The “Big Lie” strategy of public opinion manipulation, most infamously championed by Adolf Hitler and his propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, has, in sinister fashion, become a routine and ubiquitous component of the Left’s efforts to remove President Donald J. Trump from office without having to defeat him at the polls. One of the most publicized Big Lies, that the President had “colluded” with the Russian government to “steal” the Presidential election from Hillary Clinton was recently exposed as such by the results of the Mueller investigation, and Democrats, with blazing speed, replaced it with another Big Lie that there is a “Constitutional crisis.” I could add that one to the list, I suppose, but the list of Big Lies is dauntingly long already, and this one is really just a hybrid of the Big Lies below.
Becoming addicted to relying on Big Lies as a political strategy is not the sign of ethical political parties, movements, or ideologies. Perhaps there is a useful distinction between Big Lies and “false narratives,” but I can’t define one. Both are intentional falsehoods designed to frame events in a confounding and deceptive manner, so public policy debates either begin with them as assumptions, thus warping the discussion, or they result in permanent bias, distrust and suspicion of the lie/narrative’s target. For simplicity’s sake, because I believe it is fair to do so, and also because “Big Lie” more accurately reflects just how unethical the tactic is, that is the term I will use.
Big Lie #1. “Trump is just a reality TV star.”
This is #1 because began at the very start of Trump’s candidacy. It’s pure deceit: technically accurate in part but completely misleading. Ronald Reagan was subjected to a similar Big Lie when Democrats strategically tried to denigrate his legitimacy by referring to him as just an actor, conveniently ignoring the fact that he had served as Governor of the largest state in the nation for eight years, and had split his time between acting and politics for many years before that, gradually becoming more involved in politics and public policy. (Reagan once expressed faux puzzlement about the denigration of his acting background, saying that he thought acting was an invaluable skill in politics. He was right, of course.)
In Trump’s case, the disinformation was even more misleading, He was a successful international businessman and entrepreneur in real estate, hotels and casinos, and it was that experience, not his successful, late career foray into “The Apprentice” (as a branding exercise, and a brilliant one), that was the basis of his claim to the Presidency.
The “reality star” smear still appears in attack pieces, even though it makes even less sense for a man who has been President for three years. The tactic is ethically indefensibl . It is not only dishonest, intentionally distorting the President’s legitimate executive experience and success, expertise and credentials, it is also an ad hominem attack. Reality TV is primarily consists of modern freak shows allowing viewers to look down on assorted lower class drunks, vulgarians, has-been, exhibitionists, idiots and freaks. Class bigotry has always been a core part of the NeverTrump cabal, elitist snobs like Bill Kristol, Mitt Romney the Bushes, and George Will revealing that they would rather capitulate to the Leftist ideology they have spent their professional lives opposing than accept being on the same team as a common vulgarian like Donald Trump.
With all of this, the final irony is that “The Apprentice” wasn’t even a true reality show. It was an elimination contest, with Donald Trump as the arbiter.
This earliest of the Big Lies backfired on its creators. Trump’s adversaries began to believe it themselves,causing them to under-estimate their adversary. They realized, too late, that they weren’t running against poor Anna Nicole Smith, Kim Kardashian, or Scott Baio, but a tough, ruthless, confident street fighter with some impressive leadership and public speaking skills.
It is a mark of how flat the learning curve of the President’s adversaries is that they still think calling him a “reality TV star” shows anything but their own dishonesty and ignorance.
Big Lie #2. “Trump is not a legitimate President”
Although this was not the first of the Big Lies, it was the foundation of all the others to come. The assertion, seeded by Hillary Clinton and spread by pundits and the news media, is pure poison to the democracy, national unity, the public trust, and the national welfare.
It boggles the mind that progressives and Democrats have been willing to risk so much harm to the United States and its culture for the sole purpose of waging political warfare against the President of the United States. I have to believe that at other times in our history, any party considering such a strategy would be stopped short by a respected and responsible leader. Incredibly, the Democrats didn’t have one (and still don’t). The obvious individual who could have minimized the political and cultural carnage was Barack Obama. He possessed neither the courage, the character nor the bi-partisan concern for the nation to do so. This was one more failure of leadership for the second most wildly over-praised President in U.S. history, barely trailing Jack Kennedy.
