Donald Trump is Allergic to the Truth

Donald Trump is a lying liar.  If he had cut down Washington’s cherry tree he would have called into CNN and claimed a miniature tornado picked up the hatchet and repeatedly spun it against the tree until it fell.

For someone who says they are the antithesis to lying, corrupt politicians, Trump lies more than anyone… ever.  I watched Trump’s energy speech in North Dakota last week and in the first part of the speech counted almost a lie every two minutes.  If I had made it into a drinking game I would have had my stomach pumped by the time the Q-and-A started. 

Some of his lies are persistent lies (“I saw Muslims cheering on 9/11”) and some of them are convenient lies (“Hillary is going to abolish the second amendment”) but they are all lies.

We would never accept this sniveling lying from any other candidate, so why do Trump supporters accept it from him?  

Over the past week Trump has been on the defensive over the whereabouts of donations he allegedly made to veterans groups.  The Washington Post detailed his lies about the donations, which became increasingly bold and even included Trump denying statements he had made in the face of video of him making said statements. He gave $6 million: lie. He gave a million himself: lie. (He has since made a $1 million donation but only because he was called out for not having made one…)

He lies more impulsively and frequently than a child who claims they didn’t eat the last piece of cake despite having frosting smeared across their lips.

One of Trump’s favorite lies to tell involves him mysteriously coming down with rapid onset amnesia when questioned about his past.  For example, Politico wrote an extensive piece on Trump’s ties to mob members and in the article Trump repeatedly claimed to “hardly know” people who he had used to work with and one guy who he had even vouched for during a court sentencing procedure.

And then also last week, while appearing on Jimmy Kimmel, Trump admitted to being “full of shit” when he praised Hillary Clinton back in 2008.  During the same interview he also admitted to using aliases but continued to deny (read: lie) that he impersonated his own spokesman who conveniently had the same name as the alias he said he liked to use.

As if last week weren’t chock-full of enough lies, Mediaite responded to Trump’s assertion that he “never reads” the Huffington Post, by posting a handful of times Trump has re-tweeted them.  Huff-Po writer Sam Stein even noted that Trump has written to him.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Well, Trump could.

Politifact has rated an astonishing 77% of Trump’s statements somewhere between “mostly false” and “pants on fire.”  That means only 23% of Trump’s public declarations are “half true” or better – not even 100% true!  Mitt Romney, by contrast, has ~60% of his statements rated as “half true” or better.

These lies are not slight exaggerations or mischaracterizations, they are downright, unequivocal, cut-and-dry lies.  Trump simply cannot tell the truth. He as an aversion to it like a cat to water or a dog to the vet.  If the answer to a question is inconvenient, unfortunate, or unflattering, he lies.  He says he doesn’t remember, he says the premise is wrong, or he makes something up.  

There is no sugar coating this. Donald Trump is allergic to the truth and a man of such severely decrepit character should never be allowed to step foot in the Oval Office.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit: AP

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The Right’s Silence Is Deafening.

A snowball by itself isn’t very harmful. In fact, when thrown at someone it explodes into a satisfying cloud of flurries and fun.  But if it were to be rolled down a mountain, it could grow larger and larger until transformed into a full blown avalanche capable of burying hikers, cars, towns, and anything else in it’s path until it has morphed an entire landscape into a violent sea of white.

Last year Donald Trump rolled up a snowball of Mexican rapists and rural white fear and tossed it down a mountain towards the unsuspecting public below.  Over the past year, Trump’s momentum has grown exponentially and now, with the magic number of delegates having been reached, has reached the point of no return.

America is in the midst of an impending avalanche with a bad haircut and tiny hands.

It might already be too late however, as the entire GOP seems to have resigned themselves to their fate and rolled over waiting to meet their maker.  But it didn’t have to be this way.

Look I get it, Hillary Clinton is just about the worst thing in the world that could happen to conservatives.  The idea of her in the White House probably makes their skin crawl the same way mine does thinking about President Cruz (I literally shivered typing that).  But there is a limit to party loyalty and the sudden and reflexive kowtowing by the conservative establishment to their new Chosen One is utterly terrifying.

Robert Kagan observed in the Washington Post recently that this type of blind loyalty is what leads to authoritarianism.  He’s right.  Words matter when you’re the leader of the free world and Donald Trump has said a lot of words that should disqualify anyone from seeking this office.  If a Democratic candidate called for a ban on a religion or called women the names Trump has, I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to say I support them.

Country over party, right?

What is scary isn’t the capitulation of those like Chris Christie – who tucked his tail between his legs and sold his soul to the devil early on – it’s those who have been carefully tap-dancing and silently nodding in acceptance.

