Truths, Facts, Lies, Half Truths, Alternative Facts and Emotional Truths
The Trump Administration is off to a rocky start in part due to difficulties with fictional facts and lies. While that did not appear to matter too much on the campaign trail rallies and speeches; it starts to matter a lot when you are truly governing a large nation. There are 435 experts in the House of Representatives, 100 in the Senate, plus all their staff. There are quite a lot more in the nation’s judiciary and in federal agencies and in state government and in the media. They know facts, and they know policy. You cannot balance a budget for very long based on lies and fictions; you cannot legislate, administrate or govern when you become known to be untethered to the truth and unfamiliar with the basic facts. The sooner the Trump Administration learns this very hard lesson, the better for all of us. This is not the high end real estate market anymore.
The President’s own Cabinet and White House staff is a mix of individuals accustomed to making difficult decisions based on hard facts and of ideologues tightly linked to their own emotional truths who will make decisions based on a hard right ideology. The House and Senate are ruled by leaders of the President’s own party who will give him the benefit of the doubt and want him to succeed because of their shared ideology, but they will not forever ignore and take lightly his insults and his Administration’s cavalier regard for facts.
As a lawyer in a trial you are part of a legal process engaged in the search for truth. As a lawyer in trial, ideally you have two able opposing counsel, witnesses and either a judge or jury to make the decision. You may cherry pick the facts and case law most beneficial to your client; you may discount the evidence and arguments of opposing counsel; you cannot knowingly (or are not supposed to) put on false evidence or lie to the judge or jury. Some do; some win cases that way; some of these cases are reversed on appeal. Some lawyers lose their reputations as a result of lying and their practices and right to practice law as a result. The Trump Administration policies are going to be regularly challenged in the nation’s courts, and they had better come up with better legal arguments than "the President’s decisions are unreviewable" and "no, you cannot know the facts underlying his decisions". Insulting judges after you have put on a weak case will further tarnish your chances for future success.
When I worked for the state legislature, your word was your bond. Over time, you grew to know who spoke truth and who did not, and you respected those who spoke truth and had little regard for those who did not. Many legislators in my experience were honest and highly intelligent, but there were people who lied and some who were outright corrupt and ended up going to jail. Committee hearings and lobbyist arguments and committee member discussion were an opportunity for truth seeking, although rank partisanship not infrequently got in the way. Congress has now become exceedingly partisan, and it will be quite difficult for those who disagree with party orthodoxies to break through the bonds of party loyalty, but persistent truth telling and some level of comity both inside and outside the political sphere is the only way we can prevail.
The great actors, like great politicians are in deep touch with important emotional truths deep in our souls and national consciousness. So too are great salesman and great con men. When those emotional truths are married to real truth, you have great leaders like Churchill, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Emotional truths can include terror, fear, religious intolerance, nativism and racism as well as bravery, patriotism, compassion and love of one’s fellow man. President Bush’s administration whose popularity soared after 9/11 lost the nation’s confidence by lying our nation’s way into the Iraq War and then botching its aftermath and ultimately nearly destroying the nation’s and the global economy with poor fiscal policies. President Obama’s administration faced the Great Recession and saved the economy, auto industry, our jobs, our savings in the banks, security in financial investments and created new hope for many with the Affordable Care Act that was sullied in part by execution fumbles like computer screen freezes and the recent spike in premiums and loss of carriers in states like Arizona. President Trump connected with many in Rust Belt states by promising jobs, growing paychecks and a faster growing economy in a region desperate for hope. If his Administration and the Republican Congress mistake this latest election as a mandate to terminate health coverage for twenty to thirty million Americans or more, the emotional revulsion of their older, white working class voters will likely sweep them from power for many years to come. Emotional truths have transformative impacts on voting patterns that cannot be ignored. The anti-immigrant rhetoric and ballot measures of California’s Governor Pete Wilson consigned his party to twenty years and counting in the political wilderness. Likewise as President Lyndon Johnson remarked when signing the landmark civil rights legislation of the 60’s he may have cost Southern Democrats a generation in the political wilderness – a true Profile in Courage. What will be President Trump’s legacy?
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin
Dated: February 10, 2017