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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

What a laughable Trump claim might mean for the serious Iran-Saudi crisis

Smoke fills the sky over the Abqaiq oil

Smoke fills the sky over the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia after a drone attack on Saturday, when a major Saudi oil field also was attacked. Credit: AP

President Donald Trump and top aides said several times in recent weeks that he’d be willing to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions.

But now Trump calls his expressed willingness "fake news."

To the whole world, from the East Room, Trump declared in late July: "No preconditions. If they want to meet I'll meet."

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reinforced it. He said: "The President has made clear he's happy to take a meeting with no preconditions."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said emphatically: "The president's made very clear, he's prepared to meet with no preconditions."

Trump's motive for an about-face can be inferred. Now that the U.S. is building a case that Iran attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities, his talk of a meeting might suggest in retrospect that he didn't really know what he was doing.

Maybe he didn't.

Or maybe, as Trump backers have argued, it can be a strategic advantage to keep adversaries guessing as to what you might actually do.

Most likely, bearing false witness time after time tells the people of the U.S. — as well as the enemy, allies, even subordinates — that his word is perishable in public or private.

In any case Trump still makes himself sound committed to the Saudis — shown by his downplaying a dissident's assassination, his support of its proxy war against Iran in Yemen and his trashing of the 2015 Iran nuke deal.

Other such deceptive or delusional statements seemed of less consequence.

Trump declared at several rallies that live TV news cameras were being turned off. But since people watching at home on TV could see him, and heard him say it, they knew instantly it was false.

No, the broadcasts were not discontinued and Trump has never explained this hallucination or others like it.

In a speech on July 11, Trump said Twitter has made it harder for people to follow him.

"I know that we’ve been blocked," he said. “People come up to me and they say, ‘Sir, I can’t get you — I can’t follow you. They make it impossible.’ ”

Not true. All anyone had to do to know otherwise was click to "follow" @realDonaldTrump, and they could do so as easily as ever.

Trump has insisted repeatedly that the coast-to-coast border wall is progressing, when it is plain that only existing barriers are renovated.

All anyone has to do is see for themselves.

And the president insisted on telling America that a hurricane was heading to Alabama when every meteorologist and radar image said it was not.

Why? Who knows?

“Oh all politicians lie” no longer cuts it as a rationale.

On this national voyage, we're long since past that, and well into something way more exotic.

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