Donald Trump
Credit: The White House/Flickr

According to the Washington Post fact-checkers, Donald Trump has told more than 12,000 lies since becoming president. But his lack of acquaintance with the truth started long before he was inaugurated. During the 2016 campaign, Salena Zito—whose schtick Gilad Edelman exposed here at the Washington Monthly—is the conservative reporter who coined a description of Trump that dominated headlines for days. To cover for his lies, she suggested that we should “take Trump seriously, but not literally.”

I was reminded of that when, over the weekend, several Republican lawmakers were asked about the president’s statement that China should investigate the Bidens. For Republicans who are constantly saying that the U.S. needs to take a stronger stand against China and their human rights abuses, that presented a difficult moment. Several of them responded by suggesting that we shouldn’t take Trump seriously. For example, here’s Marco Rubio.

Senator Roy Blunt echoed those remarks.

After saying that Rubio got it exactly right, Representative Jim Jordan added: “You would think after … a few years of following this president you’d sort of understand how this guy communicates.”

That is extraordinary. These lawmakers are playing with fire when they tell us that the president of the United States should not be taken seriously because he is simply saying things to inflame the press. To the extent they believe that to be true, not one of them expressed any concern about it.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy demonstrated what that means by delivering a touch of irony to the news that Trump has sold out the Kurds in northern Syria.

There is a reason why, up until now, U.S. presidents have been guarded in their comments about world affairs. The words they utter come with the power of the commander-in-chief of the most powerful country on earth, and have always been taken seriously.

We all know that Donald Trump not only lies, he speaks and acts impulsively. On the few occasions when even he recognizes that he has overstepped the limits, he claims that he was simply joking. Both the president and his Republican enablers are suggesting that all of us have to decide when to take the words of the president seriously.

The story of the boy who cried wolf comes to mind. We can only hope that the day never comes when Trump has something critical to tell us and we all respond by assuming that we don’t have to take him seriously.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.