After the inflated promises of his campaign, Mr. Trump’s presidency has largely been a spectacle of chaos and incompetence. He also has added a new batch of manufactured scandals to the circus, of which the most bizarre may be the claim that British intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower at the behest of President Obama.
Mr. Trump gained political notoriety with his accusation that President Obama was born outside U.S., a canard that he recently abandoned with the absurd excuse that he had only been trying to disprove a rumor started by the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr. Trump’s affinity for fantastical conspiracies, also known as alternative facts, is demonstrated repeatedly. We have heard his charges that Ted Cruz’s father helped kill JFK, that three million people voted illegally in the last election, and that the crowd at his inauguration was the biggest ever. Recently he opined that protesters on Tax Day must have been paid. If so, there are a lot of people who did not get their checks.
There is frequent speculation in the press about the reasons for the President’s misstatements and out-right lies. It is possible that this is a deliberate tactic to divert public attention from his administration’s failings. It is possible that Mr. Trump has been engaging successfully in hyperbole and deceit for so long that he no longer knows or cares what the truth is. He also may be just plain delusional. In 2001 when the twin towers went down, he claimed to have seen “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on Jersey City rooftops, a sight that nobody else saw. Whatever the reasons for the storm of falsehoods emanating from the president, his behavior seems contagious, affecting us in Virginia’s Ninth District.
Despite a Republican Congress, Mr. Trump has as yet signed no significant legislation. His biggest failure may be the recent debacle over health care. Republicans cobbled together an ill-conceived replacement for Obamacare that would have deprived millions of health insurance while giving huge tax reductions to the wealthy. They then tried to sell this to the American people as being an improvement over Obamacare and necessary due to the ACA’s imminent collapse. A most vehement apostle of this line is our own Congressman Morgan Griffith.
Mr. Griffith has repeatedly said in his weekly newsletters that Obamacare has failed and that it is “collapsing under its own weight.” He has insisted that it “diminished quality, affordability, and choice,” and he made these claims despite testimony from his constituents about how the ACA provided access to healthcare that they would not otherwise have had. Clearly, any program that enables eleven million uninsured people to buy health insurance is not an abject failure, and many of these people, residents of the Ninth District, flocked to meetings with Mr. Griffith’s aides to voice their support for Obamacare. They recognized that Morgan Griffith was engaging in gross exaggeration. They also recognized that Mr. Griffith was not being honest when he said the Republican replacement would “work for all Americans.”
Morgan Griffith did more than exaggerate the failings of Obamacare and misrepresent the benefits of the Republican replacement legislation. He directed his staff to lie about how he intended to vote on the repeal and replacement of the ACA. I called two of his offices prior to the vote to register my support for Obamacare. In both instances, his aides told me that Mr. Griffith had not decided how he would vote.
The next day the New York Times reported that Mr. Griffith intended to support the bill. After reading the Times article, I called again and was assured by an aide that Mr. Griffith had indeed not made up his mind. That afternoon, Morgan Griffith appeared on CNN supporting the new Republican health care legislation. There are only two possible conclusions to draw. Either Mr. Griffith’s aides had run amok or that he had directed them to lie to constituents.
The president is a fount of deceit, and Morgan Griffith seems to have caught the bug. Perhaps people will continue to support and vote for both men, but I hope not. Truth has to matter. We cannot tolerate or excuse away intentional lying. To do so is to make evil acceptable and the abnormal normal.
Now that the new version of the Republican health care bill has been passed by the House, it is critical for residents of the Ninth District to read the fine print. Mr. Griffith seems unable or unwilling to tell us the truth.
Liebrecht is a retired landscape architect and environmental scientist. She lives in Fries.