Monday, November 28, 2016

Why All the Emphasis on the Meaning of Words

Semantics is so over-rated.

Part of the problem with trying to identify the meaning of Trump’s words is that Trump himself does not put too much stock in them. From his very first book — which he didn’t write — Trump proclaimed his faith in “truthful hyperbole.” His rise to political prominence came from lying about President Obama’s citizenship status. During his presidential campaign, Trump and his aides gaslighted on a regular basis: In one debate, Trump flatly denied that he had called global warming a Chinese hoax — when he very clearly had . According to every reputable fact-checker, Trump lied far more frequently than Hillary Clinton.

This really surprised me to hear that leaders of countries are generally candid with each other.

But after a campaign in which he faced almost no consequences for lying or exaggerating, Trump will be moving to a far different arena. Getting caught bluffing in international politics is embarrassing. Getting caught in an outright lie is more dangerous. When it comes to foreign policy, American presidents have had a habit of telling the truth. Sure, they sometimes lie — John F. Kennedy lied to hide the fact that Soviet removal of nuclear weapons from Cuba in 1962 was contingent on the United States withdrawing Jupiter missiles from Turkey. But that was a lie to the American people. In his book “Why Leaders Lie,” political scientist John Mearsheimer came to the surprising conclusion that foreign policy leaders rarely lie to other governments.

There are sound reasons to believe that lying is not a viable strategy in the long run. The United States is the most powerful country in the world, but it is not all-powerful — it still needs friends and partners.

We need friends and partners? I thought we were the indispensable, rugged individualist nation that could go it alone.  

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