cover image Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie—and Why Trump Is Worse

Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie—and Why Trump Is Worse

Eric Alterman. Basic, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1682-0

Nation columnist Alterman (coauthor, The Cause) delivers an administration-by-administration analysis of presidential deception from FDR to Donald Trump in this vigorously argued account. During the Cold War, Alterman contends, America’s rising role in global affairs contributed to the willingness of White House officials to deceive the media and the public in the name of national security. Political journalists contributed to the problem in the post-Watergate era by casting themselves as tough-minded Beltway insiders unbothered by the sausage-making of public policy. By general consensus, Alterman claims, the press viewed Jimmy Carter as an earnest lightweight, while the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were given license to mislead the public in pursuit of their foreign policy aims. Alterman accuses Trump of lying not only to achieve his legislative agenda, but to create an alternate, mass media–driven reality for his supporters, and documents explicit deceptions on immigration policies and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Though Alterman makes a strong case for the links between presidential dishonesty and the expansion of executive powers since WWII, and for the media’s culpability in failing to hold presidents to account, the book’s final chapters devolve into an anti-Trump screed. This aggrieved condemnation of political chicanery preaches to the choir. (July)