It is difficult to think of a democratically-elected leader whose indifference to truth, whose contempt for the idea much less the practice of integrity is as obvious as President Donald Trump’s is.
Modern tsars, plutocrats or autocrats whose authority is inherited rather than entrusted, especially the beheading kind, can and do dismiss the constraints of honesty as niceties only the simpleminded expect.
A former Archbishop of Dublin described telling porkies as a “moral reservation” as if the grand Jesuitical language drew the sting from the offence. Dishonesty is, sadly, ubiquitous.
We may think many things about our national political leaders who are often evasive or deliberately, difficultly
obtuse. However, it is hard to accuse the great majority of them, the important ones anyway, of knowingly telling a lie.
That assertion may seem as implausible as Mr Trump’s combover but it is, despite social media harrumphing to the contrary, reliable — especially if you distinguish between dishonesty and the secondary offence of incompetence.
Which raises an obvious question: Is the tag describing our time as a post-truth age all too accurate?
Does basic honesty, in business or relationships matter any more? These questions seem important in the context of the publication of tax returns that show that Mr Trump, just as he was sharing his wisdom with the world through his book Trump: The Art of the Deal in 1987, was losing tens of millions of dollars in his businesses each year.
Mr Trump reported losses totalling $1.17bn during the decade from 1985, losses greater than those endured by any other American. They meant Mr Trump did not pay income tax for eight of the 10 years.
Fake advice from the fake news president, and arguably, a fake citizen too. Leadership material indeed.
This disdain for honesty may be more influential than we perceive. Could it be behind the incomprehensible rarity of perjury cases before our courts?
After all, anyone with the perception of stone can see that there are many opportunities for such hold-the-line prosecutions.
Surely our courts’ should robustly defend their legitimacy and integrity by sanctioning those who hold them, and those who rely on it, in such obvious contempt?
It’s not by any means a revelation that Mr Trump lives in a bubble where words mean what he says they mean.
This was obvious long before his “greatest inauguration in history” — a preposterous lie shamelessly defended by the White House. It has been obvious for a long time that Mr Trump is a compulsive liar which raises another question — why were 62,979,879 Americans so desperate that they voted for him?
Might they do so again?
A version of that question might focus on the 17.4m British people who voted to leave the EU after a campaign of Trumpian dishonesty.
This may all seem a little too sanctimonious but honesty comes in many shapes and sizes.
Accountability is one of those. Every crisis we face, from broadband to the children’s hospital, from cancer screening to foster care scandals, from tracker mortgages to pensions, was facilitated by light-touch accountability — by our feeble grip on what honesty entails