On Donald Trump and when a politician shouldn’t tell the truth

It’s refreshing when a politician tells the truth. But what does that mean? And is it always a good idea? Donald Trump’s latest statements have me wondering. He said all these things recently:

The diligent fact-checkers at Politifact rate all of these claims but the last one demonstrably false (the last one is a matter of opinion). But I commended Donald Trump for his batshit candor, and he’s surging in polls. What does this say about truth in politics?

Three things.

First, we like people that say what they mean. This is where politicians like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump connect. Normal politicians equivocate, evade, and obfuscate. These guys don’t.

Second, we like the politicians to know what they’re talking about. This is where Trump fails. He has no idea what the truth is. This makes him, not a liar, but an idiot. And while voters do not always pick the smartest candidate, they don’t want to vote for an idiot.

Finally, we like our candidates to have some sense of discretion (I hope). You don’t want the president going face-to-face with Vladimir Putin or Benjamin Netanyahu and saying the first thing that comes into his head. Even ignoring Trump’s lack of command of the facts, he looks like he’d be a loose cannon. The idea of someone like this in the White House is truly terrifying.

Speaking clearly is only an asset if you know your stuff and have some sort of filter between brain and mouth. Otherwise you are not only an idiot, but an idiot that broadcasts his idiocy continuously. While this is entertaining, it’s not appropriate for candidates for leader of the free world.

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  1. John McCain is a hero. What he went through as a prisoner of war during the Viet Nam war is without a doubt heroic. Only a complete lack of awareness on what all the POWs experienced, McCain’s conduct was exceptionally brave in comparison, can be attributed to leaving the statement ” John McCain is a hero” to a matter of opinion.

    1. I agree with you that he’s a hero. That said, “hero” is value judgment, there is no factual criteria. So I can’t say Trump is objectively lying on this topic. Just exercising bad judgment.

  2. I completely agree with your assessment of Mr. Trump.

    Please allow me a side comment on your use of “only” at the end of the blog: “Speaking clearly is only an asset if you know your stuff and have some sort of filter between brain and mouth.” The adjective “only” should be as close as possible to the phrase it modifies. In this case, it should immediately precede “if you know your stuff.”

  3. While I think i can be debated what constitutes a war hero, there is no argument that John McCain deserves far more respect than the ‘Dumpster’ is giving him.

    The ‘Dumpster’ doesn’t like losers. What do you call someone who went Bankrupt 4 times? How much of the ‘Dumpster’ fortune is from bills he never had to pay because of Bankruptcy?

  4. I think the reason why this strategy is working for Trump so far is because he doesn’t dwell on his “facts” very long before launching another “fact” at his opposition. He is purely attack attack attack. The media and his opponents are left in disarray trying to work out whether what he’s said is true, and how best to respond. By that time Trump has already moved on. It’s political blitzkrieg, idiot style.

    Usually when a politician makes a gaffe, they know it, the media knows it, and their opponents know it. Everyone spends the next few days of the media cycle analysing the gaffe in question. Gaff-prone politicians presumably chastise themselves and then become better at avoiding gaffes in the future (see Obama, Clinton etc). They lose their authenticity in the process, however. They are too smooth, too good.