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“An Antagonistic Relationship To The Truth”: Donald Trump Is A New Kind Of Dissembler

Most partisans would probably tell you that while their own party’s leaders sometimes get a fact wrong here or there, the other side is a bunch of blatant liars, whose contempt for the truth leaves the public in a perpetual cloud of misinformation. We don’t have to settle who’s right on this question to acknowledge that in politics, there are ordinary tale-tellers and then there’s Donald Trump. As he has in so many ways, Trump has upended the usual operation of politics by refusing to play by its rules, written or not.

The presumption that politicians should at least try to speak the truth as often as they can is something most everyone shares, whether Democrats, Republicans, or the news media that cover them. It’s that presumption that establishes a basic set of behaviors for all concerned—for instance, that news media will call out lies from politicians when they notice them, that the politicians will try to avoid getting caught in lies, and that when they do, they’ll avoid repeating the lie lest they be tagged forevermore as dishonest.

So what do you do when a candidate makes it clear that not only does he not care about the truth, he doesn’t care whether everybody knows it? This is the dilemma of covering Donald Trump.

Trump is distinctive in more than one way. First, there’s the sheer breadth and character of his falsehoods. Absurd exaggerations, mischaracterizations of his own past, distortions about his opponents, descriptions of events that never occurred, inventions personal and political, foreign and domestic, Trump does it all (you can peruse Politifact’s Trump file if you doubt).

In this, he differs from other candidates, who usually have had one distinctive area of dishonesty that characterized them. Some hid things they were embarrassed about or thought would damage them politically, some deceived about their personal histories in order to paint a flattering picture of themselves, and others spun a web of falsehood to gain the public’s assent for policies they suspected might not otherwise gain public support. But there has simply never been a candidate who has lied as frequently, as blatantly, and as blithely as Trump.

Then there’s the fact that even when Trump gets caught lying, he keeps on repeating the lie. How often does he say that The Art of the Deal is “the number one best-selling business book of all time”? (It isn’t.) How many times did he claim that thousands of Muslim Americans gathered on rooftops in New Jersey to cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center, no matter how often he was told it never happened? He has said over and over that he was a vocal opponent of the Iraq War before it began, despite the fact that it’s utterly false. This is one of his most spectacular fabrications, because he even claims that “I was visited by people from the White House asking me to sort of, could I be silenced because I seem to get a disproportionate amount of publicity.” Although we know he got no publicity for his fictional opposition to the Iraq War because people have checked and he didn’t, I have to admit that I can’t prove definitively that the Bush administration never sent a delegation to plead with Trump to stop his nonexistent criticism of the war. But the idea is so preposterous that no sane person could believe it. And that was before he charged that Ted Cruz’s father was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald and may have had something to do with the Kennedy assassination.

Unfortunately, as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, “Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. … But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false.” Just yesterday on Meet the Press, Trump claimed that he wants to change the voting system so that undocumented immigrants will no longer be allowed to cast ballots; a visibly shocked Chuck Todd said, “Well, of course. That is the law as it stands already.” To which Trump replied, “No, it’s not. I mean, you have places where people just walk in and vote.” Todd moved on. Trump also said “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world,” another falsehood he often repeats, and which Todd wasn’t quick enough to catch.

So does Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the truth matter? It depends what we mean when we ask the question. It certainly didn’t hurt him in the primaries. Perhaps that’s because of the overwhelming force of his personality, or perhaps it’s because Republican voters have been told for years that anything the news media tell them is by definition poisoned by liberal bias, so why bother listening to some fact-checker? Trump’s supporters may be particularly unconcerned about what’s true and what isn’t; they were more likely than supporters of Ted Cruz or John Kasich to believe in a wide range of conspiracy theories, among other things.

But like Trump’s support more broadly, what didn’t hurt him in the primaries did hurt him with the general electorate. Trump may have triumphed in the GOP contest, but along the way he acquired unfavorable ratings in the 60s, and one poll found only 27 percent of Americans rating him as honest and trustworthy.

But the electoral effects of Trump’s blizzard of baloney are only part of the story; we also have to ask what his untruthfulness tells us about the kind of president he’d be. Unfortunately, we in the media don’t always go about assessing honesty in ways that help voters understand its implications for the presidency. For instance, in 2000, George W. Bush was portrayed as a man who, though a bit dim, was positively brimming with homespun integrity. Only a few observers noted that Bush regularly dissembled about his record as governor of Texas and the content of his policy proposals, which suggested that even if he might be faithful to his wife, as president he might not be honest about matters of policy. And he wasn’t, with some rather serious consequences. His predecessor, on the other hand, saw all kinds of questions of honesty raised about him during the 1992 campaign. And it turned out that like Bush, Bill Clinton’s prior behavior provided a good preview of what he’d do in the White House: As a candidate he tried to cover up his extramarital affairs, and as a president he, guess what, tried to cover up an extramarital affair.

