Credibility Gap Redux?

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December 4, 2016 9:46 PM

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Credibility is a tough thing to establish, and even harder to maintain, as Donald Trump will learn once he moves into the White House.  A president without credibility will find it much more difficult to bring the nation with him on any major issue.

If you don’t believe me, just look at two late 20th century presidents – Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.  Johnson was dogged by a credibility gap on information released about the Vietnam War.  When the public lost faith in the facts his administration presented, a credibility gap widened.  I don’t have the space to summarize the credibility problems Richard Nixon experienced, suffice it to say Nixon resigned before the Congress had time to remove him from office through the impeachment process.

A credibility gap happens when the public can no longer believe what the president and his administration officials are saying about important subjects.  What Mr. Trump has done so far is not a good sign of what may come once he assumes office.

The most recent case is his Twitter storm about losing the popular national election by more than 2.5 million votes.  Trump asserts that “millions” of illegal votes were cast, robbing him of the popular vote win.  The problem is, there is no evidence of this and the president-elect has provided no facts to back up his claim.

Trump clearly won enough Electoral College votes to assume the presidency.  Yet, he feels the need to rebut the fact that he has lost the popular vote by a reasonably large margin, even if the facts are not on his side.

Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence was asked by George Stephanopoulos on his Sunday morning ABC News show about this allegation of illegal votes being cast, and Pence appears to argue Trump is entitled to his opinion, even if there are no facts to back it up.  “(Trump’s) going to say what he believes to be true and I know that he’s always going to speak in that way as president,” Pence told Stephanopoulos.

That attitude should trouble anyone, whether or not you are a Trump supporter.  The public will likely cut him some slack early in the term, but if President Trump continues to provide false information, a credibility gap will be a problem for him.

If the nation is facing a serious crisis, it’s important that the nation believe the chief executive.  If Trump cannot be believed or trusted, this is bad news for all of us if America faces a important issue.

My hope is that once assuming office, cooler heads will prevail and the president will hand over his cell phone.  A president should not be obsessed with Tweeting.

Credibility gaps were huge problems for Presidents Johnson and Nixon.  Let’s hope Trump does not go down that same path and lose the trust of the American people.

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