On January 10, The Washington Post reported that Donald J. Trump passed a milestone that none of his predecessors is known to have attained: just short of the anniversary of his first year in office, he told his two thousandth lie.1 It had happened sometime the day before, when the president was meeting with legislators to discuss immigration and tossed out a few of his old standbys—about how quickly the border wall could be built, about “the worst of the worst” gaining entry to the United States through a visa lottery, and about his wall’s ability to curtail the drug trade.
The path from the first lie to the two thousandth (and now beyond), a veritable Via Dolorosa of civic corruption, has been impossible for even the most resolute citizen to avoid. Trump is in our faces, and our brains, constantly. Yet the barrage is so unceasing that we can’t remember what he did and said last week, or sometimes even yesterday. Do you remember, for example, that first major lie? It was a doozy: the one about how his inaugural crowds were larger than Barack Obama’s, larger than anyone’s, the largest ever, despite the ample photographic evidence that rendered the claim laughable.
That was Day One. On Day Two, he sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, out to meet the White House press corps for the first time. In that ill-fitting suit jacket that appeared to have been tailored for someone with a neck a good three inches thicker than his, Spicer insisted that the photographs were misleading and the press was wrong. Not just wrong—lying. “There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable,” he said, sputtering his words in terse reports as if they were issuing from a machine gun.
And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re gonna hold the press accountable as well. The American people deserve better, and as long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people, where his focus will always be.
Here we are, a year later. From my reading and television viewing, the general assessment of most pundits seems to be that it’s been worse than we could have imagined (except on the Fox News Channel, where everything in Trump world is coming up roses and the gravest threat to democracy is still someone named Clinton). But honestly, who couldn’t have imagined any of this? To anyone who had the right read on Trump’s personality—the vanity, the insecurity, the contempt for knowledge, the addiction to chaos—nothing that’s happened has been surprising in the least.
I think most close observers of Trump understood his personality perfectly well. If that’s right, what, then, could explain the surprise? Maybe just a reasonable disbelief that a president would,…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.