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“Trump Lies The Way Other People Breathe”: The Challenges In Covering Trump’s Relentless Assault On The Truth

Donald Trump must be the biggest liar in the history of American politics, and that’s saying something.

Trump lies the way other people breathe. We’re used to politicians who stretch the truth, who waffle or dissemble, who emphasize some facts while omitting others. But I can’t think of any other political figure who so brazenly tells lie after lie, spraying audiences with such a fusillade of untruths that it is almost impossible to keep track. Perhaps he hopes the media and the nation will become numb to his constant lying. We must not.

Trump lies when citing specifics. He claimed that a “tremendous flow of Syrian refugees” has been entering the country; the total between 2012 and 2015 was around 2,000, barely a trickle. He claimed that “we have no idea” who those refugees are; they undergo up to two years of careful vetting before being admitted.

Trump lies when speaking in generalities. He claimed that President Obama has “damaged our security by restraining our intelligence-gathering and failing to support law enforcement.” Obama actually expanded domestic intelligence operations and dialed them back only because of bipartisan pressure after the Edward Snowden revelations.

Trump lies by sweeping calumny. “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this,” he said of Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando massacre. But according to law enforcement officials, including FBI Director James B. Comey, numerous potential plots have been foiled precisely because concerned Muslims reported seeing signs of self-radicalization.

Trump lies by smarmy insinuation. “We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” he said of Obama. “There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.” He also said of Obama: “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable.”

You read that right. The presumptive Republican nominee implies that the president of the United States is somehow disloyal. There is no other way to read “he gets it better than anybody understands.”

Trump claims that Hillary Clinton, the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, “wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us.” Clinton has made clear that she doesn’t want to take anyone’s guns away, nor does she want to eliminate the Second Amendment, as Trump also claims. And the idea that Clinton actually wants to admit would-be slaughterers is grotesque.

I write not to defend Obama or Clinton, who can speak for themselves — and have done so. My aim is to defend the truth.

Political discourse can be civil or rowdy, gracious or mean. But to have any meaning, it has to be grounded in fact. Trump presents a novel challenge for both the media and the voting public. There is no playbook for evaluating a candidate who so constantly says things that objectively are not true.

All of the above examples come from just five days’ worth of Trump’s lies, from Sunday to Thursday of this week. By the time you read this, surely there will have been more.

How are we in the media supposed to cover such a man? The traditional approach, which seeks fairness through nonjudgmental balance, seems inadequate. It does not seem fair to write “Trump claimed the sky is maroon while Clinton claimed it is blue” without noting that the sky is, in fact, blue. It does not seem fair to even present this as a “question” worthy of debate, as if honest people could disagree. One assertion is objectively false and one objectively true.

It goes against all journalistic instinct to write in a news article, as The Post did Monday, that Trump’s national security address was “a speech laden with falsehoods and exaggeration.” But I don’t think we’re doing our job if we simply report assertions of fact without evaluating whether they are factual.

Trump’s lies also present a challenge for voters. The normal assumption is that politicians will bend the truth to fit their ideology — not that they will invent fake “truth” out of whole cloth. Trump is not just an unorthodox candidate. He is an inveterate liar — maybe pathological, maybe purposeful. He doesn’t distort facts, he makes them up.

Trump has a right to his anger, his xenophobia and his bigotry. He also has a right to lie — but we all have a duty to call him on it.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 16, 2016

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalists, Voters | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Guns Are Out Of Control”: Some Extremists Fire Guns And Other Extremists Promote Guns

Over the last two decades, Canada has had eight mass shootings. Just so far this month, the United States has already had 20.

Canada has a much smaller population, of course, and the criteria researchers used for each country are slightly different, but that still says something important about public safety.

Could it be, as Donald Trump suggests, that the peril comes from admitting Muslims? On the contrary, Canadians are safe despite having been far more hospitable to Muslim refugees: Canada has admitted more than 27,000 Syrian refugees since November, some 10 times the number the United States has.

More broadly, Canada’s population is 3.2 percent Muslim, while the United States is about 1 percent Muslim — yet Canada doesn’t have massacres like the one we just experienced at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., or the one in December in San Bernardino, Calif. So perhaps the problem isn’t so much Muslims out of control but guns out of control.

Look, I grew up on a farm with guns. One morning when I was 10, we awoke at dawn to hear our chickens squawking frantically and saw a fox trotting away with one of our hens in its mouth. My dad grabbed his .308 rifle, opened the window and fired twice. The fox was unhurt but dropped its breakfast and fled. The hen picked herself up, shook her feathers indignantly and walked back to the barn. So in the right context, guns have their uses.

