Words Matter

With FBI Director Comey’s testimony today indicating that there is no evidence substantiating President Trump’s strange tweets accusing President Obama of illegal surveillance of Trump Tower during the election, we have another clear example of Donald Trump’s unwillingness to acknowledge that words are important. As a private citizen, there were no real consequences for saying things that weren’t true or were clear exaggerations. In fact, much of Trump’s business practice has been based on hyping his successes – even when they are actually moderate successes or even failures.

It’s no wonder that President Trump does not feel that his words really matter. Businessman and candidate Trump suffered no ill effects for saying (or tweeting) outrageous things and dismissing them or turning them back on the media. With Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, Trump has a duo of helpful lieutenants who are willing to back up his claims and tweets with impunity.

Two recent examples, however, will possibly begin to change Trump’s behavior:

  1. Trump’s revised Muslim travel ban was recently held up by a federal judge in Hawaii based in part on Trump’s own words. Judge Derrick Watson concluded that, based on Trump’s own words throughout the campaign and the early days of his presidency, the travel ban was indeed designed to target a specific religious group.
  2. With FBI Director Comey today refuting that there was any evidence of surveillance on Trump Tower (and similar statements by members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees) the reality that Trump’s tweets are conspiracy theory fueled delusions increases.

We have an expectation that our elected leaders will choose their words wisely and understand that the consequences of injudicious words and inflammatory are significant. In the end, however, these distractions are self-inflicted and they make it more difficult to govern and implement effective policy.

Saying things that are not true is not making America great again.