The damning aspect of the Democrats’ refusal after the election to follow the tradition of all previous losing parties is that the party’s leaders had lectured Donald Trump, when they were certain of victory, about how he was obligated to accept the will of the voters.
Hillary Clinton, another leader of the party with sufficient influence to have killed this insidious tactic in its cradle, was very clear on how essential such acceptance was—when she thought Trump would be the loser:
“To say you won’t respect the results of the election, that is a direct threat to our democracy,” she said at a rally at a late October rally the University of North Carolina. “We’ve been around 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections and we’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them and that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.” Later, she said unequivocally that “The peaceful transfer of power is one of the things that makes America America.”
For once, Hillary was right. Unable to accept accountability for her shocking defeat, however, she engaged in the exact conduct that she had—correctly—condemned as dangerous and unpatriotic, and allowed (and I assume encouraged) her party to employ it—to this day—as its signature Big Lie.
The claim that an elected President is “illegitimate” is technically sedition: it is an invitation and incitement to insurrection. The violent antifa riots around the Capital during the inauguration were the predictable result of the accusation, which had and has literally, beyond question, not an atom, not an electron of evidence to support it, only unhinged, unjust, hyperbolic contrivances. They begin with the fact that Trump lost the popular votebeing suddenly pronounced as unacceptable. Four previous Presidents also lost tin the popular vote, in a system that is enshrined in the Constitution and that every citizen, politician and elected official accepts as a condition of being an American,
Rep. John Lewis, whose position for two decades has been that no Republican President is legitimate, went a long way toward spreading Big Lie #2 by saying on NBC that he did not see Trump as a legitimate President because “Russian interference” resulted in the revelation of DNC documents and may have altered the election results. No evidence had surfaced or has ever surfaced that the Russian shenanigans changed sufficient numbers of votes or any votes at all to effect the results of the 2016 election.
We now know that the Obama Administration let the Russian efforts go on unimpeded—it takes a twisted path to reach the argument that Trump is an illegitimate President because the previous President, from the adversary party, neglected his duties. Most troubling of all is that in the case of the hacked documents, Americans learned quite a bit about how corrupt Clinton and her campaign, as well as the DNC , were, and it was information the public had a right to know. If an American had hacked the exact same documents and the media revealed them, as of course they would, the claim that any influence on the election was unfair would have been regarded as laughable. If Hillary Clinton had been elected without the public knowing about the Clinton Foundation’s corrupt maneuvers, the campaign’s using a CNN contributor to cheat in debates and town meetings, and the sinister sabotage of Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the nomination, there would have been a much stronger argument that she was “an illegitimate President’ than any of the claims made about Donald Trump.
The “Illegitimate President” trope seeded all of the “not my President ” demonstrations with a false rationalization, and justified, also falsely, the effort to try to hijack the Electoral College, the argument that the President should be impeached before he was even inaugurated, and the organized attempts to sabotage the President’s inauguration, traditionally a unifying and healing event. I largely blame Lewis for the latter, as well as Trump’s foolish (and sadly typical) insults leveled against “the civil rights icon” which gave members of the Congressional Black Caucus the excuse they needed to let them join the boycott.
After that, the “illegitimate” slur gave Democrats, “the resistance” and the media, as well as many unethical professional groups, a catalyst to activate various plots to remove him without risking the uncertainty of another election. I tried to find any serious effort to assemble real evidence for the “illegitimate” claim. As is typical when using Big Lies, most screeds asserting this one just restated the lie. That’s enough to accomplish Goebbels’ goal: make the target and his supporters deny the lie, making it a controversy and keeping the lie before the public.
Thank heaven for Old Big Mouth himself, Michael Moore. In January, before the Inauguration, he listed on Facebook his six reasons why Trump was “not a legitimate President.” He had nothing. Here are the six:
- The Electoral College shouldn’t count. But it does, and that’s the law, you hack.
- Trump “isn’t well.” That’s funny; I don’t think Moore is well. This is, of course, just a proto- Plan E , later resurfacing as the 25th Amendment plot, aided by unprofessional psychiatrists who purported to diagnose someone they had neither examined nor even met. Not only is the claim unsubstantiated, it’s irrelevant. Being “not well” wouldn’t make Trump’s Presidency illegitimate. If the public knowingly elected a certified lunatic as President, the election would still be legitimate. No one can claim the electorate didn’t know Trump’s personality, character and eccentricities by the time they went to the polls.
