“Things are seldom what they seem,” the playful lyric in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” could well be an anthem for the Trump White House.
Tuesday night the president crooned about “beautiful coal” at a rally in West Virginia, never once mentioning the crushing news of the day. Two of his closest advisors, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, had just gone through the legal ringer and were each guilty of eight felony charges.
Under oath, Cohen stated that Trump directed him to commit campaign violations. By Wednesday morning Trump was snidely tweeting: “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”
Trump might just as well have said the same about his current lawyer, the increasingly-hard-to-take-seriously Rudy Giuliani. As the legal noose tightened on Trump, Giuliani flew to Scotland to play golf.
The inexplicable vacation came just after Giuliani made a blithering attempt on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to explain what “truth” is in Trump’s universe. Host Chuck Todd mentioned that Trump should have nothing to fear by being honest in the Russia investigation because, as Todd said off-handedly, “Truth is truth.”
“No, it isn’t truth!” Giuliani shot back. And then he soared past Kellyanne Conway on the Orwellian Hit Parade - where Conway has held the Number One spot for over a year with her classic ditty, “Alternative Facts.”
“Truth isn’t truth,” Giuliani insisted, placing himself atop the chart that features golden oldies such as Bill Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
Trump holds several spots on the Top Ten list, including his remark to a gathering of veterans last month. “Just remember,” he said, “what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”
Thanks to dedicated truth-seekers at The Washington Post we know that President Trump averages seven false or misleading claims per day, perhaps having trained himself as George Costanza did on “Seinfeld.” According to George: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”
Ah, yes, but as Albert Einstein pointed out: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” What about that?
Trump answered in “The Art of the Deal” by coining the term “truthful hyperbole.” He said that when lies are carefully crafted they become “an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.”
Is it any wonder that Giuliani and Trump’s other advisors are scared silly over the prospect of the president testifying under oath in the Mueller investigation? Giuliani, his foot always dangerously close to his mouth, says that Mueller would be setting up a “perjury trap” for Trump.
Such delightful light opera would do Gilbert & Sullivan proud. The President of the United States swears to tell the truth but is foiled when he can’t stop himself from lapsing into truthful hyperbole and alternative facts.
In “Pinafore,” the line about things seldom being what they seem is sung by a character named Buttercup. Wednesday, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the porn star who Trump and Cohen sought to silence, tweeted a warning to Giuliani: “Buckle Up Buttercup.”
Things aren’t what they seem in the White House, but in the legal arena they are becoming increasingly clear.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker.