The Washington Post has taken upon itself to be the scorekeeper on President Trump’s rhetorical accuracy. They currently claim more than 7000 of what they call “lies” That, in and of itself, is a stretch of the truth.
To visualize their score of presidential veracity, the folks of the Fourth Estate have literally tossed one gumball into a large jar for each alleged lie by the President. They further claim that the frequency of these prevarications is increasing exponentially. In his prosecutorial brief, Victor Blackwell, of CNN, presided over several jars of brightly-colored gumballs like they were evidence in a murder trial. To maximize the visual impression – and in what can be described as visual hyperbole — I noticed that they used the over-sized “jawbreaker” gumballs. I suspect that they would have used bowling balls if it were not such a logistical challenge.
One cannot deny that Trump seems to make more inaccurate public statements than most past presidents, but we have no comparison. No one in the media has ever meticulously tracked the lies, misstatements, mistakes or bullsh*t of past Chief Executives. If they were to apply the same standard and diligence to those past occupants of the Oval Office as they do to Trump, I would bet there would be untruths by the thousands. It all depends on how picayunish and petty one wants to be – and when it comes to Trump the media has no bounds picayune and pettiness.
Why does he do it?
Unfortunately, Trump provides his critics with too much ammunition. There is no good explanation for Trump’s propensity to proffer challengeable claims in machine gun fashion. But the hyperbolic media narrative that Trump is a pathological liar and an imminent danger to the Republic may be their bias-driven political narrative, but they are bending the truth to the breaking point, to put it politely.
While the Post makes its claims, it is not into transparency when it comes to providing the raw data – the list of those 7000-plus “lies.” It would be interesting to be able to analyze their list, but they are not willing to publish it in its entirety in their publication.
A lie by any other name
A lie is an intent to deceive when one knows that the statement is grossly inaccurate. We know that many of Trump’s misstatements are based on what people told him or he read or heard in the media. He can certainly be criticized for not being a more cautious consumer of off-hand information and for not checking out the facts before blurting out the statements.
In an effort to pile on, the media will declare lies when they are merely matters of opinion or differing interpretations. They take advantage of Trump’s maladroit manner of expressing his opinions.
They say he lied about the size of his Inaugural crowd – the biggest ever. Based on the best information available, that is not true of those in physical attendance, but it is true if you consider those watching on television or via the Internet. In view of his controversial personality and the shock of his victory, it would be amazing if it was not the most viewed Inauguration in history.
One cannot even count the number of times Trump is accused of knowingly lying about Mexico paying for the wall. (Hmmm. I wonder if that is one gumball or does the Post add a gumball for every repetition of the comment?)
And is it really a lie? Trump has said that Mexico would pay for the wall one way or another – direct payment, withheld foreign aid from the United States or some provision in trade agreements. The best one can say about that promise is that the jury is still out. And even if he cannot make it happen – or is blocked from building the metaphoric wall – it is not a lie any more than when Obama said that Syria’s Bashar al Assad’s days were numbered.
Then there are all those lies the media cites that are purely differences of opinion. When Trump said the negotiations over the new NAFTA were going well, a number of media folks declared it not to be true. A lie? That is the arrogance and danger of a biased and propagandized news media. Who would know better the status of the negotiations – the President or the reporters? Yet they call it a lie. Is that another gumball in the bottle?
It needs to be noted that that VAST majority of those gumballs seem to represent misstatements that are of no real importance. As a person who favors Trump’s policies, but not his personality, I could care less about the media frenzy over crowd sizes and all those other petty agonized attacks on his veracity.
Ignoring important lies
Where was the media derangement when President Obama lied about keeping our doctors in order to pass the Affordable Care Act? It was a gross lie that was necessary to get the bill passed in Congress and was admitted to by one of his chief advisors, Jonathan Gruber. There was no outrage when Obama supported gay marriage after saying on the campaign trail that he opposed it – a lie that his top advisor, David Axelrod confessed in his book. There were no gumballs in jars when Obama lied to the Kurds and Syrian freedom fighters that America would have their back. What about the lie that we would have 6 percent growth in less than one year if Congress passed the stimulus package?
Those are the kind of lies that should be of great concern because they are not petty. They affect real lives – and in the case of Syria, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Those are lies with enormous consequences.
