For a guy obsessed with the lies of others, Donald Trump doesn’t seem very concerned with the truth. Instead of using Wednesday's NBC Commander in Chief forum to set the record straight on his past policy positions, he dug himself further, insisting that he was against the war in Iraq (he wasn't) and that he didn't support intervention in Libya (he did).
Voters aren’t naive — people know politicians bend the truth and sometimes outright lie. But Trump seems to be pushing the limits of what’s to be expected. According to a Politico analysis this spring, the candidate lies every five minutes in speeches, and PolitiFact rates 70 percent of his major political statements as being either somewhat false or a complete lie.
Of course, the Republican presidential candidate’s relationship with the truth can sometimes seem unbelievable. Trump loves to say, "I get along with everybody," but there’s plenty of evidence that this isn’t true. We all remember the recurrent aggressive booing and the "unintelligible yelling" during the Republican presidential debates, and it’s not like he has a loving relationship with most members of the press. Just this week he claimed President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS together, a pretty laughable piece of complete and utter fiction.
Other lies, though, are not so inconsequential. For instance, Trump regularly brags about how he never supported the Iraq War, saying: "I said I don't want to go into Iraq. Iraq is going to destabilize the Middle East, and I was 100 percent right." (Not true.)
He frequently asserts "torture works" when there is no evidence to support that argument. In fact, according to the Senate report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, enhanced interrogation is useless (aside from serious moral implications). He even went to drought-stricken California earlier this summer and claimed there was no drought. Trump also says he would never mock a person with a disability, proclaiming, "I didn’t mock the disabled," even though he did, on camera, in a clip that has been replayed over and over again.
Trump’s rallies have seen unprecedented amounts of dangerous physical outbursts, but the candidate has insisted "I don’t incite violence." On the contrary, Trump literally told a protester "I'd like to punch him in the face," in front of a crowd and sea of cameras.
Some of Trump’s lies aren’t just a threat to his campaign, but to national security. For example, Trump denies his relationship with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming "I’ve never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is." Yet he bragged about their relationship in 2013, disclosing "I do have a relationship" to Thomas Roberts on MSNBC. Given Russia’s seeming interference with the 2016 election, Trump’s closeness with the foreign leader is not insignificant.
So where does this leave the American people?
In the past, political leaders have been dismissed for much lesser offenses. Like making a weird noise at a campaign rally. Or forgetting the third thing they were going to say. Or being really thirsty while addressing the nation. But somehow, Trump’s sins have managed to escape the same level of public scrutiny.
What makes Trump’s lying even more puzzling is his preoccupation with the truth. He is obsessed with the lies of other people. Throughout his campaign he has repeatedly berated his opponents when he felt they were being dishonest to the public. The only nickname he has repeated for two of his opponents referred to lying, calling Ted Cruz "Lying Ted" or Hillary Clinton "Crooked Hillary," and recently blasting out tweets and emails to the press referring to Clinton in all-caps, as a "PATHOLOGICAL LIAR."
Trump has a similar obsession with the media’s dishonesty, banning some media outlets like the Washington Post from his events or press conferences and having a fairly paranoid attitude toward reporters.
In other words, Donald Trump does, indeed, care about the truth. He knows you care about the truth. He just doesn’t think the same scrutiny applies to him.
So we need to ask ourselves, if Donald Trump doesn’t accept lying, why do we? Lies never exist in a vacuum, they always serve a purpose. Fact-checking Trump is essential, but it’s not enough. Reporters cannot simply say that he lies; the other concern is why he lies. Given the presidential candidate’s passionate dedication to the truth in all caps, he should welcome the same level of scrutiny, right?