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“There Are Liars, And Then There’s Donald”: Why Donald Trump’s Brazen Lies Overwhelm The Press

There have been many dishonest presidential candidates in our history; indeed, it would be almost impossible, no matter how virtuous, to spend a year or two giving speeches, addressing audiences large and small, trying to persuade voters — in short, talking all day while your words are being recorded — without getting a few things wrong. Some correct themselves after it happens, some just don’t use that particular line again, and others forge on ahead, repeating falsehoods even after they’ve been called out.

But there are liars, and then there’s Donald Trump. He may have an inflated opinion of himself, but when it comes to lying, the man has truly reached a level no one else can approach.

If you’ve watched Trump at all, you’ve probably had this experience: First he says something outlandish (“If we negotiated the price of drugs, we’d save $300 billion a year“), and you think “That can’t possibly be true.” Then he moves on to something even more bizarre (“We have the highest taxes anywhere in the world“), and you say, “Now I know that’s not true.” But he keeps going, offering one ridiculous and false claim after another, until you’re left shaking your head in wonder.

Trump’s lies come in many different forms. Some are those that are clearly wrong, and which it’s almost certain he knows are wrong, as when he says The Art of the Deal is “the number one selling business book of all time” (not even close). Some are things he seems to have heard somewhere that are false; of course, repeating such a story doesn’t become an intentional lie until you know it’s false but insist it’s true. That’s the case with things like Trump’s bogus story about thousands of Muslims celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers on rooftops in Jersey City, or with his repeated story that the 9/11 hijackers sent their wives and girlfriends back to Saudi Arabia from the U.S. two days before the attacks (only two of the 19 hijackers were married, one had a girlfriend, and none of those three were in the United States). Others might be put down to being just wild exaggerations, as when he claims that all the polls show him beating Hillary Clinton in a general election (nope).

But the sheer volume of Trump’s lies may, paradoxically, protect him from the kind of condemnation he ought to be be getting. His unique style was on majestic display at the press conference he gave Tuesday night after another round of primaries, in which he set out to defend himself against Mitt Romney’s charge that many of his branding ventures — like Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and Trump Magazine — have gone out of business.

It was complete with visual displays as phony as Trump’s claims. Romney “talked about the water company” said Trump, showing his fantastic, luxurious water. But Romney said nothing about a water company, and it appears that Trump’s water is made by this company in Connecticut, and then they slap a “Trump” label on it and sell it at his resorts.

“We have Trump Steaks,” he said, pointing to a platter full of steaks that had been brought out for the occasion. But Trump Steaks have been off the market for a decade; the steaks at the press conference were still in wrappers indicating they came from a meat company called Bush Brothers.

“We have Trump Magazine,” Trump said, holding up not the actual Trump Magazine, which stopped publishing in 2009, but something called The Jewel of Palm Beach, which he apparently has printed up and passed out to promote his Mar-a-Lago resort. “He mentioned Trump Vodka,” Trump said, going on to explain how he owns a working winery (actually true!), but not saying anything about the vodka, which indeed went bust in 2011 (Jonathan Ellis explains all this, with pictures).

What should reporters do when they’re confronted with this kind of blizzard of baloney? There aren’t any easy answers. Though some publications employ fact checkers who pick out certain claims they think are meaningful enough to investigate at length, if you’re covering a Trump rally or press conference and you decide to explain all the things he said that were false, that would make up the entirety of your story and there would be no time or space to address anything else.

And if a reporter for a major news organization described this matter accurately — that Trump is an unusually enthusiastic liar whose falsehoods come in such quantity that they’re difficult to keep up with — she’d be accused of abandoning her objectivity.

The real genius of Trump’s mendacity lies in its brazenness. One of the assumptions behind the fact-checking enterprise is that politicians are susceptible to being shamed: If they lie, you can expose the lie and then they’ll be less likely to repeat it. After all, nobody wants to be tarred as a liar. But what happens when you’re confronted with a politician who is utterly without shame? You can reveal where he’s lied, explain all the facts, and try as hard as you can to inoculate the public against his falsehoods. But by the time you’ve done that, he has already told 10 more lies.

