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“Trump’s Cult Of Lies”: Who Are You Going To Believe, Trump Or Your Lying Eyes?

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

            –Voltaire, 1698-1774

The first thing to understand is that before it’s a presidential election, it’s a TV program. To the suits at CNN, NBC, and Fox News that means it’s about ratings and money. So of course they’re going to play it as a cliffhanger.

Do they ever say “Tune in Saturday to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide humiliate hopelessly overmatched Kent State!”


So it’s going to be with Trump vs. Clinton. Almost regardless of what political scientists and number-crunchers say, the race will be depicted as a nail-biter. The fact that Charles Manson could win Texas’ electoral votes with an “R” after his name, while Democrats could take Massachusetts with a Kardashian sister, will prolong the manufactured suspense.

It’s going to be a very long six months.

Even so, it’s hard to imagine a manifest fraud like Donald J. Trump becoming president of the United States. Surely voters have too much self-respect.

“If Trump came to power,” writes Adam Gopnik, “there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks.”

All politicians fudge the truth, exaggerating their successes and minimizing their failures. Trump, however, takes it to a different level. He’s a contemporary version of Baron Von Munchausen, an 18th century literary character whose wildly exaggerated military exploits—riding on a cannonball, voyaging to the moon—made him a comic-heroic favorite for generations.

Trump tells falsehoods so brazen as to redefine political lying. To see what I mean, let’s compare a couple of Clinton classics that emailers harangue me about all the time.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

The beauty of this Clintonian masterpiece lies in the fact that people often misquote it—changing “sexual relations” to “sex.” Because according to the evidence assiduously gathered by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, it’s literally true and therefore perjury-proof.

Cunning and deliberately deceptive, yes. But sexual relations means “intercourse,” and that supposedly didn’t happen. Cute, huh?

That’s Bill Clinton.

Readers who have never lied about sex are encouraged to vent.

Then there’s Hillary infamous Bosnian adventure: I remember landing under sniper fire,” she told a 2008 audience. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles.”

Confronted with CBS News footage that showed her walking calmly across the tarmac of Tuzla airport from an Air Force C-17 in 1996, Mrs. Clinton basically blamed an overactive memory. She’d actually written about the incident in her 2003 book “Living History” without mentioning the imaginary snipers.

Her press secretary later explained the possible origin of Mrs. Clinton’s false memory: “We were issued flak jackets for the final leg because of possible sniper fire near Tuzla. As an additional precaution, the First Lady and Chelsea were moved to the armored cockpit for the descent into Tuzla.”

She won’t say so but I’m guessing Hillary got scared, and her mind played a trick on her. Confronted with the discrepancy, however, she owned it.

Suffice it to say that is not the Trump method. With a background in professional wrestling, he understands that there’s a vast audience out there only slightly more discerning than a potted geranium and willing to believe (or pretend to believe) damn near anything.

Trump doesn’t trim or embroider as much as invent huge, thunderous fictions aimed at boosting himself or hurting his enemies—evidence be damned. In Trump World, facts don’t exist. He cannot be shamed.

Trump went on Morning Joe recently to attack Hillary’s terrible judgement about Libya. See, if people had listened to Donald, the U.S. would never have helped NATO overthrow Ghaddafi.

“I would have stayed out of Libya,” he affirmed.

Except that Trump shot a video back in 2011 urging an immediate invasion: “Qaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people,” he said then. “Nobody knows how bad it is, and we’re sitting around, we have soldiers all [around] the Middle East, and we’re not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage… Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick.”

The candidate does this stuff every day, on every imaginable topic. It’s brutal, demagogic make-believe, demanding his followers blind themselves to reality and enlist in his cult of personality.

So who are you going to believe, Trump or your lying eyes?


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, May 25, 2016

May 25, 2016 Posted by | Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“Dumber Than A Brick In A Tumble-Dryer”: Marco Rubio Is Criminally Overrated On Foreign Policy

Marco Rubio wants people to know that he’s kind of a big deal when it comes to foreign policy. He has bragged about his expertise to Iowans, saying that “few, if any,” of his potential Republican competitors “have spent the amount of time on it that I have.”

Most recently, Rubio has been passionately defending the enormously unsuccessful, if emotionally satisfying, embargo on Cuba. He is attacking President Obama for establishing diplomatic relations with the Castros, and is making moves to undo their conciliation. It’s hard to come up with a more useless foreign policy stance than this. But even if we excuse Rubio’s position as an understandable part of his identity — stemming from his background and his loyalty to Florida’s expatriate community — there is little other reason to think Rubio has any worthwhile foreign policy expertise, despite years of sitting on important committees.

In March of 2011, Rubio became one of the most vocal Republican supporters of the Hillary Clinton-Obama war in Libya. “If we believe that the rise of this new attitude among young people and others seeking a new life and a new way in the Middle East is a positive thing, and I believe that it is, then it serves our national interest to see that happen,” he said.

Among the reasons Rubio cited for supporting Moammar Gaddafi’s overthrow was that he “sowed instability among neighbors, plotted assassination attempts against heads of state, and supported terrorist enterprises.”