In Trump’s case, though, his whoppers are so wide-ranging that it’s almost impossible to find a topic area about which he wouldn’t dissemble. He lies to foment hatred against minority groups. He lies about the condition of the country. He lies about what his opponents have said or done. He lies about his own past. It’s hard to foresee that a President Trump would act any differently than candidate Trump does, and what would it mean if no one could trust anything the president tells them?

People who live in dictatorships with a captive press often assume that whatever the government says is bogus by definition. Needless to say, that kind of relationship between the government and the governed is not conducive to popular legitimacy or any kind of problem-solving that requires public involvement. With Donald Trump in the White House offering a daily delivery of fibs and fabrications, it isn’t hard to imagine that the public would conclude that the government is nothing more than a second-rate reality show, worthy of little attention or regard. Imagine what he could get away with then.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 8, 2016

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Cheney Hates Trump, Endorses Him Anyway”: He’s Just Fine With Trump Leading The Country

Dick Cheney’s presidential pick is a man he once suggested was a 9/11 truther.

Cheney reportedly told CNN on Friday he intends to support the GOP nominee in 2016, just as he has every prior cycle.

This is—surprising.

Shortly after the first presidential debate, Cheney told Fox News’ Bret Baier that the real estate mogul’s assertions regarding the September 11 attacks—including that George W. Bush willingly let them happen—were “way off base.”

“He clearly doesn’t understand or has not spent any time learning about the facts of that period,” Cheney said.

“It’s, um, misleading for him to campaign on that basis,” he added.

It’s a little curious that Cheney has decided to board the Trump Train. It’s also a break from the rest of Bush World, as representatives for George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush say neither former president will back the mogul’s presidential bid.

But, in fairness, Trump may not be too thrilled with Cheney’s endorsement either.

In 2011, Trump made a YouTube video for his “From The Desk of Donald Trump” series, (a series I cannot recommend highly enough), in which the presumptive nominee trashed the former VP and his then-newly released memoir.

“He’s very, very angry and nasty,” the mogul said. “I didn’t like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don’t like him now. And I don’t like people that rat out everybody like he’s doing in the book. I’m sure it’ll be a best-seller, but isn’t it a shame? Here’s a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him. Tremendous divisiveness. And he’s gonna be making a lot of money on the book. I won’t be reading it.”

And in 2008, Trump said he was disappointed Nancy Pelosi didn’t push to impeach Bush over the Iraq War.

“It just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing,” he said, discussing Nancy Pelosi with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room.

In the same interview, Trump asserted that Bush deliberately lied to persuade Americans to support the Iraq War—a view that Cheney et al (unsurprisingly) find deeply problematic.

“He got us into the war with lies,” he continued. “And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. And, yet, Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.”

Speaking of national security, Cheney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in December that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

“Religious freedom’s been a very important part of our history and where we came from,” he added—but if Cheney has anything to do with it, then Trump’s America is where we’re going.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Dick Cheney, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“How The GOP Stupidly Enabled A Donald Trump ‘Comeback'”: GOP Anti-Trumpers Lack The Credibility To Make The Kill

Remember when Donald Trump was losing?

If you blinked, you might have missed it.

It started during last Thursday’s debate, continued through the muddled results of Saturday’s caucuses and primaries, and lasted until, oh, around the time that news outlets began calling Mississippi for Trump a few minutes after the polls closed in the state on Tuesday night.

Now that Trump’s march to the nomination appears to be back on track with decisive victories in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii, it’s worth pausing for a moment to assess just what went wrong with the #NeverTrump movement. Why has it done so little to alter the shape of the race? How has Trump managed to stay on top through the unrelenting critical coverage of the past week?

A good part of the answer lies in the distinctive defects of the messengers. In just about every case, those leading the charge against Trump lack the credibility to make the kill.

Let’s begin with Trump’s opponents in the race for the GOP nomination.

For two endless, sordid hours last Thursday night, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tag-teamed with the three Fox News debate moderators in laying into Trump. They were merciless. By the time it was over, Trump looked like an incompetent, vulgarian huckster whose renegade presidential campaign may well pose a dire threat to the republic.

Yet when Rubio and Cruz were asked at the conclusion of the debate if they would support Trump in the event that he secured the party’s nomination, both of them outed themselves as unprincipled Republican Party hacks by answering, astonishingly, yes.

