In an argument between Donald Trump and Donald Trump, only Donald Trump can win. And it should be no surprise that in those conflicts: lying Donald Trump will always outpoll Trump telling the truth.
After all, as Mark Twain noted more than 100 years ago, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
And that was long before lies traveled the internet, sometimes pushed by people in their pajamas who never put on shoes.
A study done for the MIT Media Lab, analyzed 126,000 rumors that were spread on Twitter between 2006 and 2017. They found, Slate.com reported, that false rumors traveled “farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information,” but especially politics.
This is why President Trump undoubtedly believes most Americans remember his statement, made right after his Singapore Summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Indeed, many people do remember it and still believe that it is true.
Many of them don’t know that in a required report to Congress, the President wrote the very opposite, that North Korea remain a grave and nuclear threat to the United States.
And many of the people who do know, still believe what they saw the President say, rather what they read he wrote sometime since.
Which is why Trump told a live audience in Minnesota and the national audience on TV and social media the remains of American soldiers killed in North Korea have been returned to the United States.
He told this lie, hoping it would be remembered while the truth is still looking for its second sock.
When he amended his statement the next day, the only ones who actually heard it were the members of his Cabinet, and even to them, he stretched the truth. “I understand,” he said, “that they’ve already sent back or are in the process of sending back the remains.”
The North Koreans are “in the process” of returning the remains of the US service people in exactly the same way they are “in the process” of complete denuclearization. Kim Jong Un mentioned it to Trump and hasn’t delivered on anything.
But it appears the North Koreans aren’t just passively resisting: on the diplomatic front, US sources say they’ve been dragging their feet, and on the much more important nuclear weapons front, multiples US intelligence sources have been telling various news outlets for the past week, Pyongyang is cheating.
Which is why, Trump’s off-camera admission to Congress, puts the lie to that same President on TV. Try to remember that.
Joseph Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. He is the author of the new book Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late, Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons and Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s International Security Advisory Board.
His commentary has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Financial Times, Kyodo News, Moscow Times, Foreign Policy, The Hill, Daily Beast, and Huffington Post. He has appeared on ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, PBS, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NHK, Russia Today, and Al Jazeera.
Cirincione worked for nine years in the US House of Representatives on the professional staff of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Government Operations. He is the author of hundreds of articles on nuclear weapons issues, the producer of two DVDs, a frequent commentator in the media, and he appeared in the films, Countdown to Zero and Why We Fight. He previously served as Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress and Director for Nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has held positions at the Henry L. Stimson Center, the US Information Agency and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He teaches at the graduate School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.