“A little hyperbole never hurts,” Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.” He seems to believe that what matters isn’t the truth, but whether you lie with enough bravado. And so far, he’s largely getting away with it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 10, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Media | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Forever Active Or Proxy Warfare”: Republican Lies And Distortions About The Middle East

One of the reasons it is difficult to comment on the actual content of what the Republican presidential candidates said last night is that so much of it was simply untrue. By the time you are done fact-checking, there isn’t much there there.

The debate produced a lot of material for the fact-checkers to work with. But most troubling, given the topic they were focused on, was the complete lack of understanding and/or truthfulness about what is actually going on in the Middle East. A perfect example of that was the claim from Ted Cruz that the Obama administration “toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.” One can only assume that Cruz is ignorant of the whole “Arab Spring” rebellions of 2010/11 and the fact that it was the people of Egypt who forced him to step down.

For a more comprehensive review, Ishaan Tharoor has written: The Middle East dreamed up at the Republican debate doesn’t really exist. He begins by talking about Cruz’s proposal to “carpet bomb” ISIS.

Cruz’s emphasis is on tough, withering, relentless action, but you can’t bomb the Islamic State to smithereens without contemplating an enormous civilian death toll. That places Cruz in the same camp as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has for years now been bombing civilian areas in his own nation’s cities with barrel bombs and other crude, indiscriminate forms of munitions…

Cruz and, to varying extents, other candidates onstage appeared to view the Middle East as a kind of set for “American Sniper” — a woebegone place of dusty towns crawling with bad guy extremists and not much else.

It wouldn’t be the first time a Republican confused the real world with the movie version.

Tharoor goes on to talk about Carson’s proposal to move Syrian refugees to the Hasakah governorate in northeast Syria, which “is still a theater of war and the site of bitter clashes between Kurdish militias and the Islamic State,” as well as the complex realities of working with various Kurdish parties and militias. But then he got to what I noticed in the proposals we heard last night from Kasich, Rubio and Christie.

But none of this was being deliberated in Las Vegas, of course.

Instead, there was a vague embrace of Sunni Arab elites — namely the ruling royals of countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia — and a parallel demonization of Iran, a regional bogeyman on the other side of a sectarian divide with the Saudis.

The truth is that the neocons in the Republican Party want the United States to take sides in the centuries-old battle between the Shia and the Sunnis in the Middle East. Specifically, they want us to take the side of the Sunni majorities in countries like Saudi Arabia against the Shiites in Iran. That means aligning with the country whose oil wealth has been used to support groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. Here is how Kasich put it last night:

Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. The one thing we want to prevent is we want to prevent Iran being able to extend a Shia crescent all across the Middle East. Assad has got to go…

I don’t want to be policeman of the world. But we can’t back off of this. And let me tell you, at the end, the Saudis have agreed to put together a coalition inside of Syria to stabilize that country.

He must go. It will be a blow to Iran and Russia.

In the Republican mind, we have friends and we have enemies. Saudi Arabia – which has one of the worst human rights records in the world – is a “friend.” Russia and Iran are “enemies.”

That is exactly why Republicans are so vehemently opposed the the deal that was recently negotiated with Iran to stop their development of nuclear weapons. As President Obama told David Remnick prior to the conclusion of those negotiations, it sets the stage for a potential geopolitical realignment in the Middle East.

Ultimately, he envisages a new geopolitical equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he told me. “And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.