  • Paul Ryan went from saying he “couldn’t endorse” Trump to saying he was “encouraged” by him and just can endorse him “yet.”
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she voted for Trump but wasn’t happy about it.
  • Rep. Peter King said he had to endorse the nominee but wasn’t enthusiastic about it.
  • Senator Marco Rubio won’t even use Trump’s name, and just says he’ll “support the nominee.”

The candidate these “leaders” are offering tacit approval to is not a candidate who inspires with ideas of economic prosperity and hope.  He is a candidate whose prominence is the sole result of a swelling rash of fear, xenophobia, and anger among predominantly white Americans who believe “their country” is slipping away from them.

The establishment’s silence is deafening in a moment where a concerted effort by the conservative elite could go a long way in denying Trump the credibility he craves.  Every endorsement Trump receives gives his candidacy a little more legitimacy that allows voters to say; “See, he can’t be that bad, all those Congressman think he’ll be great.”  

The inability to put country ahead of party when the stakes are so high represents the worst of our politics.  I’d be willing to bet there is implicit – or maybe even explicit – understanding from the RNC that the Republicans will win or lose as a team this year and that renegade members who bash their nominee will not be supported with party money.

If Trump becomes president and our country heads down the path he has indicated he’ll take it, all of the GOP leaders who stood by idly in favor of their own self interest will have to answer for why they didn’t act when they had the chance.

Just like Trump’s support has snowballed into an unstoppable avalanche, so will his ideas if elected.  Fear is a powerful force and if it prompts the banning of Muslim immigration who is to say the trend won’t continue to other races and religions that scare red America.  If it starts with expanding libel laws so Trump can sue those who speak ill of him, who is to say it won’t end with FBI arrests of journalist who critique the Administration.  

You may say that is silly exaggeration and could never happen, but then again, a year ago it was thought impossible that a candidate could prey on “the other” to become a nominee for president in the Land of the Free.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Tom Cotton wants to jail more people. Are you kidding me.

Earlier this week, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) gave a speech at the Hudson Institute in honor of Police Week, where he made the audacious claim that the United States has a problem with “under-incarceration.”  You read that correctly, Tom Cotton thinks that the developed country with the highest per-capita prison population in the world hasn’t put enough people in jail.

Cotton’s intended audience were law enforcement officials, so I understand he was attempting to pander to their position, but the idea that the United States should be putting more of its citizens behind bars is so ludicrously asinine and insulting that it makes Hillary Clinton’s attempts to pander to African Americans by telling a hip-hop radio station she keeps hot sauce in her purse look like child’s play.

First, let’s start with Cotton’s claim that mass incarceration in the 1980’s and 1990’s is responsible for the precipitous drop in the national crime rate.  The Brennan Center for Justice did a comprehensive study of the possible explanations for the drop in crime and mass incarceration was just one of thirteen possible explanations, most of which were deemed “inconclusive.”  The simple truth is that we don’t know why the crime rate has dropped so much.  It also may not be any one factor, but a combination of all of the above.

Cotton’s blatant cherry picking of this statistic to make his point is effective, but also dishonest and ignorant.  Public policy should be rooted in careful analysis, not prejudice, predisposition, and petty politics.

But let’s pretend for a second (and only a second) that Cotton is right, and that jailing everyone who commits a crime for the next ten years of their life really is the best way to prevent crimes.  But, is that really the best use of our resources?  Does it contribute to a just and verdant society down the road?  Does it help those criminals repent, reform, and move on from their transgressions?

For starters, it certainly isn’t the best use of our resources.  The National Dialogue Network recently conducted a study where it was determined that the state of Ohio could fund a child’s entire education at public schools and university through a master’s degree for the price of one year of incarceration.  

It is well known that the best way to prevent a child from becoming a criminal is to provide them with a great education.  If the state is so willing to spend six figures every year jailing those who have strayed from a good path, why not invest that money on the front end to give them opportunity outside of crime?

Once people are jailed (and thus not committing crimes in society) will they be better off once they are released?  Most of the time the answer is absolutely not.  Serving time stigmatizes a person for life.  Jobs become harder to get, house becomes harder to acquire, and social relationships falter.  In addition, most people who commit crimes do so in their prime development years, so if they spend those years in jail they are sacrificing their prime years for work training, retirement savings, marriage and family time, and educational opportunities.  

How is someone better off as a 35 year old with no previous job experience, no family, and a black mark on their employment application better for society than someone who went through a rehabilitation program in their early twenties and went on to find a steady job?