In those 30 seconds, two hours of damage was undone. After all, how bad could Trump really be if both of his antagonists wouldn’t hesitate to rally to his side and work to see him prevail in a battle against Hillary Clinton?

A similar bit of self-sabotage was at work in Mitt Romney’s historic speech ripping Trump to shreds earlier that day. It was an extraordinarily powerful statement, and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before: The Republican standard-bearer from just four years ago excoriating the present-day frontrunner of his own party.

But the moment one’s attention drifted from the message — Trump is a fraud and a phony — to the messenger, the cognitive dissonance became too much to bear. As everyone knows, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts he signed into law the direct forerunner of the Affordable Care Act — and then ran a presidential campaign devoted to denouncing the federal version of the law as nothing less than the advent of tyranny in America.

Which seems like pretty compelling evidence that Romney himself must have been at least a little bit of a fraud and a phony at one of those past moments.

Then there are the sour memories of Romney’s ostentatiously oligarchic 2012 campaign — with its denigration of 47 percent of the country as moochers, obsequious praise of entrepreneurs, brittle defenses of Bain Capital’s role in sowing creative destruction, and talk of car elevators, dressage, and other perks of life among the richest of the rich.

How likely was it that Trump’s angry white working-class voters were going to be moved by an appeal made by such a man? No wonder it seems to have backfired.

Finally, Trump has also come in for severe criticism from “members of the Republican national security community,” several dozen of whom have signed a hotly worded “open letter” that culminates in the claim that Trump is singularly “unfitted” to serve as commander-in-chief.

They’re certainly right about that. The only problem is that nearly every one of the 117 people who have (so far) signed the letter supported the disastrous Iraq War, most of them favored the military intervention in Libya that has led to similarly ruinous consequences, and many have sharply criticized President Obama for failing to commit more forcefully to arming and defending so-called (and exceedingly difficult to detect) “moderate” rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.

These are the people judging Donald Trump unfit to serve as commander-in-chief of the armed forces?

Let’s just say that their opinions would carry somewhat more weight had they not repeatedly demonstrated over the past decade and half that they possess consistently poor judgment in matters of foreign affairs.

These were the anti-Trump messengers of the past week — the week when Trump started losing. And then started winning again.

The really surprising thing is that anyone was surprised.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The House That Scalia Built”: The Bitter Beginning Of The 21st Century That Scalia And The Bush Dynasty Gave Us

Two waves broke this week: a pair of deaths on our national shore that changed everything. They are inseparable in the annals of our time. Goodbye to all that a Supreme Court Justice wrought, and the House of Bush brought.

If only it were that simple.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79, the Dickensian, most opinionated character on the bench. Friends — many of whom knew him as an operagoer, a city denizen, and an avid socializer — called the father of nine children Nino. His burial is Saturday.

The “master of invective,” as one put it, Scalia was considered brilliant, and was often callous in withering dissents on, for example, gay marriage. Taking a dim view of President Obama’s lead in the delicate Paris Agreement on climate change, his last vote was to immobilize the emissions standards. How nice of five Republican men to disrespect the Democratic president in the world’s eyes. As it happens, the Folger Shakespeare Library is staging “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — fitting, considering Titania’s haunting lines that warn of global warming.

Nobody on the creamy marble Court was more polarizing since the Civil War. The unabashed carrier of the conservative cross, Scalia seldom let up on his pounding force and lashings, even in victory.

On “60 Minutes,” Scalia scolded half the American people, saying: “Get over it!” He referred to the infamous 2000 Supreme Court decision that swung the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush by one vote. He had a chance to be civil; he didn’t take it.

Meanwhile, the Bush dynasty hangs onto its last breath with Jeb Bush’s floundering presidential campaign. His brother, former President George W. Bush, left Texas to campaign, but the magic was missing. The 43rd president looked aged. Jeb has a penchant for saying their father, Bush senior, is the “greatest man alive,” or some such.

Here’s the double knell: The House of Bush is the House that Scalia built. At least, he was an architect. Now a tragic link ties those names together.

Their historical cadence will join other follies. “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean,” English poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach.” Now I know what Arnold meant when he saw an elegiac sadness in ages and armies.

All we need to do is go back to 2000 — when our known world ended — when five Republican Supreme Court justices gave new meaning to “one man, one vote.” The deciding votes were out of the citizens’ hands; nine officials voted 5-to-4 — freezing a close vote count in Florida to determine the true winner. They shut democracy down.

