Guest Column: You don’t owe loyalty to someone who is not truthful

Published 9:16 am Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.

President Trump recently said he’ll propose a replacement to Obamacare shortly, which will insure everyone and cost less. The chief problem is that it doesn’t exist yet. It sounds good, so he said it. He’s not bound by facts nor reality. He’ll shift attention from his empty promise when he can’t deliver on it in a timely fashion. Too bad for everyone who may lose their health insurance in the meantime.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

It’s not his fault, look over there. Big crowds! The biggest in history!

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When it comes to the number of people who attended his inauguration, which is exceedingly important to him because it would confirm his popularity and cement his mandate (in his mind), Trump picked a number he liked and stuck with it. Then, despite visual evidence to the contrary from multiple reliable sources, he sent out his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to double down on it. The press secretary padded his assertion with false information about Metro ridership and imaginary security measures that prevented far larger numbers of enthusiastic supporters from reaching the national mall.

The next day, Kellyanne Conway, who is more visibly comfortable lying than Sean Spicer is, reiterated the White House’s preferred version of events and referred to the lies as “alternative facts.” Her title is counselor to the president but she could just as well be called the minister of truth in an Orwellian sense. Her unflappable smile seems to giggle telepathically, “Can you believe I’m actually saying this?”

She flat out scolded NBC’s Chuck Todd, “Your job is not to call things ridiculous that are said by our press secretary and our president. That’s not your job.”

Really, Conway? George Orwell described it most succinctly: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations.”

The free press has an obligation to print the truth as near as it can be reached. It’s not a mouthpiece for an insecure president who needs constant reassurances of his tremendous greatness.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus contributed similar shadiness. On Fox News with Chris Wallace, he deflected, “It really isn’t about crowd size. What it’s about is honesty in the media.” Wallace incredulously called for side-by-side photos to be put back on the screen. Draw your own conclusions. Do you trust Trump and his lackeys? Or do you trust the “dishonest” media and its photos? As Chico Marx (dressed as Groucho Marx) asked in the prescient film “Duck Soup” (1933), “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Or as George Orwell stated in “1984,” “The Party told you to reject all evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Reince Priebus bears an uncanny resemblance to a youthful Roy Cohn, who rose to prominence as Sen. Joe McCarthy’s chief counsel during the disgraced Army-McCarthy hearings. Cohn favored off-the-record interrogation sessions to avoid public scrutiny. He later resurrected his career as a high-powered lawyer for mob bosses like John Gotti and Anthony Salerno from New York City’s Five Families. He also represented and mentored a young real estate heir named Donald Trump. All just a coincidence, surely.

On the first full day of the newly-minted Trump administration, why lie about something that can be easily disproven with photos? Is it a loyalty test for his staff? For the media? For his supporters?

Maybe it’s all of the above. What Trump values most is loyalty to himself. Not loyalty to the U.S. Constitution or the people or even his party, but Trump the man. Maybe, like a mob boss, that loyalty extends to his family. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, also a real estate heir, has been green-lighted around anti-nepotism laws to be his senior advisor. Trump is insulating himself from reality and criticism. While that’s fine for a reality TV star, it’s not for a president.

Here’s all you need to remember in Trumpland:

• Anything that goes wrong is not Trump’s fault.

• The media is dishonest.

• Trump is the most popular president in U.S. history.

Are you an American? Then you don’t owe your loyalty to any leader who tells lies — big and small, compulsively — to your face. We are torchbearers of the Enlightenment, not goose-steppers for the Inquisition. We cannot uphold justice without rigorously seeking and defending truth.