Cotton then attempts to back up his mass incarceration claim by stating that “criminal leniency would lead to more poverty” and that the state “cannot decrease the severity and certainty of sentences without increasing crime. It’s simply impossible.”  He supports this with absolutely no facts and no data.  In real life – which Cotton seems to be detached from – prison actually proves to be detrimental to preventing crime.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that 65% of those who are sent to jail recidivate and another study showed that every year spent in jail increases recidivism rates by nearly 6%.  Cotton would argue that is because “criminals are criminals” but I would argue that it’s because jail doesn’t accomplish what the “justice” system was intended to.  The theory behind sentences is not only to punish but to reform.  

Given the high recidivism rate, it is obvious the reform part is completely failing.  And when you take into account the sky-high price of locking people up, it would make infinitely more sense to invest in a justice system that focused on reforming citizens instead of putting them in an environment more likely to harden them.

But Cotton doesn’t stop there.  In his speech he proceeds to target Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia for restoring voting rights to former felons. He says, “Just last month, one governor restored voting rights to more than 200,000 felons, regardless of the offense committed or evidence of rehabilitation.”  What Cotton doesn’t mention was that this new order just restored voting rights of Virginia felons to the same status as former felons in Arkansas.  Cotton either didn’t do his research, or is aiming to make a nakedly political point.  I’m guessing it’s both.

What is most egregious about the arguments Cotton is making is that he is turning people’s lives into political footballs.  Restricting individual’s liberty is the most powerful thing a state can do.  Once an officer puts the cuffs on someone, their life is no longer in their own hands.  They become subject to the mercy of the courts. Their finances become subject to payment of court fees and their future freedom becomes subject to a judge’s whims.  

Cotton later added for dramatic effect: “I saw this in Baghdad. We’ve seen it again in Afghanistan. Security has to come first, whether you’re in a war zone or whether you’re in the United States of America.”  Jailing people who commit crimes in order to survive due to destitute conditions or others who are caught smoking weed for fun are not comparable to securing a road free of IEDs.  

Senator, your service is admirable, but your political pandering is shameful.

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Photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

 

Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

Last week a New York Times Magazine profile about a certain White House aide has set all of Washington D.C. on fire.  Was the Iran Deal a sham?  Are journalist all stupid?  People demand answers.

In case you live under a rock, this extensive profile was about Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications a.k.a. the White House’s media person for all things foreign affairs.  In the article, Rhodes makes a handful of comments that ignited the latest Washington faux scandal.  If you really did miss it, read about it here, here, and here.

While the critiques are extensive, Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe points out that “the reaction to Ben Rhodes profile is more interesting than the piece itself – a good reminder that DC is like one giant high school.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.  

The interesting aspect of the profile isn’t the surface level name calling that garnered all the attention, but rather the larger picture that is painted of the modern media and how news and narratives are spun from the White House out to the average citizen.

It is no secret that news as an institution has changed greatly over the past decade.  Print newspaper subscriptions have plummeted.  Weekly news magazines are faltering and cable news has turned into one giant, political reality show.  The ADD-like nature of the news cycle has killed journalistic skepticism that made the major networks popular in the first place.  (Brief side-note, accusing the press of failing to counter the White House spin machine is nothing new.)

What journalist found so insulting about Rhodes’ candid remarks on selling something from the White House is that he is mostly right: and the truth hurts.  The communications strategy for the Iran Deal was by no means as big of a success as the author made it out to be – Morning Consult polling showed that almost twice as many people opposed the deal as were for it prior to its signing – but it was still a lesson in how the media’s shifting priorities have allowed it to be manipulated.

Rhodes notes that many outlets no longer have even half the foreign bureaus that they used to, so instead of gathering hard news on the ground, stations and papers rely on junior staff sitting at computers in Washington picking facts off the internet.  That is hardly in-depth reporting.

He also observes that many outlets are so keen on pulling in outside “experts” and other figures that if an institution – say, the White House – can get friendly “experts” on television who don’t have White House titles, their point of view gains credibility despite not having been thoroughly vetted.

As with everything these days, the prime examples come from the advent of Trumpism.  Trump’s ideas are ludicrous, but he has friendly “experts” who get spots on cable television to defend him and lend him credibility.  By simply debating the merits of a wall along the border suddenly it seems like that could be a legitimate policy instead of a crackpot idea floated by a human yam.

Even this week – and I literally cannot believe this is a real, actual thing – the media refuses to nail down Trump for lying about impersonating his spokesman thirty years ago.  There is even a video of Trump admitting that he did this and yet still I heard Wolf Blitzer earlier today allow a Trump surrogate to say that it was “allegedly Trump” and he “isn’t sure whose voice that is.”  Because the media gives a voice to a second opinion, even a ludicrous, lying one, it is allowed to stand as legitimate in the record.

