is even more shocking than the expectation. Within days of becoming President, Donald Trump has made all predictions lame by comparison with the daily spectacle of leader and his spokespeople telling aggressive untruths.
Falsehoods have been re-branded ‘alternative facts’, by Kellyanne Conway, who glories in the title Counselor to the President, while defending the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, for insisting that the Inauguration had been the most well-attended ever.
This is a parallel universe in which the President is always right, the truth is whatever he says. This will be the strategy when things start to go wrong. The objective is to make all evidence suspect if it counters what the President tells his supporters to believe.
As George Orwell put it in describing the one-party state in his 1984: ‘The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command……’
I wish I were confident that the President and his spokespeople will fail, but there are millions of voters who see no alternative and hear no alternative, to the leader’s truth. This is a sinister political correctness – only the leader can be right.
I saw a quote somewhere this morning from Jan Masaryk, a great Czech opponent of tyranny: ‘The truth prevails, but it’s a chore.’
The New York Times is doing a brave job of the chore of fact-checking, headlining the falsehoods on its front page. But for Trump supporters, the Times is the epitome of elite opinion, the last place to look for facts that suit your world view.
Its most brilliant columnist (in my view), Roger Cohen, writes: ‘To utter falsehood after falsehood, directly or through a spokesman, is to foster the disorientation that makes crowds susceptible to the delusions of strongmen. Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought.’
So far the falsehoods are laughably trivial, about the size of the crowd, and whether it rained (though the triviality is terrifying, that people of great power could care so much about so little as to lie so blatantly).
But the dishonesty will become deadly serious when the stakes are high in a crisis, and the free world – which we are still lucky enough to be – cannot turn to the President of the United States for honest judgement.
Only a few days in, we have no more reason to trust President Trump’s word than President Putin’s, of whom I shall write in my next blog.