The problem is that we make no serious effort to keep firearms out of the hands of violent people. A few data points:

■ More Americans have died from guns, including suicides, since just 1970 than died in all the wars in U.S. history going back to the American Revolution.

■ The Civil War marks by far the most savage period of warfare in American history. But more Americans are now killed from guns annually, again including suicides, than were killed by guns on average each year during the Civil War (when many of the deaths were from disease, not guns).

■ In the United States, more preschoolers up through age 4 are shot dead each year than police officers are.

Canada has put in place measures that make it more difficult for a dangerous person to acquire a gun, with a focus not so much on banning weapons entirely (the AR-15 is available after undergoing safety training and a screening) as on limiting who can obtain one. In the United States, we lack even universal background checks, and new Harvard research to be published soon found that 40 percent of gun transfers didn’t even involve a background check.

We can’t prevent every gun death any more than we can prevent every car accident, and the challenge is particularly acute with homegrown terrorists like the one in Orlando. But experts estimate that a serious effort to reduce gun violence might reduce the toll by one-third, which would be more than 10,000 lives saved a year.

The Orlando killer would have been legally barred from buying lawn darts, because they were banned as unsafe. He would have been unable to drive a car that didn’t pass a safety inspection or that lacked insurance. He couldn’t have purchased a black water gun without an orange tip — because that would have been too dangerous.

But it’s not too dangerous to allow the sale of an assault rifle without even a background check?

If we’re trying to prevent carnage like that of Orlando, we need to be vigilant not only about infiltration by the Islamic State, and not only about American citizens poisoned into committing acts of terrorism. We also need to be vigilant about National Rifle Association-type extremism that allows guns to be sold without background checks.

It’s staggering that Congress doesn’t see a problem with allowing people on terror watch lists to buy guns: In each of the last three years, more than 200 people on the terror watch list have been allowed to purchase guns. We empower ISIS when we permit acolytes like the Orlando killer, investigated repeatedly as a terrorist threat, to buy a Sig Sauer MCX and a Glock 17 handgun on consecutive days.

A great majority of Muslims are peaceful, and it’s unfair to blame Islam for terrorist attacks like the one in Orlando. But it is important to hold accountable Gulf states like Saudi Arabia that are wellsprings of religious zealotry, intolerance and fanaticism. We should also hold accountable our own political figures who exploit tragic events to sow bigotry. And, yes, that means Donald Trump.

When Trump scapegoats Muslims, that also damages our own security by bolstering the us-versus-them narrative of ISIS. The lesson of history is that extremists on one side invariably empower extremists on the other.

So by all means, Muslims around the world should stand up to their fanatics sowing hatred and intolerance — and we Americans should stand up to our own extremist doing just the same.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association, Public Safety | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Martinez Is Not Having It”: Latina GOP Governor Susana Martinez To Trump: ‘I Will Not Be Bullied’

When the chairwoman of the Republican Governor’s Association and the only Latina governor in the United States of America failed to endorse Donald Trump before he was set to campaign in her state on Tuesday night, dismayed Republican political strategists nationwide held their breath: What Would Donald Do?

Trump came out swinging.

“Since 2000, the number of unemployed people in Albuquerque has nearly doubled. Come on folks. What’s wrong here? It’s your fault? Is it your fault or is it your government’s fault? It’s your government’s fault…”

“We have to get your governor to get going! She’s got to do a better job, okay? Your governor has got to do a better job, okay? She’s not doing the job.”

“Hey! Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico, I’ll get this place going! She’s not doing the job. We got to get her moving, come on, let’s go, governor!”

“Syrian refugees are being relocated in large numbers to New Mexico. If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening. I couldn’t care less. They say the governors have no choice? If I’m governor, I have a choice, okay? Believe me.”

Fact check: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of unemployed people in a given month in Albuquerque in 2000 was 15,052. In March of 2016, according to the most recent preliminary data, the total number of unemployed in the city was 22,562. Trump’s guess was twice as large as reality, and Gov. Susana Martinez has only been in office for five of those years.

According to factcheck.org, over Martinez’s entire term, only 10 refugees of the Syrian Civil War have been relocated to New Mexico. And if Trump was governor, he would have no legal authority to stop refugees from traveling to New Mexico. Doing so would create a constitutional stand-off.

Gov. Martinez was not having it.

“Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t realize Governor Martinez wasn’t elected in 2000, that she has fought for welfare reform, and has strongly opposed the president’s Syrian refugee plan,” Martinez’s press secretary said in a statement.

“But the pot shots weren’t about policy, they were about politics. And the governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans. Governor Martinez doesn’t care about what Donald Trump says about her — she cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans. She’s disappointed that she didn’t hear anything about that last night.”