For all their bluster about the President being weak and ineffective, this is the real reason Republicans oppose his strategy in the Middle East. They can’t conceptualize peace in the Middle East short of a military solution that provides a win for our friends and defeat of our enemies. In other words…forever active or proxy warfare.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 15, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Middle East, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans, The Post-Truth Party”: GOP Think’s They Can Get Away With Lying Because They’re Sure They’ll Have Enough Money

The acceptance speeches by Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney at the GOP convention were only slightly more grounded in reality than Clint Eastwood’s conversation with an empty chair. Ryan is infamous for his pack of lies, from the attempt to blame President Obama for the closing of a Wisconsin GM factory that began shutting down during the Bush presidency, to the fantasy that Ryan’s austerity agenda is about something other than gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to enrich Wall Street speculators and the insurance industry.

The acceptance speeches by Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney at the GOP convention were only slightly more grounded in reality than Clint Eastwood’s conversation with an empty chair. Ryan is infamous for his pack of lies, from the attempt to blame President Obama for the closing of a Wisconsin GM factory that began shutting down during the Bush presidency, to the fantasy that Ryan’s austerity agenda is about something other than gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to enrich Wall Street speculators and the insurance industry.

Romney was just as bad, with a rambling rumination on how much he wished Barack Obama’s presidency had “succeeded.” Coming from the man who tried to scuttle Obama’s successful interventions to save GM and Chrysler, and who spent the rest of the president’s first term organizing a campaign to displace him, Romney’s line wasn’t remotely believable.

The Republican Party is not fretting about fact-checkers. Far from it; the GOP has now fully entered the netherworld of post-truth politics, from the wholesale denial of climate change to spreading fairy tales about Obama’s welfare policy (see Betsy Reed, page 4). Romney and Ryan know they’re going to need big lies to win. That’s pathetic, but it could work—especially if the mainstream media continue to evade their basic duty to call the GOP on these whoppers (see Eric Alterman, page 10).

This poses a real challenge for the Democrats, who can’t get bogged down in the minutiae of every Republican lie—there are just too many of them. Democrats must instead go big, and tackle the GOP agenda, which at its core is dedicated to a massive redistribution of power and income toward the 1 percent, who already have more of both than at any time in the past eighty years. The central lie of the Republican campaign is the claim that the wealthiest country in the world is so broke it cannot fund school lunch programs or Pell Grants, but not so broke that it would ask billionaires to pay taxes or put the Pentagon on a diet. The best way to unmask the GOP is not with charts and graphs. It must be done with economic straight talk. We must explain why Romney and Ryan are lying—because their agenda is so unpopular (as well as unworkable and dangerous to the nation’s recovery). And we must offer a vision for job creation, infrastructure investment and an uncompromising defense of the social safety net.

Democrats should not stop there. On the question of campaign finance reform, they’ve made a good start. Obama has joined more than 100 Congressional Democrats in suggesting a constitutional amendment to address the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. These and other Court decisions let corporations and wealthy individuals buy elections with campaign spending that follows no rules and respects no demand for transparency. Obama and the Democrats are hardly pure when it comes to campaign money. But the distinction between the GOP, which has embraced Citizens United, and a Democratic president who would overturn it could not be more stark.

The reason Republicans think they can get away with lying is that they’re sure they’ll have enough money—and enough Super PAC support—to outspend the truth. That’s a scary prospect, best countered with a blunt, unapologetic condemnation of the influence peddlers—and those like Paul Ryan who are most willing to be bought. Franklin Roosevelt had to deal with a similar circumstance in 1936 when, after a difficult first term, he sought re-election as the champion of the great mass of working and worried Americans. Facing the forces of the Wall Street speculators, big bankers and their amen corner in the media who were arrayed against him, FDR didn’t flinch: “We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob,” he declared. Barack Obama should be equally blunt about the need to chase the money- changers from the political temple. And, unlike Paul Ryan, he’d be telling the truth.

 

By: The Editors, The Nation, September 5, 2012

September 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Look Into My Lies”: Paul Ryan Uses Fact Checkers As Campaign Surrogates

The old saying goes “There are no referees in politics.” But there are fact checkers — Politifact, FactCheck.org, The Fact Checker. These “independent” seers like to think they’re defending the truth. But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have figured out how to use them to spread lies.

