At least Richard Nixon had the guts to deliver his “I’m not a crook” message himself. Former FBI Director James Comey testified under oath before Congress today that he kept memos about his conversations with Donald Trump because he expected Trump would lie about it, making clear that he viewed Trump as a habitual liar. And that prompted Trump to trot out Sarah Huckabee Sanders of all people to deliver Trump’s very own Richard Nixon moment.
“The president is not a liar,” Huckabee Sanders said from the press briefing podium shortly after James Comey’s testimony concluded. And so this is the point at which we’ve now arrived. The debate at the center of public attention is now based on whether Donald Trump is or is not a liar. Not whether or not he lied once about one particular thing, as nearly all politicians do from time to time. The public is now focused on whether Trump lies so much that he’s defined as a liar.
And that’s a battle Donald Trump can’t win. We learned that back when the public became so focused on the question of whether Richard Nixon was a crook, he actually had to get up and say “I’m not a crook” in exact words. His denial didn’t help his sinking cause, because he couldn’t offer anything to back it up, and because by that time the public had already come to see him as one. His belated generic denial only served as an acknowledgement of how screwed he knew he was.
So now we have a political outsider who’s held the office of President of the United States for less than six months, and he’s already come to be viewed as such an astounding liar that he makes regular politicians look honest in comparison. He’s such a liar that the former head of the FBI just called him one, and no one was even shocked. Trump’s detractors have known all along that he’s lying nearly every time he opens his mouth, and his base doesn’t care. But the people in the middle – the ones who change their minds in approval rating polls and ultimately decide whether a president sinks or swims – now have an easy guidepost for defining how they view Trump: he’s a liar. Follow Palmer Report on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a regular reader, feel free to support Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report