In this case, Rhodes’ only crime is acknowledging that the White House is aware of the power of being heard and used that power in order to pitch a major initiative to the public.

Continuing his streak of brutal honesty, Rhodes points out that he hardly encounters a reporter over the age of twenty-seven and that this generation of reporters can’t possibly have the life experience to understand the gravity of what they are reporting or draw in-depth judgments.  

A handful of people I know from my graduating class – also millennials – have acquired journalism jobs at major outlets.  These “kids” are publishing articles on Iran, the election, social issues, and more.  Everything they publish carries with it the weight of the organization they write for, but their life experience only comes with a memory that stretches back to the beginning of the Iraq war.

If one of them publishes a piece primarily based on State Department fact sheets and White House quotes, it will likely contain the exact bias that Rhodes was looking to spread.  It will then be cited as “the Washington Post says” and forever be part of the case.  

Having only studied journalism and political science in college and researched the subject from their desk, are these authors really qualified to be offering in depth commentary on something as important as the Iran nuclear deal?

The truth is they aren’t and if I were Ben Rhodes and I were looking to sell something I know is going to be controversial, these writers are the first people I would make sure every White House press release on the subject went to.  

Rather than take personal offense, the journalists responsible for vetting government policy should take a hard look in the mirror.  If the implication of the profile is correct and Rhodes sold a rotten deal, then these journalists should be asking themselves what questions they should have asked rather than grousing about being slighted in a shameless puff piece about a guy with a basement office in the White House.

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Photo credit: AP

 

Democrats, Leave The Champagne On Ice. For Now…

With Donald Trump locking up the Republican nomination and Hillary Clinton maintaining a large delegate lead on the Democratic side, many on the left are giddily starting to plan another four  years in the White House.

On the surface it makes sense because Trump – who is about 207398x more offensive than Mitt Romney – would have to win record numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, and women that Republicans have failed to win in the last two elections in order to win in 2016.  In addition, the Democrats have a built-in electoral advantage with Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania fading from purple to blue.

All that being said, with roughly 180 days until the election there is much to be worried about.  

  • First, each candidate basically starts with 40% of the vote.  A commentator on MSNBC recently pointed out that a piece of paper could earn 40% of the Republican vote just for having an (R) written on it.  
  • Second, if Trump’s boorishness becomes normalized, the shock value wears off, and people consider that vociferousness the norm, he will begin to rise slowly but surely. 
  • Lastly and most importantly, the media demands a competitive narrative and a blowout race doesn’t fit that bill.  Cable news will pitch this as a neck and neck horse race between equals and plug their ears when anyone tries to say differently.

Trump’s campaign lifted off in a way that would have seen any other campaign imploding back into the launchpad.  In his announcement speech he declared Mexican’s to be rapists and then before the primaries started called for a ban on Muslim immigration and mocked and insulted John McCain and a disabled reporter.  The media wagged a finger at him and allowed him to bulldoze his way through the controversy.  Those comments now only survive as prefaces in articles like this.  

Think about that.  In past years candidates have lost races for gaffes half that insulting.  Remember Todd Akin and “legitimate rape”?  Or Richard Mourdock and his assertion that a child born from rape is a gift from God?  In 2012 each of those comments sunk a campaign despite attempts to apologize.  Trump in turn, doubled down on his remarks. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

This past February, Trump began a habit of telling folks at his rallies to physically assault protesters.  In Burlington, Vermont he told police to withhold jackets from those kicked out so that they would freeze in the winter air.  Then, in Las Vegas, he declared that he wished he could punch a guy in the face.  At this point, Trump had made so many comments like this the media quite literally laughed it off.  

Once again, think about that.  Someone is running to be leader of the free world, yet is acting like a caricature of an African dictator and the media’s response is to make a joke and then ask in all seriousness if it helped him politically.  There are not two sides to every story, some things are just wrong.

As the summer progresses and the leaves begin to fall, prepare yourselves to no longer see anything he says treated with shock.  Don’t believe me?  In the 1960’s The Beatles “I want to hold your hand” was considered to be pushing the envelope of decency and then in 2006 a song titled “I wanna f**k you” reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts.  Donald Trump just did that to politics in nine months.

Part of the reason the media can’t condemn every offensive remark Trump makes is because it would create an appearance of partiality and a blowout race doesn’t make for exciting media coverage.  CNN didn’t pour $50 million into covering the election to declare Hillary Clinton the president in July.

