Tyranny of the Un-Truth by Craig Fuller

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Mark Twain got it exactly right when he said, “When in doubt, tell the truth.”

Events of the past month give many pause because of their salacious quality. For me, the worst part is the reality that people in high office are simply not heading Mark Twain’s call for truth telling. Failing to tell the truth has become the order of the day and the un-truths come with consequences.

A weekend commentator posited a theory that we have undergone some major cultural change when a porn star and a Playboy model have more credibility than the President of the United States. A stunning statement that was speculative until polling just days later suggested only about 20% of the population believes the President is telling the truth about his own behavior.

What really hit me around the same time was a question posed by a serious fellow who inquired as to whether or not I was asked to lie during my years in public office.

The answer is a definite “no.” I was never asked to lie while in office. Was I expected to put the best face on difficult circumstances, yes. But, we did that by providing an interpretation of facts not by presenting an un-truth! Or, we stated that we could not comment. But, at no time was I asked or would I have damaged my credibility by stating something I knew not to be true.

Pondering the question and my memory of a seemingly bygone era, I felt a sadness for those serving in the White House today. Many of them now must realize that they have been directed to make statements that are simply not true. Just how does one deal with this? How do they make statements on matters related to official business and have their words believed?

In a world that offers challenges and real dangers, officials of the United States need to have their words believed. We need for America to be trusted and that trust must be earned by our leaders and a reputation for telling the truth.

The damage done during the past few weeks extends well beyond what some believe to be diminished moral standards. Damage has been done to our ability to lead. Damage has been done to those who came into the White House to serve who simply cannot be counted upon to be honest.

In the past few days, a phrase is now being used in the White House briefing that I suspect we will hear a lot more often. The phrase, “….the President believes.” This is an obvious way for a spokesperson to state what they know the President to have said, whether or not they believe it to be true.

The bar is being set way too low for a great nation.

Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.

Letters to Editor

  1. Jeffrey Staley says:

    Craig,
    Thank you for offering your perspectives based upon your impressive experience. Your many Spy contributions reflect the U.S. I thought I was living in and the spirit of truthful and honorable government service that most in government still live by. Unfortunately, whatever useful insights and leadership Donald Trump might have offered are, in my opinion, being completely undermined and over-shadowed by the ugliness and ignorance he has brought to the Presidency. Almost more unfortunately, the Republican Party has demonstrated it is willing to follow the President no matter how low or dangerous he gets, as long as they can hold on to their “base.” I have great hopes the next couple of election cycles will get voters to the polls like never before to get more thoughtful, ethical and truthful leaders into our government so we may all prosper and be proud of our country.

  2. Bill Todd says:

    The notion that a president lying is new is laughable. “I did not have sex with that woman”; “If you like your insurance you can keep it.” etc. etc. Regarding presidential aides being asked to lie; I am unaware that any Trump administration aides have commented or been asked to comment on a 10 year old one night stand they could know nothing about. Compare that to a Benghazi Embassy attack being attributed to inflammatory comic books, by high ranking aides and the SOS, etc. I could go on.
    None of this is to be excused. But, accepting George Merrill’s 3-25-18 “lessons from a streetcar” challenge to push back against “group think” (probably much to his chagrin in this instance) the duplicity by “never Trumpers” (admittedly NOT to the point of “lying”) needs to be pointed out.

    • Howard Freedlander says:

      As former President Carter said this week, our democracy, Cynthia, has suffered due to the lying and fake facts that emanate from the White House. Craig Fuller’s essay is spot-on. I share Jeff Stakey’s optimism that upcoming election cycles will produce a crop of public officials of whom we can be proud.

    • Lisa Ellington says:

      No, presidential lying is not new.

      “No U2 spy planes are flying over the Soviet Union”

      “We did not, I repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.”

      “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

      The point is that only 20 % of the people believe President Trump is telling the truth. It’s painful to watch Sarah Sanders twist daily at the podium trying to explain and justify the inaccuracies pouring from the White House. The chaos continues daily – this president is putting Republicans in real danger of losing at least the House in 2018. Important issues are overshadowed by alleged sexual assaults, affairs, lawsuits, firings, collusion, exposés, tweets – it goes on and on. The real losers are the American people.

  3. Thanks to Craig Fuller. His essay is a breath of fresh air.

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