- The Russian interference. Moore, hilariously, said this unmeasurable factor required a “do-over.”
- The FBI chose sides, Moore says. This one is especially funny in retrospect.
- For #5, Moore just splashed around like a wounded cod. The President is illegitimate because he appointed someone Michael Moore doesn’t like (Ex-SOS Rex Tillerson) as Secretary of State. This “reason” actually exposes what the whole Big Lie is about in its entirety. Trump is “illegitimate” because progressives don’t like him or what he wants to do.
- is ridiculous, and yet it is something we still hear from our “unwell” friends and relatives. “Trump has potentially committed a number of felonies,” The statement isn’t law, it isn’t reason, it’s just “I think he’s a bad guy, and I just know I’m right.”
Big Lie #2 is infantile. It is constructed of nothing of substance, just bias and free-floating anger. Yet, as I wrote at the beginning, it, and the false assertions within it, form the foundation of all the Big Lies to come
Big Lie #3: “Trump Is A Fascist/Hitler/Dictator/Monster”
#3 is the Big Lie of longest duration wielded against Donald Trump. It arose early in the 2016 campaign, before Trump had been nominated. It’s a framing lie, designed to color everything he does or says within an established bias. If there is some interpretation of his words, however far-fetched, that can be used to support the premise that Trump is a fascist/Hitler/dictator/monsterit will be. #3 is also useful for spreading fear and hate. It is a direct cognitive dissonance ploy: on the cognitive dissonance scale,
…all of those labels are about as low as they can be in the value systems of most Americans. Linking any individual to them, even a President, effectively pulls his positive rations down without evidence or support.
#3 is a traditional anti-conservative, anti-Republican lie, and is distinguished in Trump’s case only by the fury and persistence with which it has been used by Democrats and progressives. President Roosevelt, in his 1944 State of the Union address, described Republican policies in the 1920s as “the spirit of fascism:”
His successor, Harry Truman, warned that a Thomas Dewey victory in 1948 would bring a fascistic threat to American freedom even more dangerous than the perils from communism. In 1964, Walter Cronkite suggested on the CBS Evening News insinuated that Goldwater (an advocate of small government whose father was Jewish) was a Nazi, as Cronkite biographer Douglas Brinkley noted 2012. Nixon, of course, was often called a fascist for his administration’s dedication to “law and order,” also called “enforcing the laws.” He was an early recipient of the “Worst Nazi President Ever” award for opening diplomatic channels with Red China.
A Democratic congressman accused President Ronald Reagan of “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from ‘Mein Kampf.’ ” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann’s pronounced President George W. Bush as a “fascist” in 2008. Even Senator John McCain, later beloved by the “resistance” for his petty and destructive personal vendetta against the President, was called a fascist when he was running against Barack Obama (who was himself labeled a fascist by conservative pundit Mark Levin). Nice, mild, Mormon Mitt Romney was a nascent fascist according to Watergate has-been Carl Bernstein, who wrote in 2012 that “today’s Republican Party (and its Tea Party wing) represent the first bona fide radical political party to rise to dominance in Washington in nearly 100 years.”
One would think that the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” principle would kick in after 70 years or so, but today’s political audiences are like the short-term memory amnesiacs in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.” As George Orwell observed, “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.” Comparing another limited government, pro-Jewish state Republican to Hitler should be embarrassing to the wielders of Big Lie #3, but it isn’t, in part because the slander has been bolstered by the mainstream media’s alliance with “the resistance.” The “Trump is Hitler” lie is versatile; it supports the vague “authoritarian” accusation that has been levied against every strong President since Washington. (Nobody ever called James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Rutherford B. Hayes, Warren G. Harding of Jimmy Carter “authoritarian.”) It was recently used by the spectacularly irresponsible and ignorant Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, among others, to condemn Trump’s detention centers on the Southern border are no different from those used by Clinton, Bush and Obama.
Big Lie #3 been unethically employed to frighten and mislead the public while “otherizing” the President of the United States. You can’t be more un-American than Hitler, after all. It’s purpose is to justify blind, unreasoning hatred that justifies the coup attempts of the Democratic Party-“resistance”-mainstream media alliance.
