Opinion: Fool me once…

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It’s Groundhog Day and like the movie by the same name I feel as if we have been here before.

President Donald Trump is objecting strenuously to what he considers false reports by the media about himself. He is now labeling any personally critical news report as “fake news.” This from the man who spent years alleging that Barack Obama was not a legitimate president, propagating the myth that Obama was actually born in Kenya and not a natural born citizen. He also made veiled suggestions that Obama was not a Christian but really a Muslim. Both scurrilous allegations were false, but that did not stop Donald Trump from launching his political career on the quicksand of a lie.

Donald Trump has proved to be the great purveyor of fabricated information that becomes bogus news headlines. Now his White House team refers to that as “alternative facts.” During the campaign he falsely asserted that thousands of Muslims danced in the streets of New Jersey celebrating the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001. Or the whopper about the father of his main Republican opponent Texas Senator Ted Cruz, somehow being involved in the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Or tweeting that 80 percent of whites murdered in the United States are killed at the hands of black people. He still insists that he achieved a “landslide victory” in spite of losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Now he asserts, with no proof, that millions of people illegally voted for his opponents which is why he lost the actual vote.

Why is this important now? Well for one, being able to trust the president of the United States is essential. And number two, it is just so ironic that Mr. Trump now angrily denounces news stories about himself which he claims are false while that kind of disinformation was his favorite tactic during the campaign.

Fake news reports have always been out there, but they have been mostly on the fringes, reaching and appealing to people who were pretty much out of touch with reality. To wit: the moon landings never occurred. Or the Newtown massacre of 27 people, mostly toddlers, in 2015 was made up. Or that Elvis Presley is alive and living somewhere in the Arizona desert. Or how about the one that the attack on Pearl Harbor was known to Franklin Roosevelt days before the slaughter.

Heretofore these fabrications were the province of supermarket tabloids and nutty radio talk shows. Rational people saw those stories for what they were, the inventions of sensationalists looking to make a fast buck off the gullibility of a small segment of the American public. But when national figures and now government leaders spread these false rumors it takes on an air of credibility. Even Trump’s new national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, repeated the allegation that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring run from a pizza parlor! Yes really. But not a peep of rebuke from the new President. This is serious stuff. The suggestion of fact when none exists from the person occupying the highest office in the land is profoundly dangerous to our democracy. If we cannot believe the President or he himself is detached from actuality, then the very foundation of our democracy is at risk and will surely erode public confidence in our government.

I do not know if Donald Trump has the capacity to govern honestly and to stop putting out manufactured allegations for whatever suits his purposes. But unless he begins to level with the American people as a responsible leader, he may find himself in very deep and very hot water. Because a person cannot serve as president of these United States who was born of alien interstellar parents and sent to this planet to sow the seeds of discord.

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