“Alternative facts” could kill, warn national security and other government veterans, and eventually could unravel the fabric of democracy and America’s standing in the world.
This weekend, it was crowd size. By next week, it could be how many troops were killed, and who was responsible for the attack. Or how successful the American response was. Or whether there is an actual threat to homeland security that requires government action. Or even a dispute with a foreign government over a sensitive detail in negotiations.
“It absolutely puts lives at risk. If the president claims that Iran is cheating on the nuclear accord, or that North Korea is about to test a nuclear device on an intercontinental missile,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, “the public needs to believe him, and if he so undermines his credibility we can’t build an international coalition … it has the gravest consequences.”
GOP strategist Steve Schmidt’s view: “purposeful deceit, willful lying by a government spokesperson, is the hallmark of a totalitarian or an authoritarian regime. It’s absolutely pernicious in a democracy.”
“The issue is small, trivial and stupid — but the act of dishonesty and arguing about it is a big deal,” Schmidt added.
“There are narcissists who think anything they do is right and anything they say — not persuaded by evidence — that is what is frightening,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who met with Trump during the transition. “When you’re saying something that is brazenly false and expecting your followers to adhere to it, that’s a dictator. That is not an American president.”