Big Lie #4: “Trump Is A Racist/White Supremacist”
There is not, nor has there ever been, any evidence, event or statement by the President that suggested his support for white supremancy. Indeed, his statements have indicated the opposite. The persistent and apparently undebunkable sub-Big Lie cited by Trump’s foes is that the President called the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “fine people.” He didn’t. Here’s the exact quote:
“Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name…. I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”
For the record, I might join a protest against taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee (or George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson—oh heck, even John C. Calhoun) and I know that I’m a very fine person. I just have a principle objection to statue-toppling and historical airbrushing.
British commentator Lionel Shriver has pointed out that like “fascist,” the white supremacy accusation has lost all meaning from indiscriminate use. He writes,
“... [A] guest commentator on Sky News sputtered that Donald Trump has ‘normalised white supremacy’….Welcome to the world of impotent hyperbole. That dig about white supremacy is a good example of contemporary word inflation, in some ways worse than what’s happened to grades. (The fetishistic lefty resort to normalise deserves parsing as well: the verb seems to decode ‘Maybe it’s not strictly illegal yet but we don’t like it, so it should be illegal’.) Now that white supremacist no longer refers specifically to Anglo-Saxons who proudly believe their race is superior, the term means nothing..”
Well, it means you should blindly hate your President, just like Big Lie #3, and shouldn’t even have to listen to those supporting him.. Here’s an absurd but typical example: Ravelry, a KNITTING website, announced that “We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry.” The ban includes “support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content.” The company assures users that if they get booted from the site for supporting Trump, “we will make sure that you have access to your data.” “We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy,” the site explains.
We can trace Big Lie #4’s origin to the day Trump announced his candidacy, unequivocally condemning illegal immigration as it should be condemned. This was quickly spun into anti-brown bias (Trump has never suggested that America’s interest in not allowing law-breakers to breach the borders has anything to do with race), and Trump’s endorsement of deportation of law-breaking non-citizens was (shamefully) conflated by Democratic demagogues with Hitler’s deporting, imprisoning and liquidating law abiding Jewish citizens. Oh, never mind, close enough—if one’s goal is to falsely impugn legitimate governing principles as evil.
The lie that Donald Trump is a racist is perhaps the most vile, vicious, and damaging of the Big Lies, as well as one of the most often evoked. It is related to Lie #3, of course: racism goes along with being a fascist and a monster. It is also perhaps the worst label that can be placed on a public figure, making it a very useful Big Lie, as well as one that weaponizes the Cognitive Dissonance Scale.
So deep is racism on the scale’s negative territory on the scale is racism that the mere accusation acts like an anchor, not just on anyone accused, but also on anyone who supports the accused. Joe Lockhart, one of Bill Clinton’s former press secretaries, tweeted,
“Anyone who supports a racist or a racist strategy is a racist themselves. 2020 is a moment or reckoning for America. Vote for @realDonaldTrump and you are a racist. Don’t hide it like a coward. Wear that racist badge proudly and see how it feels.“
Of course, this is just an extension of the “resistance’s” effort to brand the unremarkable Trump campaign slogan “Make American Great Again” as a racist taunt (in the Bill Murray meta zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die,” villain Steve Buscemi wears a red cap with the slogan, “Make American White Again’) by interpreting a general assertion that “things can be much better and I’m the one to make them better” into some kind of reactionary dream to go back in the land of cotton, where old times are not forgotten. Casting good faith opposition to Obama era policies as racism is and has always been a dishonest, divisive and despicable tactic, even when it did not involve beating up or intimidating citizens for the crime of supporting the elected President of the United States.
Lie #4 is also a continuation of Hillary Clinton’s smear when she thought she could prosper by calling Trump supporters “deplorables.” If they supported Trump, they supported a racist, ergo they supported racism, therefore they are racists, and nothing is more deplorable than racism, right? This approach helped lose La Clinton an election a trained baboon should have been able to win, so it is fascinating that Democrats are still devoted to it.
Lie #4 has been the Big Lie of choice for much of Trump’s first term, in part because the Left’s efforts to overturn the 2016 election by any means possible is becoming more desperate, frantic and shrill by the hour, butTrump’s own lack of discipline doesn’t help. He is an equal opportunity insulter, but when he has tweeted out attacks on “The Squad,” “persons of color” all, or the late Elijah Cummings, or CNN’s black news host Don Lemon, it immediately and predictably prompts much of Progressiveland, pundits, the Democratic Party’s mainstream media mouthpieces and the Facebook Borg (of course) is to immediately resort to “Trump is a racist/white supremacist”. To wit:
Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine): “Why Trump Spent His Summer Vacation Sending Racist Tweets”
David Zurawik (Baltimore Sun): “Trump’s Twitter attack on Cummings and Baltimore: undiluted racism and hate — After three years of denouncing President Trump’s use of media to attack, denigrate and, yes, spew racist hate, there are days when I think I do not have a drop of vitriol left for Trump and what he’s doing to this country.”