Spurred by all the commotion, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered some encouragement on Twitter.

The truth is @ Gov_Martinez is one of the hardest working and most effective Governors in America. https://t.co/QcADopQCYe

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 25, 2016

Martinez is the exact wrong person for Trump to be bullying, in the middle of a awkward span of trying unite his supporters with establishment Republicans, and at the first signs of a long, expensive general election fight against Hillary Clinton.

Paul Ryan reiterated Tuesday, in response to reports floating around D.C. to the contrary, that he hadn’t “made a decision” about endorsing Trump yet, and though the two speak on the phone near daily, a spokesman for Ryan clarified that it wasn’t “an endorsement call.”

Ryan responded to Trump’s comments about Martinez by saying that she was a “great governor” and “a friend of mine.” Asked about pressure from the Trump campaign to endorse him, Ryan said “I don’t worry about that stuff.”

Somewhere in the labyrinthian halls of the expansive home of the suspiciously-named billionaire Los Angeles real estate investor Tom Barrack, where tickets to a fundraiser featuring Donald Trump Wednesday cost $25,000 — or $100,000 for a picture with Trump — the reality television star stared deeply into a mirror and repeated to himself:

“I will unite the Republican Party. I will unite the Republican Party. I will unite the Republican Party.”

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, May 26, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Latinos, Susana Martinez | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Be Glad That’s Not Your Job”: Spare A Thought For Those Condemned To Defend Donald Trump

There’s a perfectly logical reason why any Republican would decide that getting behind Donald Trump is the least bad option they face. If you genuinely care about conservative policy goals, the chance that you’ll see the government move in your favored direction under President Hillary Clinton is approximately zero, while with President Trump you’d at worst see many of those goals come to fruition. You’d get a conservative Supreme Court, an executive branch filled with Republicans, and probably many areas where Trump, who plainly doesn’t care at all about the details of policy, just tells the congressional GOP to write whatever bills it wants and he’ll sign them. In short, ideology demands Trump, ironic as that may be given that he was the least ideological Republican running.

And yet, the end point of that perfectly logical chain of thinking is still supporting Donald Trump. Donald Trump the ignoramus, Donald Trump the liar, Donald Trump the buffoon, Donald Trump the xenophobic sexist narcissist all-around jerk. And supporting him, in today’s media-saturated world, also means defending him.

This is the reality of contemporary partisanship: While there are people (like yours truly, thank goodness) who are permitted to be equivocal about politicians, partisans have no such liberty. Their guy must be defended almost no matter what, while the other side’s champion is cast as a model of perfect villainy, worthy of not a single vote. It’s a ridiculous ritual, and it takes a candidate as ridiculous as Trump to make that clear. Just as the Constitution mandates that even the most heinous criminal should be granted a vigorous defense in court, our media demand that even the most despicable politician have someone defend him on cable news. If you find it depressing to watch some party “strategist” or elected official laboring painfully to argue that Trump’s policy choices are quite clever, or that his latest outrageous statement actually contains a kernel of timeless wisdom, just imagine how they feel doing it.

Look at what we’ve heard about Trump in the last few days. There’s the extensively-reported story in The New York Times of Trump’s sleazy treatment of women over the years, including those with whom he had romantic relationships, those who worked for him, and participants in the Miss Universe pageant he used to own (which in no way did he purchase because he wanted to bang beauty queens, absolutely not, how could you think such a thing). The story is pretty much what you would expect, which means it details behavior on Trump’s part ranging from the comical to the rancid. And that followed a Washington Post story on Trump’s old habit of calling up reporters pretending to be a Trump PR guy named “John Miller” or “John Barron,” who would then wax rhapsodic about his boss’s extraordinary accomplishments, both financial and sexual.

What would you say about all that if you were a Trump supporter staring into a camera? You’d probably say what RNC chair Reince Priebus did in his round of Sunday show interviews, dismissing the allegations one moment and trying to change the subject the next, then arguing that it’s irrelevant when what we should really be talking about is Benghazi.

As one Republican said on Twitter, “I can handle Trump. But watching people I once respected and ought to know better rationalizing and validating him makes me physically ill.” Fair enough, but what is Reince Priebus supposed to do? I suppose he could say, “You’re right, we really screwed the pooch by nominating this train wreck of a candidate. This is a living nightmare.” But he has to put as brave a face as he can on things, because that’s his job. And he really does want to help Trump get elected, even if he wishes someone else had won the nomination, because from where he stands the alternative is much worse.

