How would you feel if the CEOs of, say, Rolex, Lego and Walt Disney (who happen to be the top three of Forbes' 2017 Most Reputable Companies) made consistently false, inaccurate or misleading statements to their investors?
What kind of management would that be? How long could it continue without substantive consequences?
Well, how should we all feel when the "CEO" of the United States, historically one of the most reputable of countries, makes consistently false, inaccurate or misleading statements to the public?
What kind of management is that? How long can it continue without substantive consequences?
Don't take him literally. "This is the problem with the media - you guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally" was how Corey Lewandowski, President Trump's former campaign manager, put it.
Think about it: This is preposterous stuff. If we don't take our president literally, how are we supposed to take him? Naturally not everyone will agree on policy, but isn't it reasonable to assume a president will be generally truthful and accurate in what he says (or tweets)?
Sure, I recognize there's a fair amount of spinning and exaggerating and persuading in normal political discourse - that's the nature of the biz. But this president has, as we might have said when I was growing up in the Boston area, taken spinning to a wicked high level. When it comes to verbal mischief, he sets a darn high bar.
"How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
"An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud."
"I made a speech [inauguration]. I looked out. The field was -- it looked a million, a million and a half people."
"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Etcetera, etcetera.
Credibility counts. I'm not just a frustrated Democratic apparatchik. I've been known to vote Democrat or Green Party or Libertarian or Republican, depending on the candidate and issues.
I agree with President Trump on some key issues.
I agree that Obamacare is a train wreck of extortionary premiums and deductibles, and should be repealed and replaced.
I agree that over the long term a less hostile relationship with Russia would be a positive thing.
I agree that the problems of the Rust Belt have too long been neglected and need serious economic attention.
But I can't get past this crazy credibility gap. I can't accept the propensity to lapse into "alternative facts." (Note to Kellyanne Conway: There are no alternative facts. There are only facts.)
"The Lyin' King." An old friend of mine from Montana, who by the way isn't normally a writer, told me he recently wrote a community theater skit about our president called "The Lyin' King." It can't be a good thing for this administration when random folks in the hinterlands are moved to depict our president in this manner.
Words matter. Facts matter. Accuracy matters. Credibility counts. It's not OK for any leader (think Rolex, Lego and Disney, much less a president) to say whatever he (or she) feels like just because the mood strikes and he wants it to be true.
Lack of credibility corrodes trust and undermines the ability to accomplish a political agenda.
It diminishes the man.
It diminishes the presidency.
It diminishes the nation.
This article first appeared at Forbes.com. I've been writing about the president's "hostility to facts" since January. The issue has continued to receive increasing national scrutiny; this week the LA Times has a four-part Editorial Board series on Mr. Trump's character, with Part I titled "Our Dishonest President."
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