Peter Baker (New York Times): “Trump Assails Congressional Critic, Calling His Majority-Black District a ‘Disgusting’ Rat-Infested ‘Mess’..”
Charles M. Blow (New York Times) (naturally): “The Rot You Smell Is A Racist Potus.”
[ For the record, again, Baltimore IS a rat-infested mess, and the fact that its late representative in Congress (and recently- resigned corrupt mayor) were black should not restrict anyone’s right to say so.]
The Trump critics should know by now that calling Trump racist will not cause him to back down. In fact, this newest reason to call him racist has the tendency to make us forget the last thing that made them call him racist — seriously, I’ve forgotten! — and to dilute the meaning of the epithet. Trump is pointing at something concrete — living conditions in Baltimore — so news reports will need to show pictures of living conditions in Baltimore and interview residents. I had to stop and think for a while to remember the previous Trump-is-a-racist topic. It was those tweets about Congresswomen who should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Althouse, being fair, honest, and like me an opponent of the ongoing tendency to distort the President’s words to comport with Big Lies, correctly states what he tweeted on that occasion, which was also not racist (as I discussed here), proof of racism, or how it has been widely (and intentionally) misquoted.
What is fascinating about Big Lie #4 is that it is so easily shown to be based on confirmation bias, rumor, and slander. It is, of course, impossible to prove most negatives, and showing someone isn’t a racist is particularly difficult. Racism is a belief and a bias; most civilized people recognize that racism is unacceptable and manage to conduct themselves as racially unbiased. That does not mean that are not racists.
I have my suspicions about most of the Presidents of the United States, as well as a large proportion of the people who call Donald Trump a racist. Nonetheless, fair and ethical human beings do not conclude the worst about other human beings without convincing evidence, and the evidence that President Trump is a racist is just not there.
It is instructive to challenge someone who states that the President is a racist to back up the assertion. I did exactly earlier this year when a friend, a conservative Never-Trumper, wrote on his Facebook page, “Stipulated, Trump is a racist.” I asked him to back that statement up with solid facts; in law, you may only stipulate to established fact. I also said that if he could make the case, I would publicly announce that I have been wrong on the topic.
He’s a smart guy, he knows me, and he did not take up my challenge, but one of his Facebook Friends, a stereotypical echo-chamber anti-Trump blow-hard, did, and his best efforts were, as I predicted, woefully inadequate for the task. He defaulted to Trump’s foray into birtherism (the same ugly strategy he tried on Ted Cruz, who is white); Trump’s correct conviction that the U.S. should not tolerate illegal immigration; the old, old dispute with the Justice Department over alleged discrimination on Trump properties, and equally dubious examples. These, and other alleged evidence of racism consist of either deliberate unfair assumptions, confirmation bias, hearsay from from various sources, unverified accusations, or ridiculously broad definitions of racism. (Also, as I pointed out to the blow-hard, even if a decades-old episode did indicate racism, this would not be evidence of Trump’s current state of mind—unless one also wants to stipulate that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are homophobic, based on their now-revoked opposition to same-sex marriage. )
A Vox hit piece on the topic is a classic: here are some of what Vox regards as “Trump’s long history of racism of racism”:
- “1988: In a commencement speech at Lehigh University, Trump spent much of his speech accusing countries like Japan of ‘stripping the United States of economic dignity.’ This matches much of his current rhetoric on China.”
- “1989: In a controversial case that’s been characterized as a modern-day lynching, four black teenagers and one Latino teenager — the “Central Park Five” — were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in New York City. Trump immediately took charge in the case, running an ad in local papers demanding, ‘BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!’ The teens’ convictions were later vacated after they spent seven to 13 years in prison, and the city paid $41 million in a settlement to the teens. But Trump in October 2016 said he still believes they’re guilty, despite the DNA evidence to the contrary.”
- “1992: The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino had to pay a $200,000 fine because it transferred black and women dealers off tables to accommodate a big-time gambler’s prejudices.”
