In addition to telling thousands of lies, Donald Trump has become the master of the false promise. When he unexpectedly told reporters over the weekend that middle-income Americans would receive a 10 percent tax cut before the midterm elections, it caught everyone off guard. But immediately the bureaucratic machinery of the Trump administration leaped into action. They were trying to come up with an actual policy that could support Trump’s whimsical idea of a new tax cut, which had no basis in reality.
In Congress, Republicans immediately began talking about passing a nonbinding resolution saying that if Republicans hold their congressional majorities they might pass a future 10 percent tax cut for the middle class.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said Tuesday that he actually would work with the White House and the Treasury Department to develop a plan “over the coming weeks.”
The nonexistent tax cut announced by Trump is only the latest example of the federal government scrambling to reverse-engineer policies to meet Trump’s sudden public promises, according to The Washington Post. They also have been kept busy searching for evidence to support his conspiracy theories and his numerous lies.
Earlier this year top brass at the Pentagon leaped into action to when the president said he wanted to hold a military parade. The same thing happened when he said he wanted to form a new “Space Force” as another branch of the military.
After Trump’s angry pronouncements on trade, the Commerce Department put the wheels in motion to create a plan for auto tariffs.
Earlier this week, Vice President Pence, the Department of Homeland Security and White House employees all scrambled to try to find support for Trump’s bogus claim that “unknown Middle Easterners” were part of a migrant caravan in Central America.
(Late Tuesday Trump admitted he had no proof of this, but he said that might be true.)
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, explained the phenomenon that we are now seeing come out of Washington. She said:
“Virtually no one on the planet has the kind of power that a president of the United States has to scramble bureaucracies in the service of whim. Whatever Donald Trump wakes up and thinks about, or whatever comes to mind in the middle of a speech, actually has the reality in that it is actionable in some odd sense.”
Daniel A. Effron, a professor at London Business School who studies the psychology of lies, said leaders like Trump make lies seem true through imagination and repetition.
“When falsehoods feel familiar, one concern is you don’t actually know what’s true and what’s false,” Effron said. “There’s a lot of information to keep track of, and you use familiarity as a cue to what’s true. The other concern is when you’re invited to imagine how something could be true, you actually know that it’s false, but you don’t necessarily think it’s unethical to say.”
Simon Blackburn, author of the book “Truth,” had this to say:
“If you control the agenda efficiently, then there’s no possibility of independent inquiry, and I think that’s what Trump is a genius at.”
Trump catches his aides off guard with random policy announcements that are based in his imagination rather than in any organized administration program or initiative.
Trump has sometimes issued directives publicly when he thinks his subordinates are not executing his agenda or taking his wishes seriously. “He thinks, ‘Hey, if I say it on Twitter, then these guys will have to follow,’” said one former White House official, who spoke anonymously.
In July 2017, Trump posted a tweet announcing his decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his underlings scrambled to react to this, and they were forced to reconcile the president’s demand with the U.S. military’s current practices and protocols.
The Pentagon was also forced to develop a “Space Force” after Trump announced last spring that he wanted to create a sixth branch of the military. The president initially said it was conceived as a joke.
After the 2016 election Trump falsely claimed he only lost the popular vote against Hillary Clinton because of widespread voter fraud which led to the creation of a formal voter fraud commission. The panel was eventually disbanded after it became mired in lawsuits and people realized they had no actual evidence of any voter fraud.
So the pattern is clear. If the president wakes up and thinks about trade, or taxes, or whatever, he is likely to send a tweet with some new idea that just popped into his head. And when he does this the entire U.S. government bureaucracy jumps into action to try to make real his new whim or to find support for his latest lie.
This is no way to run a government, or to run a country. We can only hope that this irrational, unhinged president will leave office before he does more permanent damage.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.