Tough week for the truth.
Tougher even than many other recent weeks, which were tough enough on their own.
Several assertions by President Donald Trump and associates were exposed as lies — by his own people and by Trump himself.
Start with Stormy Daniels. Rudy Giuliani, hired two-plus weeks ago by Trump as part of his legal team to deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, said that Trump repaid personal attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen paid Daniels. Giuliani said the reason for the payment during the waning weeks of the 2016 campaign was to keep the porn star quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. As a bonus, Giuliani said the reason Trump fired FBI Director James Comey was indeed the Russia investigation — Comey wouldn’t say Trump was not a target, Giuliani said, and firing him would “free” Trump of Comey.
All of which contradicted many statements from Trump, Cohen, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and others.
Trump took to Twitter to back up Giuliani’s assertions about reimbursing Cohen. A day later, Trump cited “a lot of misinformation” and said Giuliani would eventually “get his facts straight.”
And on Friday, Giuliani tried to clarify by citing “my understanding” of the facts.
Trump also hired legal heavyweight Emmet Flood to deal with Mueller — after angrily denying in March a published report that he might hire Flood and saying that he was pleased with his legal team, most of which is now gone.
Then there was the doctor’s note. Trump’s former physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, said that his infamous 2015 letter — declaring that Trump would be “the healthiest” person ever elected president and is a man of “extraordinary” strength and stamina — was actually dictated by Trump.
We all know in our personal lives that no matter the speaker, lies are corrosive. Often, they beget other lies. In Trump’s case, they shadow other pronouncements.
But how much do his lies matter? To Mueller’s investigators and other probers, they’re more logs on a smoldering fire.
But to the rest of us?
A Monmouth University poll last week found that 79 percent of Americans aren’t surprised by Trump’s behavior in office. They expected it. With Trump making more than 3,000 false or misleading claims since his inauguration, as charted last week by The Washington Post fact-checkers, they have a point.
People who despise Trump for his prolific mendacity will continue to despise him.
But Trump’s supporters say the critics don’t get it. Some deny he’s lying. There’s nothing much that can be said to them. But others passionately defend him, saying they don’t care about Stormy Daniels or his personal flaws, and instead are focused on all the areas he’s winning. Lately, that list includes the economy (the jobless rate inched down to 3.9 percent Friday), tax cuts, North Korea and Syria.
I’ll give them North Korea. Trump gets credit for helping get us to wherever it is we are right now — just as he’ll get credit if we end up somewhere good.
On the rest, the economic recovery is real even if you note it’s little different from the past seven years. There’s little evidence corporations en masse are turning their massive tax cuts into raises for their workers and plenty of evidence they’re turning them into stock buybacks and shareholder dividends. And Syria is no closer to being solved after the latest bombing.
Winning also is in the eye of the truth-teller.
My guess is Trump understands the baked-in nature of our tribes. His opponents will oppose and his supporters will support, so he might as well keep lying.
But what about us? When the party of the presidency changes, will each of us judge lying by the same principles we use today?
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.