Donald Trump did not merely lie to exaggerate his accomplishments, or smear his opponents. For Trump and the Republican Party, lies were a loyalty test. To reject Trump’s lies or exaggerations, even if they contradicted prior assertions by the now-ex-president, was to express disloyalty, the only Trump-era sin that was unforgivable by his faithful. This allowed the president to fashion for his supporters alternate realities whose tenets could not be questioned, such as his false allegations of voter fraud.
That was not the only lie of consequence, of course. The president manufactured terrorism threats from the left, and suppressed warnings about those on the right. He punished government officials who properly engaged in oversight and rewarded those who misled the public as he wanted. Most damaging, he lied about the scope and danger of a pandemic that is on course to kill half a million Americans. Listing his lies would require more time than I can offer here.
The Biden era presages a return to typical presidential dishonesty, without the cult of personality that defined the Trump era. But presidential lies were destructive long before Trump appeared, so the press and the public should resist the temptation to assume that the Biden administration will always be on the level, or that its dishonesties can be forgiven because Biden’s predecessor wielded falsehood with such abandon. There will be moments when the public interest conflicts with the political interest of the White House, and during some of these moments, the president will lie.