It has generally been my experience that when people pepper their speech with the phrase “believe me,” they are not to be believed. The default position among people of honor — the silent agreement between speaker and listener — is one of truth and trust. But Donald Trump is not a person of honor. Presidents lie. Politicians lie. People lie. But Trump lies with a ferocious abandon.
For instance, the fact-checking website PolitiFact found that of the statements by Hillary Clinton that it checked, 22 percent were completely “true” and another 28 percent were “mostly true.” But Trump is another animal. There is no true equivalency between Trump and Clinton, or between Trump and any other politician, for that matter. Only 4 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked were rated as completely “true” and only another 11 percent were even rated as “mostly true.” Seventy percent of Trump’s statements that the site checked were rated as “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” the site’s worse rating. The truth shifts beneath Trump like sand. He has no regard for the firmness of fact. For him, fact is as pliant as that Play-Doh he handed out to flood victims in Louisiana.
Indeed, PolitiFact named Trump’s collective “campaign misstatements” the 2015 Lie of the Year, writing: “It’s the trope on Trump: He’s authentic, a straight-talker, less scripted than traditional politicians. That’s because Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down. Bending the truth or being unhampered by accuracy is a strategy he has followed for years.”
The site quotes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” in which he says, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.” In fact, Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter for that book and in July he blasted Trump in an interview in The New Yorker: “Schwartz says of Trump, ‘He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.’ Since most people are ‘constrained by the truth,’ Trump’s indifference to it ‘gave him a strange advantage.’”
Some PolitiFact ratings (link):