Opinion

When he needs it most, the president has no credibility left

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The longer President Donald Trump talks, the more lies he tells.

 

And now, at a time when the world may be teetering on the brink of war, the president and the U.S. are paying the price.

 

That’s the conclusion of a deep-dive analysis by the Washington Post of the president’s performance at political rallies at the end of last year.

 

Reviewing a Dec. 18 rally, the Post wrote: “According to our analysis, the truth took a beating once again. From a grand total of 179 factual statements we identified, 67 percent were false, mostly false or unsupported by evidence.”

 

While the numbers are shocking — imagine, two out of every three statements the president made were untrue — the fact that he is a serial liar is hardly new information. Again, according to the Post, which tracks the president’s liberties with the truth, in December the president blew past more than 15,000 false or misleading claims during his three years in office.

 

The lies, some big and some small, make it almost impossible to believe the president and his administration.

 

We have seen the attorney general walk behind a lectern and mislead the public on the Mueller report. We have seen the president relentlessly attack the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI, making up stories to discredit their work. And we’ve seen the president embrace Russian President Vladimir Putin and other despots while attacking and belittling our allies.

 

Into this toxic stew, the president has now added the targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was a significant and malicious figure in the Middle East and an important military leader in Iran.

 

He is responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans and the empowerment of Iranian proxies that threaten Americans and American allies around the world.

 

In discussing the drone attack that killed Soleimani, the president said that he “was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.”

 

The president also said that the world was safer without Soleimani and that the killing was not intended to start a war.

 

Since that initial announcement, however, serious questions have been raised about whether there was an “imminent threat,” about the legality of the killing under U.S. and international law, the president’s overall strategy in the Middle East and his true intentions.

 

On Saturday, the president threatened to attack 52 sites in Iran, including places significant to the country’s culture. Such attacks would be a clear violation of international law and a war crime. On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department walked back the threats.

 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper acknowledged that such attacks would be a war crime and said that the United States would follow the “law of armed conflict.”

 

Since Soleimani’s killing, the U.S. has prepared for retaliation, issuing travel warnings and advisories to U.S. citizens. The Iraqi parliament has voted in a nonbinding resolution for the removal of U.S. forces from their country, our rivals (Russia) have been strengthened and allies have tried to distance themselves from the U.S. action.

 

Soleimani was a dangerous adversary and killer. But there is no evidence that his death has made the world or America safer.

 

Simply put, the American people have no reason to believe the president’s assertions without proof, and they are rightly concerned about the potential for our country to stumble into a new war.

 

When a president lies — repeatedly, consistently and with intent — he has no reasonable expectation that he will be believed even in grave matters of national security, war and death.

 

As is typical of our divided country, in a HuffPost-YouGuv survey, 43 percent of respondents said they approved of Soleimani’s killing, while 38 said they disapproved. Meanwhile 47 percent said that the president doesn’t have a clear strategy for dealing with Iran.

 

Our country is in a perilous moment and the president has no credibility or reservoir of goodwill with much of the country.

 

That makes a deadly situation even more dangerous, for our country, our allies and the entire world.

 

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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