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Trump

One of the great mysteries of the Trump administration — and there are many — is why it finds it so necessary to stray from the truth.

It seems that nothing this administration does is enough to simply stand on its own. It has to be embellished with a tall story at the minimum or with an outright lie at the worst.

For instance, just a few weeks ago Tara Sweeney, a prominent Native American from Alaska, was installed as Trump's assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior.

It wasn't enough that the Trump people noted the occasion with a Facebook posting; they went on to claim that Sweeney was the first Native American to hold the position.

I didn't even have to consult the history books to know that claim was an utter falsehood.

Since I earlier this year read Ron Chernow's brilliant history "Grant," a 900-page look at Ulysses S. Grant's generalship and presidency, I already knew that he had appointed the first Native American "commissioner of Indian Affairs" way back in 1869. Grant put Ely Parker, one of his close confidantes and a proud Native American, in charge of Indian affairs to clean up an office that regularly cheated the Indians out of everything from land to horses.

Well, then, perhaps the administration meant to say that Sweeney is the first woman Native American to hold that position.

That's not so either. In fact, it is Wisconsin's own Ada Deer who holds that honor. Bill Clinton made her assistant secretary for Indian Affairs when he became president in 1993. Deer, a leader of the Menominee tribe, served all four years of Clinton's first term, coming back to Madison to teach at the UW. She retired recently and still lives in Fitchburg.

Rather than being the first to hold the title, Sweeney is actually the 12th Native American to serve in the post since it was named assistant secretary for Indian Affairs back in 1977. In fact, all the assistant secretaries have been Native Americans.

Sweeney is a respected Indian leader and a lifetime member of the National Congress of American Indians. Her appointment was unanimously approved by the Senate earlier this year and she was sworn in to her new job late last month.

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There's every reason to believe she will do a commendable job in her role as the country's chief spokesperson for Indian affairs.

Why Trump's entourage found it necessary to make up "alternative facts" about the appointment seems, indeed, puzzling.

But it's only puzzling until you realize that everything Trump does is not only the "best," but the "first." And if the facts say differently, just ignore them.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. 

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.