Many of these fact checkers peer into the words of both major parties and do their best to suggest that both sides are the same – despite the fact, for instance, that the GOP’s nominee Mitt Romney has more “Pants on Fire” rulings than any national politician.

Rarely are fact checkers as unanimous and righteous in their condemnation of a falsehood as they have been of the Romney campaign’s claim that the president took the work requirement out of Welfare. It’s a flat out lie. But it’s also the first ad that has moved the dial for Romney. You may have listened as a Romney pollster, when confronted with that fact that the attack is false, said, “We aren’t going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Instead of letting fact checkers edit their campaign, Romney’s team has a better use for fact checkers: campaign surrogates.

The “birther” scandal shows that debunking lies does little to quell the lie and much more to spread it. It’s a tactic Mitt Romney has used effectively for a year now as he’s accused the president of “apologizing for America.” That never happened. But to debunk the lie, you have to repeat it. It’s classic “He’ll look like hell denying it” politics.

Although modern politicians are generally too smart to repeat lies about themselves, the Romney camp knows the fact checkers will. So how do you dictate what the media will be talking about tomorrow? Make purposely deceptive statements about the issues you want to highlight.

What are Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s biggest weaknesses? Medicare; the auto bailout; a hugely unpopular Congress and Ryan’s record of voting for Bush-era surplus-blowing policies.

So Ryan systematically made an “attack by assertion rather than accusationabout each of these issues. By making these attacks in deceptive ways that either ignored or left out crucial facts, he forced the media to repeat his assertions.

From the morning Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, the candidates have been making the assertion that the president funneled – or sometimes “robbed” — $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. This assertion is a classic half-truth in several ways. The money comes from savings that extend the life of the program. Ryan voted to keep the cuts but not to fund ObamaCare.

But you see? We’ve fallen into the precise trap that Ryan set.

While you and I and the fact checkers debunk his half-truth, we’re ignoring the larger issue. Ryan makes huge cuts to current seniors by gutting Medicaid now and then turning Medicare into a voucher program that passes the costs on to seniors. Point: Romney/Ryan.

The best part of this super-sneaky strategy is that it’s fool-proof. Republicans can admit what they’re doing, yet fact checkers and incredulous Democrats still fall into the trap. “Not only was everything Congressman Ryan said factually accurate, but by the Chicago folks highlighting this, they’re advancing our argument,” Sean Spicer, the chief spokesperson for the RNC, said today.

And I have to admit they’re right. Look at the one GM factory in Jannesville that Ryan brought up, deceptively blaming the president for its closure today even though it was scheduled to close during the Bush Administration. We’re doing it again!

Instead of talking about the dozens of GM factories the president helped save or the hundreds of thousands of industrial jobs that the auto rescue protected, we’re talking about one that’s closed. Point: Romney/Ryan.

Instead of talking about how Paul Ryan’s budget increases the deficit, we’re talking about how he voted against Simpson-Bowles. Instead of talking about Paul Ryan’s role in this incredibly unpopular Congress that held the debt limit hostage for a debt deal they won’t even honor, we’re talking about the U.S. credit rating.

These lies are clearly strategically placed, which becomes obvious when you think about what Ryan was really arguing. He wants fewer cuts to government? He wants the government to decide which factories stay open? He wants to protect the poor but cut tens of millions of them from Medicaid?

These aren’t his beliefs, they’re his smokescreen. As long as we’re parsing his words, we’re not talking about how harmful his vision for America actually would be. And that’s obviously what Paul Ryan and the GOP want. The entire convention theme “We Built It!” is based on a deceptive misquote from the president.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine the president lying the way Ryan or Romney do. But if he doesn’t find some way to break through to the truth, the real referees in politics — the voters — may end up being swept up in the tide of lies.

 

BY: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, August 31, 2012

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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