The mainstream media are peculiarly zealous about fact-checking Donald Trump.
The Washington Post reports Tuesday, for example, that “President Trump has made 1,950 false or misleading claims over 347 days.” Liberal think tanks are joining in: the Rand Corporation is running a project called “Truth Decay,” which has suddenly noticed the lack of honesty in our public discourse is a threat to democracy, and which will no doubt cite Trump as the main factor.
The media showed almost no interest in Obama’s lies; in fact, they often covered for him. Politifact rated Obama’s repeated promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” as its “lie of the year” in 2013, but only after calling that statement “half true” in 2009.
The media also manipulate the definition of truth to categorize Trump statements as false when they are arguably true, or when they concern matters of opinion rather than fact.
The New York Times recently rewarded Trump for acceding to an interview by publishing a list of ten “falsehoods” he had told them. Of these, only two were actually false. The rest were either largely true, or just statements of opinion with which the Times happened to disagree.
That is not to say Trump is a paragon of precision, or that truth does not matter.
Long before the media obsession with fact-checking Trump, in my 2016 book See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, I commented on Donald Trump’s “penchant for exaggeration and fabulistic tales.” I added that whatever the election outcome, we had “to restore the health of our democracy by restoring truth to its rightful place in American political discourse.”
But what the mainstream media and liberal think tanks miss is that as president, Trump has been fundamentally honest in a way that few of his predecessors were: he has kept his promises.
He said he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords, and he did; he said he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and he is doing so; he said he would cut taxes, and he has. Some promises, like the border wall, remain undone, but there is time.
Trump’s “lies” lack an element of deceit. He is loose with the facts, but generally true to his word.
And when Trump fulfills one of his promises, the media react with surprise — not only because they are not used to a politician doing what he or she actually promised, but also because in each case Trump defies conventional wisdom and the media’s own, barely disguised, policy preferences.
The media would, in fact, prefer that Trump lie to the American people.
Obama’s lies mattered in a way that Trump’s do not. He lied about “shovel-ready” jobs when he pushed the near-trillion-dollar stimulus through Congress. He lied about opposing an individual mandate to buy health insurance. He lied about ballistic missile sanctions in the Iran deal.
The worst part was that his supporters wanted him to lie. When Obama opposed same-sex marriage in 2008, his supporters knew he was doing it for votes — and approved.
It is important to hold Trump accountable for what he says. But what the media fail to understand is that reciting lists of Trump “falsehoods” misses the point. Politicians stretch the truth; Trump is not the first, or even the worst. He is guilty of bluster, but not fraud.
The truth that matters to voters is whether their leaders keep faith with the electorate, honoring their promises and their oath of office. By that measure, Trump is setting the example — so far.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.