Anyone expecting to hear President Trump lay out the details for his administration should he win re-election in 2020 didn’t get that at his reality-TV campaign “kick off” in Orlando, Florida, last week. Instead, they got reruns of his 2016 campaign.

Most of the promises he made then have not been fulfilled, or even close to it. Trump is still fixated on Hillary Clinton while his followers continue to chant “lock her up” and he continues to claim no one has the right to lock him up. It’s time to toss the MAGA hats on the trash pile of history and remember when Congress used to file articles of impeachment against presidents for lying. And Trump has truly set a new record, telling more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

In a blatant rejection of Trump, the Orlando Sentinel published an editorial right before his rally titled “Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump.” They were blunt in their criticism: “Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign. We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump. Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump. After 2½ years we’ve seen enough. Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity. Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.”

The editorial continued to note that “there was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career. Not so for Trump.”

Indeed, for anyone with a shred of recall prior to Trump’s occupation of the White House, lying used to be reason enough to seek impeachment.

Congress didn’t file articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon for ordering the break-in to the Democratic Party offices in the Watergate, but for lying about it. And no, the nation did not buy his line that he “was not a crook.” Bill Clinton didn’t face impeachment for his shameful dalliances with a young intern in the Oval Office, but for lying about it when he claimed: “I did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky.” Unfortunately for Clinton, the semen stains on Lewinsky’s dress proved him undeniably wrong.

The real problem with lying at the highest levels of government is that it sends the message to those throughout the bureaucracy that lying is tolerated. While the proof of Trump’s aides and political appointees lying through their teeth is well known, this contagion has now spread to the corruption of the foundational Freedom of Information Act whereby citizens are legally entitled to request and receive information from government files.

Yet, while Trump was blathering in Florida, the news broke that Department of Interior political appointees are now demanding to see the information the agency is required to provide before it goes public — and exercising veto power over its release. How can any nation function when no one can believe what the government is telling them, when veracity is no longer required, when the ability to make decisions rests on blatant fictions?

The truth is contained in the closing lines of the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial: “The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that. We can do better. We have to do better.” Hear, hear!

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George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at oped@missoulian.com.

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