David Roberts over at Vox wrote a very smart piece on how this will play out over the next few months.  For example, despite the overwhelming breadth of knowledge Clinton has in foreign policy, the media will recite her platform and then allow Katrina Pierson or some other Trump mouthpiece to present the opposite view uninterrupted and unchallenged.  In no way, shape, or form is comparing Trump’s “like, really smart” opinions with Clinton’s vetted, real life experience like comparing apples to apples.  It’s like comparing an apple to a rotten, fly infested banana.

These kinds of comparisons give Trump an air of legitimacy that could help him pick off Republican leaning independents and others who might otherwise be in the “Never Trump” camp.  By making him appear equal to a former Senator, Secretary of State, and First Lady, they are allowing fringe voters to make the justification that he is a suitable alternative to the Democratic candidate.  He is not.

It is a long, muddy road to the election and six months is more than enough time for everything to go to hell in a hand-basket, especially when the basket is already woven. Despite the inherent electoral and decency advantage the Democrats currently hold, the blabbering, endless fountain of meaningless noise that is cable television will undoubtedly make this contest closer than it ever should be.  

Democrats are probably okay to put the champagne on ice, but I wouldn’t pop any bottles just yet.

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Photo credit: REUTERS/JIM YOUNG

It’s funny because it’s true.

At one point during his routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night, host Larry Wilmore chuckled after another sizzling burn was met with groans and remarked to the audience “you guys are tough!”  

Well, you know what they say, the truth hurts.  Both President Obama and host Larry Wilmore played whack-a-mole with the ballroom on a variety of sensitive subjects that many of guests probably considered to be too close to home.  

Most hilariously and accurately was the skewering of MSNBC’s Morning Joe for morphing into a cheerleader with a megaphone and a “Make America Great Again” hat.  

As Wilmore said: “ And whenever I turn to the TV, I see Trump’s family campaigning for him, gushing all over him. Or as it’s also known as, “Morning Joe.” Have you seen “Morning Joe”? C’mon, guys, seriously. No, you know it’s true. Guys, “Morning Joe” has their head so far up Trump’s ass they bumped into Chris Christie.”

Harsh. But fair.

Panning the crown, the MSNBC table more closely resembled the Easter Island statues than party goers.  However, any viewer at home who had tuned into Morning Joe in the past 6 months was sitting there going, “yup, pretty accurate.”

Just last week, Trump called into Morning Joe sounding as though he had accidentally picked up the phone thinking it was his alarm. The host, Mika Brzezinksi, joked that “he sounds like he’s lying in bed!”  Well, Mika, he probably was, because that is how Charmin-soft your questions are and how easy it has become for him to conduct his campaign.

CNN didn’t receive nearly as much as heat as they deserved, but then again, that would be impossible without a flamethrower the size of the Washington Monument.  President Obama took a blistering shot at former White House Correspondent Jake Tapper by saying that “Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.”

Ouch. But fair.

In his new job, Tapper sold out to the entertainment machine and now spends his days covering Donald Trump’s twitter account 24/7 while meditating “he said, she said” debates between Sean Spicer and Paul Begala.  Obama’s line may have been stiff, but it was certainly accurate.

Former CNN & NBC anchor Campbell Brown recently wrote an article for Politico detailing how she viewed the media as complicit in Trump’s rise. She faulted just about every aspect of their jobs, from letting Trump wiggle out of tough questions like a greased pig to producers tucking their tail between their legs and letting him call in instead of showing up in person.

Obama has always used his quick wit and gift for comedic timing to advance his agenda and take cuts at a political opponents.  Throughout his Presidency he has appeared on shows with Jon Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, Jerry Seinfeld and others and always been very effective at contributing to the laughs while staying on message.

These White House Correspondents Dinners, while generally good natured at their core, are just another example of his, and the host’s, ability to use humor to advance a message.  The President clearly believes – and rightfully so – that the media has done a miserable job of conducting journalism during this presidential campaign.  Policy discussions have taken a backseat to drama and the national discourse has suffered as a consequence.

While I fully expect absolutely nothing to change as a result of their public shaming, in a perfect world I would hope that Wolf Blitzer would follow Wilmore’s advice and actually ask a follow up question.  I’d love to turn on New Day and learn something… new… instead of hearing about the latest thing Ben Carson said. (How is that still a thing?) I’d love to see Mike and Joe force Trump into the studio and resist the urge to hug him on air.

Those on the receiving end during Saturday night’s affair deserved every last punchline for their role in the debacle that is 2016.  But as always, Obama said it best: “{Trump} wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July.”

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