George Graham

Reality and Perception



carlyI was talking with a neighbor the other day, and he assured me that Donald Trump is just what America needs for its next president. Trump is a successful tycoon and has the skills to run things efficiently, my neighbor said.

OK, so this neighbor is under psychiatric care and sometimes takes too many of the pills the doctor gives him.

But what about my cousin’s wife in Miami? She is as down-to-earth as anyone you will ever meet. And she is voting for Donald Trump. He is just what the country needs for its next President, she explained over the phone recently. Washington needs someone like that to clean house.

Obviously, Trump is widely perceived as a super-efficient tycoon with exceptional executive and personal skills. But how factual is that?

In fact, he has had a checkered career, plunging into bankruptcy more than once. He has failed at marriage a couple of times. And he spouts clouds of hot air about various topics, from Barack Obama’s “missing” birth certificate to building the Great Wall of China on the Mexican border – at Mexico’s expense –  and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. He has yet to explain how he plans to round up the immigrants or how he will get Mexico to pay for the wall.

I imagine his real estate empire could disappear in a puff of smoke at any time. As you and I know, real estate empires tend to be built on pillars of perception and the magic of “leverage.”

Powered by perception, Trump (upper picture, right) stubbornly hangs on to solid support among Republican voters. He is consistently at the top of most polls.

His closest rival, revered surgeon Ben Carson (upper picture, left), is just as much of a fantasy figure.

Carson has managed to create for himself an inspiring story of a wild adolescence and redemption through the saving grace of Christ’s sacrifice. Some of the facts in his story seem to be dissolving under scrutiny, but that’s not the most important thing. It’s his notion of Christianity that troubles me.

In his dreamy monotone, Carson describes a mystic world in which Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,  life begins with fertilization of an egg, Jesus preached against same-sex marriage and other strange imaginings.

In his version of Christianity, you don’t love your enemies, you bomb them into extinction.

Yet Carson is vying with Trump at the top of the polls, propped up by the “Evangelical” vote.

That’s the way things are today. Perception, however false, is what counts. And the Republicans are masters of the art of manipulating perception.

For instance, a powerful and persistent propaganda campaign has convinced many Americans that Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats, better at creating jobs and economic growth, and more able to defend the nation and keep America’s flag flying high in the world.

It’s all hooey, of course. The facts show the opposite is true.

Here’s an example of the facts, as spotlighted by this debate question to Carly Fiorina (lower picture):

Under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month and under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. George W. Bush added only 13,000 jobs a month. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?

Fiorina responded with an irrelevant anecdote about a woman who was having a hard time. She did not answer the question vut I bet some viewers perceived her as being well informed and possibly even presidential.

It’s perception that counts, not the facts.

Click for more on Fiorina’s response.

Click for more on the GOP’s propaganda.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for