Since the desired knockout of Gaddafi’s regime, the terrorist enterprise known as the Islamic State has a stronger foothold in that nation. The war that we exacerbated in Libya has destabilized neighboring Mali. And the Libyan people are risking (and losing) their lives in desperate attempts to emigrate from the “freedom” we helped impose on them.

What Rubio seems to have missed is that a significant source of the “new attitude” in the Middle East is an impatience with authoritarians who accord some rights to religious and ethnic minorities, rather than fully embrace political Islam.

In 2014, he castigated the Obama administration for not enforcing its own “red line” in Syria, and intervening in the civil war there. Rubio claimed that the Islamic State rushed into the vacuum only because the Obama administration didn’t intervene, even though all the evidence suggests that Islamists were always a large part of the rebel forces in Syria. The counterfactual history that GOP hawks have maintained — in which a little more muscle would have turned the plausibly non-Islamist Free Syrian Army into a supreme (and supremely moderate) opposition force — is not credible in any case.

But who can expect Rubio to keep the counterfactuals straight when even the factual eludes him? In the same op-ed, Rubio offered the administration advice on how to proceed:

To confront the Islamic State terrorists, we need a sustained air campaign targeting their leadership, sources of income, and supply routes, wherever they exist. We must increase our efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria to fight the terrorist group. And we must arm and support forces in Iraq confronting it, including responsible Iraqi partners and the Kurds. In addition, we must persuade nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it. [The Washington Post]

And, oddly enough, the Obama administration has been trying almost exactly the policies that Rubio suggested: air campaigns, arms, and encouragement to Iraqis and Kurds.

But in early 2015, Rubio decided that what the campaign against ISIS really needed was stronger adjectives. At CPAC, he said the president should “put together a coalition of armed forces from regional governments to confront them on the ground, with U.S. special operations support, and then provide logistical support, intelligence support, and the most devastating air support possible.”

“Devastating.” I guess he really means it now.

Rubio concluded, “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran.”

I don’t know how to say this respectfully. But this is dumber than a brick in a tumble-dryer: a clanging, dangerous error. Iran is one of the principal enemies of ISIS. It didn’t even need to be persuaded to join the fight. It sees ISIS as another manifestation of the kind of Sunni extremism that threatens Iran’s regional allies: Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Shia-friendly government in Baghdad. If we really wanted to stick it to Iran, we’d be arming Islamic State fighters and providing “devastating air support” to them.

And given the record of Republican hawks over the last two decades, I wouldn’t be surprised if a future Rubio administration ends up doing just that, through a mixture of hubris, democratizing enthusiasm, and sheer stupidity — just as the Bush administration cheered on democratic elections that empowered Hamas, and a war that led to a destabilized Iraq where Sunni extremism now flourishes. Bush was not alone: Other GOP hawks cheered on revolutions and civil wars that led not to liberal democracies, but terrorism, extremism, and anarchy.

Rubio has a reputation for foreign policy expertise because he chooses to talk about foreign policy often, promises large budgets to the Pentagon, and mostly pronounces the words correctly. Rubio’s foreign policy consists of babyish moralizing, a cultivated ignorance of history, and a deliberate blindness to consequences. This is the same “foreign policy expertise” that led to a misbegotten war in Iraq and empowered Sunni insurgencies across the Middle East.

It will be enormously popular among people who think nothing of wasting money and other people’s lives. Or as Rubio may one day call them from the West Wing, “my fellow Americans.”


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, April 21, 2015

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Marco Rubio, Middle East | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“No Dramatic Headlines Here”: Benghazi Select Committee Hearings Begin; Craziness Inevitably To Follow

There’s a lot going on in the world: we have a new war ramping up, Ebola is spreading, and various NFL players are discovered beating the crap out of women and children (and I for one am shocked that a group of men who have spent their lives being rewarded for cultivating their most violent instincts and abilities would turn out to be prone to violence). So it may have missed your notice that today marks the beginning of public hearings in the select committee on Benghazi, or as Ed Kilgore has termed it, Benghazi! In advance, Democrats on the committee have set up a website showing how all the questions the committee is asking have already been answered, while a Republican PAC is already airing Benghazi-themed ads against Hillary Clinton. But if you were hoping to tune in this afternoon for thundering denunciations and dark warnings of conspiracy, you may be disappointed, as David Corn reports:

In a surprising move that might disappoint right-wingers yearning for proof that Benghazi is Obama’s Watergate (or worse!), the session will not focus on whether the White House purposefully misled the public about the attacks on the US diplomatic compound in that Libyan city that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Nor will it probe the favorite right-wing talking point that President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, for God-knows-what reasons, ordered US forces to stand down and not respond to the murderous assault. Instead, the committee will examine the State Department’s implementation of the recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board, an independent outfit that investigated the attack and in late 2012 issued proposals for improving security for American diplomats and US diplomatic facilities overseas.