But what about the media in this world of fact-checking and lie-accusing? It brings to mind Dr. Seuss’ tale of the community of Hawtch-Hawtch where there was a need to supervise (watch) the bee at work. When nothing improved, they found it necessary to watch the watcher. After a series of watchers watching watchers, Seuss concluded:
And now all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch are watching on watch watcher watchering watch, watch watching the watcher who’s watching that bee. You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher you’re lucky you see!”
So … who IS watching the media? Yes, there are media reporters – but guys like CNN’s Brian Stelter is neither a media critic (as we once called them) or an ombudsman. He is a propagandist for the press.
And yes, occasionally the media is caught in such an outrageous lie that they must offer up a retraction. Occasionally, a reporter makes up a story (a lie) and gets fired. That happened to “Morning Joe” regular Mike Barnicle — often introduced with the appellation “the legendary …” He was canned from the Boston Globe for faking news reports. It has happened to the New York Times with Jason Blair. But, for the most part, the media can lie, deceive, spin and censor with impunity. After all, they see themselves as the primary watcher.
And The Beat goes on
Among the most biased hosts on MSNBC – and it is at least a seven-way tie for first place – is Ari Melber who hosts “The Beat.” He also appears as guest host and panelist on virtually all the other MNBC programs. In his year-end show, he noted that many people (an understatement) believe the folks at MSNBC are biased and only dishes out one side of the story. To prove otherwise, he aired a snippet of three interviews is Trump advocates.
In those archival interviews, Melber berated his guests and called them liars. He was not inquiring. He was indicting. What he did not show – and I recall because I had seen those interviews – was the panel discussions that followed, in which three of four “contributors mercilessly” ripped the Trump supporters apart like a McDonalds’ bag in the hands of a child.
If you were to do some stopwatch-research – timing the negative and positive Trump news and opinions on MSNBC – you get a fact-based knowledge that destroys Melber’s self-serving narrative. By my rough timing on one occasion, its negative-to-positive ratio runs about 300-to-one against trump. In one segment of Morning Joe, the hour was 100 percent anti-Trump by twelve talking-head analysts – not including the negative video clips. Not one person with an alternative opinion.
In attempting to demonstrate fairness and balance with these three video clips, Melber offered up a GROSS deception – a misrepresentation that can only be considered … a lie. He was not mistaken. He was not misinformed. He willfully distorted the truth to create propaganda. Yes, Melber lied. MSNBC is not fair and balanced and only zombies of the left-wing base could believe otherwise.
Painter paints himself into a corner
On CNN – which is biased but does offer up a number of alternative viewpoints – there was a real debate. Taking up the #NeverTrump side was Republican deserter Richard Painter – a man of world-class arrogance and pomposity. His appearance and his raspy scolding oratorical style always reminds me of Waldorf, the angry old man in the balcony in those Muppet shows.
The subject of the moment was Trump’s lies. After hearing from a Trump defender, Waldorf … ooops, I mean Painter … bellowed “Everyone in New York knows that Trump is a liar.” Really? Everyone? Old Painter just told an untruth … a lie. One does not need to do a survey to know that not “everyone in New York” thinks Trump is a liar. To make his point, Painter told an untruth. It could be considered an expression made for emphasis (nice way of saying, “a lie”). BUT … it is exactly the kind of exaggeration that garners Trump another gumball. Using the same standard, Painter gets a jaw-breaker for his jaw-boning.
When those folks on the tube say that Trump wants a “medieval-style wall,” “compare his proposal to the Great Wall of China or say he is relying on 17TH Century technology,” they are … lying. Flat out spewing gumball-earning lies. They use THEIR definition as a straw man even Trump has often explained that the “wall” can be many things in different places. It is a metaphor for border security – walls, fences, barriers and whatever it takes.
Trump hurts himself
I cannot say that I am not chagrined by Trump’s propensity to tweet and say things that are challengeable. He hurts his own credibility and – more importantly – his ability to move the conservative Republican agenda forward. I do not admire his hyperbolic egocentric bragging. I would like to see less c’est moi and more e pluribus unum.
Trump’s greatest strength, however, is not him, but them. It is easy to overlook what cannot be defended in Trump when one considers the alternatives – a divisive left-wing political movement based on identity politics, political correctness and the empowerment of a permanent authoritarian ruling elite presiding over an increasingly powerful and oppressive central government. As it was in November of 2016, Trump, for all his faults, is still the better option for America and the personal freedoms we have come to expect as citizens.
So, there ‘tis.