President Trump is clinging to his wiretapping claim “like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” the Wall Street Journal said in a scathing editorial published Tuesday night. And that claim, floating in the president’s “seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods,” is severely damaging his credibility, both at home and abroad.
“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure,” the paper said.
The Journal slammed Trump’s evidence-free assertion that former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower before the 2016 presidential election. Trump leveled his explosive charge on Twitter on March 4, and the White House has refused to back down, even after FBI Director James Comey dismissed the allegation as unfounded.
“He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence,” the paper’s editorial board wrote.
The president has plenty of media critics, and the Journal’s editorial board was not particularly supportive of his candidacy. But the editorial is striking, given the paper’s traditionally conservative tone. Its owner, Rupert Murdoch, also owns Fox News, Trump’s favorite cable news network.
“Two months into his presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent,” the editorial continued. “No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth, most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.”
The paper also pointed out how Trump’s refusal to back off his evidence-free claim has co-opted what could have been a positive news cycle.
“This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill,” the editorial said. “These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead, the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.”
The Journal wasn’t the only paper to publish a Trump takedown Tuesday. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice warned that false statements from the Trump White House “are part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that poses real and potentially profound dangers to U.S. national security.”
“First impressions matter,” she wrote, “and an unsettling pattern has already been established.”
“The foundation of the United States’ unrivaled global leadership rests only in part on our military might, the strength of our economy and the power of our ideals,” Rice explained. “It is also grounded in the perception that the United States is steady, rational and fact-based. To lead effectively, the United States must maintain respect and trust. So, when a White House deliberately dissembles and serially contorts the facts, its actions pose a serious risk to America’s global leadership, among friends and adversaries alike.”
Following Comey’s testimony, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “All the President’s Lies.”
“The ninth week of Donald Trump’s presidency began with the F.B.I. director calling him a liar,” the Times’ David Leonhardt wrote. “Comey didn’t use the L-word in his congressional testimony Monday. Comey serves at the pleasure of the president, after all. But his meaning was clear as could be.”
“I’ve previously argued that not every untruth deserves to be branded with the L-word, because it implies intent and somebody can state an untruth without doing so knowingly,” Leonhardt continued. “But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women.
“He tells so many untruths that it’s time to leave behind the textual parsing over which are unwitting and which are deliberate,” Leonhardt added, “as well as the condescending notion that most of Trump’s supporters enjoy his lies.”
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