Just as a voter, helped by the media, was thinking Donald Trump is a shocking liar, along came Elizabeth Warren’s bravura performance in last week’s Wells Fargo hearing. Unfortunately, she also completely falsified the scandal, insisting that fraudulent sales inflated the company’s stock and the CEO’s pay. It didn’t happen that way. As a New York Times reporter told PBS, “Sometimes a bank employee would open up an account for someone, the person didn’t know it, and then two days later they would close it. . . . It wasn’t even making the bank money. It was just meeting goals for the sake of meeting goals.” The Obama Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has engaged in deliberate statistical lying to accuse wholesale auto lenders of racism that they are incapable of (because they know nothing about the borrower’s race). Mr. Obama himself said if you like your health plan, you can keep it, not because it was true but because it was necessary to allow his law to pass. The sacking of the Benghazi consulate may have been a routine government muddle, but there’s no longer any doubt that the administration deliberately lied to the American people when saying the attack was a spontaneous response to an internet video. OK, mendacity permeates our politics, mostly in the service of some kind of shakedown or other. See the settlements imposed on banks for selling Fannie and Freddie subprime loans Congress mandated that they buy. It might not be too reductionist to say that lying for money is what a lot of people in and around government now do for a living. Maybe it’s always been this way. A tempting theory, though, is that, around the 1990s, plaintiffs-bar ethics infected the larger legal and administrative culture. If so, the tobacco settlement of 1998 may be a turning point. Mr. Trump has shown an alarming tendency to pass along unsubstantiated tweets, and to echo the covers of supermarket tabloids. He attributes to himself successful predictions that he never made, like his claim to have opposed the Iraq invasion. His latest howler is his ever-inventive milking of the birther controversy, now crediting himself with winkling out the truth (Mr. Obama was born in the U.S.) while blaming Hillary Clinton in 2008 for fomenting a faux mystery. His lying seems juvenile, boastful—and so far unrelated to the kind that is dissolving faith in American institutions, though we certainly offer no warranty about how he would behave in office. The media set up a mighty wind before Monday’s debate insisting that somebody truth-squad his every statement. They are disappointed now. Mr. Trump weathered the attacks destined to come his way based on his checkered business record, his history of vulgar statements and tall tales, just about everything except his alleged mob ties. He is not a lifelong politician like Mrs. Clinton and it showed. But he survived on stage. Notice, he also apparently made a strategic decision not to raise Bill Clinton’s infidelities and stuck to it. One of the least perceptive TV comments, I didn’t catch by whom, claimed Mr. Trump has proved himself incapable of taking advice or changing his approach. Au contraire: He changes positions constantly, has constantly alternated between scripted and free-form in his style. He doesn’t know what he thinks about most issues (except trade) and yet has been content to bull ahead and sort it out later. Give him credit: His act does have other dimensions. The buildings he put his name on, some of which he built, are real. His numerous product lines are real. His TV show was a real hit. An Atlantic Monthly writer, in a now much-quoted felicity, once said that the “part of the 2016 story that will be hardest to explain after it’s all over” is that “Trump did not deceive anyone.” A formulation catching on lately advises taking Trump seriously, not literally. In the end this fall’s election, as Monday’s debate probably established, will resolve into very flawed outsider vs. very flawed insider—and will be decided by the American people in that vein. It won’t become—as the media and Democrats hoped going into Monday’s debate—“Hillary is the only option because Trump is unacceptable.” A final note: People who believe the truth is inherently valuable generally are not attracted to the political profession, or at least equipped to do well in it. (Yes, there are exceptions.) Yet a few of us were listening most closely to hear if Mrs. Clinton betrayed the slightest inkling that anything had gone wrong in Obama’s America. Lies are inevitable but the president’s worst lie (or hypocrisy as some prefer it) was his pretense that he cared about the unemployed, underemployed, and economically insecure in our struggling economy—when, in fact, his focus was on delivering the wish lists of Democratic interest groups seeking more regulation, more taxes, more subsidies, more government control over things in general. Somehow, some way, the next president will have to see a different path ahead or God help us.