Last week saw several new revelations about President Trump. He allegedly called fallen US soldiers buried in a cemetery in France “losers.” He did not want wounded veterans to march in a military parade. He aggressively discouraged his own son from joining the Army. He could not understand why one General, whom he perceived as smart, joined the military.
Are these vicious lies, spawned by never-Trumpers or, worse, Haters? This week’s examples all come from one article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, a publication not known for sloppy journalism despite its consistent criticism of the Trump presidency. Trump’s reaction? “What animal would say such a thing?”
The President, and many of his supporters, including several regular Spy readers, seem to condemn any negative reporting of Trump as “fake news” and suggests that those reporting or repeating the stories have been out to get Trump “since before he was president.”
Is Trump right? Is he the victim of people who are still angry that Hillary lost (at least in the Electoral College), who are socialists, or those who simply hate America?
An objective look at even a handful of the allegations made about Trump suggests that almost all the most damning allegations are not “fake.” They are, with some exceptions, relevant to our responsibility as citizens to monitor the President’s execution of his office, his health, and his integrity.
Last week Stephanie Winston Wolkoff released Melania and Me. She substantiates allegations of grifting by Trump and his family in holding the 2017 Inauguration. Ms. Wolkoff has stated that she has proof of the allegations she makes. Should this book be dismissed as “lies” because it also discusses the First Lady’s character and attitudes towards some of the President’s older children? Prosecutors don’t seem to think so.
Remember “Mad Dog” Mattis? The former Secretary of Defense wrote:
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
In response, Trump called Mattis “the world’s most overrated General” and suggested his “primary strength” was “personal public relations.”
Additional reports include those of former National Security Advisor John Bolton in The Room Where it Happened. Bolton writes that “obstruction of justice was a way of life” and that Trump actively solicited Chinese intervention in the upcoming Presidential election. Trump responded by claiming he fired Bolton and that, “Everyone in the White House hated him.” He also called Bolton a “washed-up guy.” Bolton, best known as a national security hardliner and President Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations, always has been considered a conservative Republican.
This list could go on. Consider Mary Trump’s book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” She reports that Trump paid someone to take the SATs for him. She also describes him as a sociopath.
Consider reports that Trump declines to read national security briefings. Should we care? Are those who report this news disloyal? Or is this information relevant to citizens evaluating how Trump is performing as President.
Finally, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words and that (at least before Photoshop) pictures don’t lie. Remember the picture of Trump in front of St. John’s holding a bible, upside down, in a photo opportunity made possible by the forcible removal of peaceful protesters? Were the news outlets that published or broadcast that image “haters?” Is what the President did irrelevant to whether he should be re-elected?
In the case of almost every negative story, picture, or report about the President, he is not a victim. Especially not a victim like the New York Times reporter with a disability that he chose to publicly ridicule. Not a victim like the children separated from their parents at the borders. Not a victim like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.