Keep in mind that there are going to be many more stories like the ones this weekend, because we have seen only the tip of the lurid iceberg that is Donald Trump’s oppo file. You can bet that the Clinton campaign has many stories about Trump that it will be feeding reporters on a regular schedule between now and November. Some may not check out, but others will, and I seriously doubt the media will be deterred from pursuing them by Trump’s insults (and they’ll be doing the same thing to Clinton, just as they have for the last couple of decades).

As the campaign goes on, it will be nearly impossible for Republicans to escape questions about Trump, since whenever it’s been a while since a juicy revelation, Trump will help out by saying something disgusting or appallingly dumb (the latest: He says that Syrian refugees are coming to the U.S. carrying phones with ISIS flags on them, and ISIS is also paying their phone bills. Which, you have to admit, is pretty poor tradecraft if you’re trying to smuggle terrorists into America). In a better world, politicians would be able to be completely frank about a situation like this. They could say, “Yeah, the guy’s a monumental pig, not to mention a fool. Who knows what the hell we’ll be in for if he becomes president. But I just don’t want another Democrat elected, and that’s what it comes down to.”

They can’t say that, because we’re all so used to talking about presidential campaigns not as ideological contests but as personality contests. So Republicans have to pretend that they oppose Hillary Clinton not just because she’s a liberal and they’re conservatives—which ought to be more than reason enough—but also because she’s some kind of cartoonish psychopath who would strangle your children’s puppy if she had the chance. They have to say that Clinton is a worse person than Trump, or that he’s somehow more qualified to be president because he’s a businessman, or that his can-do spirit is just what we need to clean up Washington.

They don’t believe any of it. How could they? But they have no choice but to keep on saying it, no matter how it eats at their souls. Just be glad that’s not your job.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reince Priebus | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Changing The Electoral Dynamic”: The Unexpected Political Impact Of Terrorist Violence

Early this morning, as many Americans were just learning about this morning’s deadly terrorist violence in Brussels, Politico’s Blake Hounshell noted on Twitter, “America may be one major terrorist attack away from Donald Trump as president.” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes responded soon after that it’s a scenario that keeps him up at night.

This line of thought is not at all uncommon: in a general election, Trump, burdened by broad unpopularity, would start the race as an underdog, but many analyses have concluded that he could win the presidency anyway if voters are sufficiently terrified. It feeds into a conventional wisdom that suggest Republicans benefit politically in the wake of terrorism, and Trump specifically benefits even more.

But the conventional wisdom may not be entirely correct. Yes, Trump has seen a boost in GOP support after attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, but extrapolating to a national audience is a different story. I’m reminded of this Washington Post/ABC News poll we discussed around Thanksgiving – after the Paris attacks and when Americans were increasingly panicked about refugees.

A crescendo of tough talk on Syrian refugees and terrorism seems to be elevating the toughest talkers in the GOP primary – most notably Donald Trump. But among the broader American public, the most trusted person to handle the issue is Hillary Clinton. […]

By 50 percent to 42 percent, more Americans say they trust Clinton to handle the threat of terrorism than Trump, who leads the Republican field and responded to the Paris terrorist attacks by calling for heightened surveillance of mosques and redoubling his opposition to allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S.

Clinton’s eight-point advantage over Trump wasn’t unique: the same poll showed the Democratic frontrunner also leading the other GOP contenders when respondents were asked, “Who would you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism?”

It’s not the only data available on this. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted this morning, “A recent Economist/YouGov poll found that only 30 percent of Americans think Trump is ‘ready to be Commander in Chief,’ while 60 percent say he isn’t. For Hillary Clinton, those numbers are 46-45.”

As we discussed several months ago, Democrats may be at a perceived disadvantage on matters related to national security generally, but Clinton, if she’s the Democratic nominee, will have more foreign-policy experience than any other presidential candidate in a generation. All of the remaining Republican candidates are either literal or practical amateurs on international affairs.

If the question is one of preparedness, it’s a test the former Secretary of State passes easily.

All of this matters, of course, because of the degree to which it challenges preconceived ideas about which issues benefit which parties. Republicans widely believe they benefit most when elections focus on the issues where they’re strongest: national security, foreign policy, counter-terrorism, etc. Just so long as voters overlook their discredited ideas and track record of foreign-policy failure – and in Trump’s case, the fact that he’s painfully clueless – GOP officials are certain they’re on firmer ground when voters’ attention moves away from the economy, health care, education, and the environment.

But there’s some evidence that suggests Clinton’s resume is unique, and with her background comes an ability to speak with authority on an issue Republicans claim as their own. It changes the electoral dynamic in ways the political world may not have fully digested yet.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 22, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, National Security, Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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