Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 21, 2018
Yes, Mr. Giuliani, truth is truth.
In response to a question posed by Meet the Press anchor Chuck Toddon Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, who continues to give changing and more and more absurd answers for President Donald Trump’s statements and actions in the all-things-Russia inquiry, was explaining that Trump had not talked with fired FBI director James B. Comey Jr. If Trump says there was no conversation about ending an investigation into Michael T. Flynn, fired national security adviser, and Comey says there was, Giuliani suggested that either statement might be true. Thus, he concluded, “Truth isn’t truth.”
The problem is that there is a true statement in there. The question is then only about whether Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III can show evidence that tends to credit one of the two statements as legally true.
As it happens, there is a ton of related evidence that supports the Comey version of the conversation, Giuliani’s nuances notwithstanding, including contemporaneous notes by Comey, statements by others who had been in the room just before the targeted conversation occurred and a string of related actions by the President that matched the ends of that conversation.
But let’s leave that pile of legal detritus to others to unpack; that “truth” argument portends the strong possibility of an obstruction of justice criminal complaint against Trump.
What interests me more is what this statement about truths tells us about the state of our national divide.
The “truth isn’t truth” joins Kelleyanne Conway’s assertion in January 2017 that the White House had put forth “alternative facts” to ones reported by the news media about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd.
As the New York Times noted, after the interview, Merriam Webster tweeted the definition of “truth,” while Comey was more direct, tweeting: “Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life.”
What troubles me on the one hand is the degree to which the White House and this particular president so regularly turns the intended meaning of language to mean the exact opposite. So, Trump is providing a “beautiful” health care plan while doing the opposite in undercutting Obamacare coverage, he is doing an excellent job about immigration while running roughshod over individual lives, he has solved nuclear weapons development in North Korea while there is photographic evidence of continuing work.
Also, the White House continues to be selective in defining problems that it wants to tackle, seemingly with an eye to its minority but outspoken base of voters. From a policy-making point of view, the Trump administration rearranges the reality of problems to apply an acceptable political response, then calls the resulting conditions an improvement, whether it is or not.
It belies the major problem we face if the Russia investigation results in charges against the President or his team. A substantial minority of supporters just will not accept it, and there will be lots more statements about what is “true.”
The ”truth” problem here arises from not looking realistically at social problems, from drug prices to opioids to crime to race-related issues. As a result, the president’s team comes up with responses that they think deals with the problem without really doing so. The example this week of declaring that coal-producing states should set appropriate environmental rules rather than the federal government really means loosening the standards. If that position is what the Trumpists want, why not just say so.
In any event, the continuing problems of defining whether problems belong with the state or federal government are just leading to more confusion. If coal emissions are state business, why is the Trump government in court with California over that state’s laws over auto exhaust pollution standards.
The argument about truth is much wider than whether Trump or Comey is correct about the conversation that led to Comey’s firing. Rather, questions of truth underscore the entire Trump presidency, whether the issue at hand involves personal ethics, appropriateness of presidential powers or even declaring what issues rise to the daily agenda.
That Giuliani and other Trump lawyers have no faith that Trump can tell the “truth” In any Mueller interview without perjuring himself leads to an attack on what is truth instead of disgust for their client. That’s how you get to absurd statements like “truth isn’t truth.”
Truth is truth, and that is the reality, Mr. Giuliani.