That rude decision changed the course of the 21st century. George W. Bush swerved into war in Iraq, giving rise to ISIS today. Remind me: What were we fighting for? Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were the pretext to war, when 19 men (15 Saudis) were hijackers in a clever plot. The unprepared U.S. Army and the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, destroyed civil society in Iraq. What a mess.

The Court outrage for the ages must not be forgot in Scalia’s dramatic death, political to the end. The decision is full of rich contradictions. Scalia, who often mocked “nine unelected lawyers” in democracy, sprang into action by stopping vote counting in Florida. The governor of Florida then was Jeb Bush. In unseemly partisanship, Scalia departed from his so-called “originalist doctrine” to strongly urge the Court to stop counting. He also abandoned his emphasis on states having a say in governance by shortchanging the Florida Supreme Court. Hs loyal colleague, Clarence Thomas, followed him every step — Thomas who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Justice Scalia died on a West Texas luxury ranch during a hunting trip. His death was apt, given his pugilistic style in upholding gun rights and every conservative cause in creation. Washington can’t get over that he’s gone, friends and foes alike. The senior sitting justice loomed large as the fiercest player, in every word he spoke and wrote. The vacancy gives President Obama one more try to work his will on a hostile Senate.

It will take time for the country to heal from the bitter beginning of the 21st century that Scalia and the Bush dynasty gave us. And for the record, I will never get over it.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Bush Family, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hillary’s Double-Standard Dance”: Same Dance Women, Especially Female Candidates, Have Been Expected To Do For Years

Things I heard Hillary Clinton talk about Saturday night in Denver at the Colorado Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson dinner: Supreme Court appointments. Health care. Gun violence, with a catch in her voice when she mentioned Aurora, Columbine and Sandy Hook families turning their grief into action. Electing Morgan Carroll to Congress to represent Colorado’s sixth district, returning Michael Bennet to the Senate and regaining Democrats’ state senate majority. Anti-abortion personhood measures. The reopening of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Monday.

Things Bernie Sanders talked about: The Supreme Court and Citizens United. Income equality. Single-payer health care. Zero mention of helping other Democrats in swing-state Colorado, or much specific to Colorado at all.

As my hero Ann Richards famously said, “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

So how much does Hillary Clinton have to do backwards and in high heels before she gets the credit she deserves? I agree with Bernie Sanders’ positions on the issues (guns aside), as do most Democrats, even though he wasn’t one until a year ago. But Sanders’ positions wouldn’t exist without the groundwork Hillary Clinton has done on health care, women’s rights, LGBT rights, civil rights, as secretary of state and in 40 years as a child advocate, including creating the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and starting with her first job as a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund.

So yes, there is some frustration among those of us in the Thelma and Louise generation, that while Bernie gets accolades for what he says, Hillary still has to earn them for what she’s done.

The same goes for the entirety of Bernie’s foreign policy, resting on his vote against the Iraq War. That’s nice. Meanwhile, as secretary of state Hillary successfully navigated the complexities of international diplomacy, restored our stature in the world, contributed to our taking out Osama bin Laden, normalized relations with Cuba, negotiated a cease-fire in Gaza, laid the foundation for the agreement to denuclearize Iran and traveled to more countries than any other secretary of state. As Sen. Harry Reid put it, “Nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it.”

Bernie Sander wants credit for a day. Hillary Clinton doesn’t get credit for four years.

And a personal note to Bernie-backers: I was Sen. Barbara Boxer’s press secretary when she was one of 23 senators to vote ‘no’ on the Iraq Resolution in 2002. She was up for re-election at the time, and even though her seat, like Bernie’s, was considered safe, our campaign manager nearly had a stroke.

The political atmosphere courtesy of the Bush administration was toxic and just this side of McCarthyism – they were questioning the patriotism of Sen. Max Cleland, an Army captain who left both legs and an arm on a helicopter pad in Vietnam, for disagreeing with President Bush. Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone voted ‘no,’ and had he not been killed in a plane crash he likely would have lost his seat.

So the idea that the senator from New York could have voted ‘no’ a year after 9/11 is simply ridiculous. As Hillary has said, if she knew then what we all know now – that the Bush administration was lying about the connection between Saddam and 9/11 to foment a rush to war – she would have voted differently. Hindsight is 20/20 and apparently politically beneficial.

It’s also worth noting that Sens. Boxer and Franken, the latter the Democratic successor to Paul Wellstone’s seat, have both endorsed Hillary.

Hillary may be in a pantsuit. But she’s doing the same double-standard dance women, and especially female candidates, have been expected to do for years.

 

By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, February 17, 2016

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Women, Women in Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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