Watching the ABC Special James Comey Interview on Sunday night, then observing the subsequent fallout the same evening—the next morning—and after the morning after, the casual (and not so casual) observer could—and probably would—come away with the same conclusion.
That conclusion would be confusion. Or it might come in the form of a question, who’s telling the truth? The former FBI Director says that President Donald Trump (eeoowww, that sounds ugly—even in print) is a pathological liar and morally unfit to be the President of the United States. Trump responded immediately by calling Comey a “scumbag and a leaker” who was a disgrace to the FBI, a threat to our national security who should be prosecuted, and is a disgruntled employee not worth listening to. In truth, everybody’s credibility has been based on the last lie they told, or denied. Truth for both men has been a selective effort. Truth has been the real casualty in all this.
Everybody’s spin machine has been working on heavy load, blowing hot air at maximum capacity, as each side tries to wash out the other side’s dirt, with denials, more ascertains and flat out grand distractions while seeking to advance their version of the truth. Or at least what each side says is the truth. What is clear to me, and a good share of the American public, is that the chickens have come home to roost when it comes to the value of truth in America today. Truth is a relative proposition and Trump has perfected the “art of the lie—as truth.” Micro-aggressions have become Macro-aggressions under this Presidency as nationalism, pragmatism, faith, failure and honor have all taken a selective bent toward ideological propagation—depending on who’s advancing the propaganda. The truth NOT withstanding…
To suggest that selective or unfounded “truth” is otherwise false is suddenly “an attack on America.”
Truth is taking a beating today—not because truth stop being the truth, but because it has become so easy to mask the truth with a lie—that the lie becomes the truth and the truth, when in doubt, becomes the lie. A nation that can’t discern between a lie and the truth; can’t differentiate false equivalencies from real ones, and most critically, can’t contrast fake news from real news, is an anti-intellectual nation in decline. The rest of the world sees it, and knows it…and are positioning themselves to exploit America’s “truth conflictions.” This was to source of the Russian pampering probe for which Facebook has become implicated—in using that platform to plant negative stories about Trump’s opposition that some of America would believe at a time when the U.S. Government would be hesitate to intercede, during the U.S. general elections. Whoever meddled caught America with its chin up and its gullibility down. The result is now America doesn’t know what to believe, because we now have a President that doesn’t tell the truth but is given the benefit of the doubt, truth, as an investiture of his office. You know he’s lying, but hell, he’s the President.
So truth is masked, for ideology sake…for self-interest sake…but not for goodness sake. And it didn’t start with him…America has always had a “truth problem,” going back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the three fifths compromise that subjugated Africans as humans, Natives as savages, women as invisible and protest as a “white privilege” engagement.
After the Clinton email fiasco/scandal, James Comey is not one to be totally 100% believed. In both the Trump and Clinton investigative scenarios, it is not a reach to believe that Comey was not operating under pure altruism and that his motives were revenge tinged—which allows his version of the truth to be held up to scrutiny. There is also the profit motive that comes with trying to sell a book—which publishers don’t publish without a tinge of sensationalism and creative license (which means close enough to the truth that they won’t be sued but could be plausibly denied under some reasonable—or even unreasonable—context). And most certainly Comey has done that. I mean, the “pee-pee” tape allegation alone is outrageous enough to sue somebody. Then the “$130,000 to a prostitute” thing is so outlandish, it has slander written all over it. Yet Trump has stayed mum while threating to sue all the women that came forward during the campaign.
“Sue Happy” Trump has generally managed to keep his detractors at bay and his enemies silent because he has, as Sean Combs (Puffy) once said, “a crew that got money much longer than yours, and a team much stronger than yours.” Well, that was until he went up against the Intelligence community that has the whole Federal Reserve of the United States behind them. Sometimes, you gotta be careful which bear you poke. But Trump, who believes he can poke anyway (literally and figuratively) and who believes he is the federal government, is about to learn.
Trump got a lot money…but he ain’t got that much money. And neither does his team, who been falling like flies to federal indictments. Trump’s a pretty lonely man right now—as the “loyalists” are few. Even his family has taken a step back—in fact, a few steps back.
Trump has enough ego to think that he can conflict and convolute both the federal government and the American people—at the same time. We’ve seen egomaniacs try to stand alone before in the face of history and try to take on the world…didn’t turn out so well. Largely because truth wasn’t on their side. Well, Trump has a plan for that. Trump truth. As long as he can keep truth in doubt, “his base” will pay attention.
Trump’s back is against the wall and I would venture to say, that the only entity that has Trump’s back at this stage of the game is, Twitter. This is Trump’s “Distractor In Chief,” and Chief truth twister. His tweet barrage after the Comey interview was certainly beneath the office of the President, but Trump gave that up long ago. He is reinventing the Presidency with each tweet, but it is really an effort to reinvent, and convolute, the truth—to keep Americans heads spinning.
The one thing Comey said that made me pay attention was, that we have to choose a leader that embodies American values. That language makes a whole lot of people nervous. “American values” has often meant “white values,” which often meant white privilege, white paternalism and white supremacy. In some people’s eyes, America did vote its values and this is what we ended up with. Trump’s double talk is exactly what they wanted to hear. True or not. It started with “the wall and making Mexico pay for it.” Where it will go, not even the truth knows.
James Comey may not exactly be the one to lecture us on the virtues and values of truth, but he has made truth, and the relativity of truth, a national conversation we should discuss further.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute at California State University, Dominquez Hills. He is also the Managing Director of the Urban Issues Breakfast Forum, the author of six books and a nationally syndicated columnist, publishing over 1,100 weekly columns from 1991-2014. His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.