That’s actually a worthy topic of discussion! I suppose committee chair Trey Gowdy deserves some credit for starting things off by trying to show everyone that this is going to be a serious undertaking. That isn’t to say there won’t be plenty of time given over to bashing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, because there surely will be. But on its first day, the committee looks unlikely to generate dramatic headlines.

So how is this all going to play out? As I see it, there are three general possibilities:

1. For the most part, the committee goes about its work in a responsible way. While there are some angry confrontations with witnesses, on the whole things are pretty boring. Without much in the way of fireworks, press coverage of the hearings is rather perfunctory. Base Republicans wind up feeling disappointed and even betrayed, assuring themselves that the Republicans on the committee wimped out, perhaps because they knew that if they got too close to the truth, State Department assassination squads would take out their families. The true scope of the conspiracy remains buried under a mountain of lies and cowardice. Odds: 37%

2. Full-on circus. Republicans on the committee do a great deal of shouting; photos of the aftermath of the attacks are repeatedly projected on the wall of the hearing room. News coverage is somewhat greater, as nothing draws a crowd of reporters more than politicians yelling at each other. Despite the fact that the “truth” is never fully revealed, the GOP base is pleased. Yet the net effect of the whole thing is to make Republicans look like crazy people. In a cruel irony, this result greatly aids the presidential campaign of one Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is able to say that she’s being attacked by a bunch of crazy people, and say it with a smile that drives Republicans around the bend. Odds: 62.99%

3. The committee actually discovers that there was a sinister conspiracy that led to the Americans’ deaths, with high-ranking administration officials at its center. All their accusations, not to mention the creation of this committee, are vindicated, and the moral rot at the heart of the Obama regime is finally revealed for all to see. Odds: .01%

Those are my predictions, anyway. But who knows — maybe they’ll surprise us.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 17, 2014

September 18, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Where She Always Was”: Everyone Suddenly Remembers That Hillary Clinton Is A Foreign Policy Hawk

There are few things the political press loves more than an intra-party squabble, so it wasn’t surprising that when Hillary Clinton gave an interview to The Atlantic about foreign policy that offered something less than fulsome support for everything Barack Obama has done, it got characterized as a stinging rebuke. The Post’s Chris Cillizza described her “slamming” Obama. The New York Times said the “veneer of unity…shattered.” “Hillary slams Obama for ‘stupid’ foreign policy,” said an absurdly misleading New York Post headline (she never called anything Obama did “stupid”).

If you actually read the interview, you’ll see that Clinton actually didn’t “slam” Obama (even Jeffrey Goldberg, who conducted the interview, overstates the disagreement in his report on it). She was careful not to explicitly criticize the administration, even when she was articulating positions that differed from what Barack Obama might believe. But there were clear indications that Clinton will be staking out a more hawkish foreign policy than the president she served as Secretary of State, on issues like Iran and Syria.

That isn’t because of some cynical calculation, or because she wants to “distance” herself from a president whose popularity is currently mediocre at best. It’s because that’s what she sincerely believes. If people didn’t have such short memories, they wouldn’t be surprised by it. Hillary Clinton has always been a liberal on social and economic issues, but much more of a moderate (or even a conservative) when it comes to foreign policy.

From the moment Clinton began forging her own distinct political identity in her run for Senate in 2000, it was clear she was a hawk on foreign affairs and defense, placing herself in the right-leaning half of the Democratic party. She wasn’t looking to slash military spending or avoid foreign interventions. Look at how the National Journal ranked her on foreign affairs during her time in the Senate (the NJ rankings are idiosyncratic, but they have the benefit of examining foreign affairs distinct from other issues):

  • 2001: 28th most liberal senator
  • 2002: 28th most liberal
  • 2003: 15th most liberal
  • 2004: 42nd most liberal
  • 2005: 30th most liberal
  • 2006: 36th most liberal
  • 2007: 19th most liberal
  • 2008: 40th most liberal

When Clinton ran for president in 2008, the primary issue distinction between her and Barack Obama was that she had supported the Iraq War, while he had opposed it. There was no issue that made more of a difference in the primaries. Even as Secretary of State, while carrying out the President’s policies, in private she counseled more aggressive moves. As Michael Crowley wrote in January, “As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama’s expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration’s most reliable advocate for military action.”

As we move toward the campaign, it’s likely that liberals are going to start finding reasons to be displeased with Clinton on foreign policy. In the Atlantic interview, for instance, they discuss the Gaza situation at some length, and she practically sounds like a spokesperson for the Netanyahu government, putting all the blame for the conflict and all the casualties squarely on Hamas, while refusing repeated opportunities to say Israel has done anything wrong at all.

Over the next two years there will probably be more situations in which Clinton winds up to the right of the median Democratic voter. That would be more of a political problem if she had a strong primary opponent positioned to her left who could provide a vehicle for whatever dissatisfaction the Democratic base might be feeling. But at the moment, there is no such opponent. Her dominance of the field may give her more latitude on foreign affairs — not to move to the right, but to be where she always was. Neither Democrats nor anyone else can say they didn’t see it coming.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 12, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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