- “1993: In congressional testimony, Trump said that some Native American reservations operating casinos shouldn’t be allowed because “’they don’t look like Indians to me.’”
- “2005: Trump publicly pitched what was essentially The Apprentice: White People vs. Black People. He said he ‘wasn’t particularly happy’ with the most recent season of his show, so he was considering ‘an idea that is fairly controversial — creating a team of successful African Americans versus a team of successful whites. Whether people like that idea or not, it is somewhat reflective of our very vicious world.'”
- “2010: In 2010, there was a huge national controversy over the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ — a proposal to build a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks. Trump opposed the project, calling it “insensitive,” and offered to buy out one of the investors in the project. On The Late Show With David Letterman, Trump argued, referring to Muslims, ‘Well, somebody’s blowing us up. Somebody’s blowing up buildings, and somebody’s doing lots of bad stuff.””
- 2011: Trump…argued that maybe Obama wasn’t a good enough student to have gotten into Columbia or Harvard Law School, and demanded Obama release his university transcripts. Trump claimed, “I heard he was a terrible student. Terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?”
When advocates for a proposition have to stoop to ridiculously weak arguments, that is a strong indication that they don’t have a legitimate case. In order, no, accusing Japan of financial and trade misconduct isn’t evidence of racism; no, expressing outrage over an infamous crime and antipathy against the alleged perpetrators are not racist; no, pandering to the whims of a “whale” at a casino who happens to be racist isn’t itself racist; no, it is not racist to question the legitimacy of tribal casinos; no, proposing a “whites vs. blacks” format is not racist (I’d love to hear someone try to explain the theory that it is); no, being wary of Islam isn’t racist (in fact, it’s very reasonable); no, questioning Barack Obama’s academic record is not racist. (Trump’s academic record has been similarly questioned.)
This is typical of Big Lie #4, and all big lies, under the Hitler-Goebbels formula. If you have to argue against it, then the lie is working.
Trump, unfortunately, is defiant and reckless by nature, and will deliberately (and stupidly) give ammunition to the race-baiters, as he did with the infamous tweets that attacked four radical Democratic Congresswomen as if they all were immigrants from Somalia.
That, however, is a different issue.
Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible
This Big Lie, and the fact that it is one, will be a theme of the 2020 Presidential campaign. “Everything is terrible” has been a veritable mantra from the “resistance,” Democrats, progressives and the mainstream news media literally from the second Donald Trump had been declared the winner of the 2016 election, when New York Times columnist Paul Krugman announced that the stock market had declined and would never recover. The fact that he was spectacularly wrong didn’t dissuade Krugman or his ideological allies at all. They set out to make President Trump a failure by simply saying that he was, over and over, regardless of facts and reality and often without linking their pronouncements to anything substantive.
The fanciful narrative, in turn, was advanced in casual conversation by fear-triggered citizens, in interviews by celebrities, actors and performers, in website comments and letters to the editor, in television dramas and sitcoms, novels and blogs, as they alleged dark “threats to democracy,” “increasing hate,” “dangerous times” and various “crises.” The fact that none of this hysteria was rooted in truth hasn’t slowed Big Lie #5 down a bit: it is immune from rebuttal because it was never based on substance to begin with, but rather extreme bias, emotion, and vicious political warfare.
Everything is not terrible. Indeed, by all past standards of what constitutes national misery or crisis, very little qualifies as terrible. The economy remains strong, unemployment is minimal, black and Hispanic employment have improved, and wages are up. Under President Trump, the Washington Post announced that “For the first time, most new hires of prime working age (25 to 54) are people of color…Minority hires overtook white hires last year.”
Worst white supremacist President ever!
Police shootings are down, and violent crime is down. There has been exactly one Islamic terrorist attack in Trump’s three years. As he promised, the President has reduced the suffocating number of government regulations, and has fought the sinister “open borders” movement on the left, by refusing to allow illegal immigration to be romanticized and enabled.
The latter is in the category of developments that progressives violently—sometimes literally violently–disagree with, but their subjective displeasure doesn’t mean things are objectively terrible. Many developments fall into this category, like the withdrawal from the non-substantive Paris Accords on climate change, the Department of Education’s reversal of destructive Obama Administration policies, the President’s determination to confront China on its long-standing trade practices, refusing to be manipulated by North Koran saber-rattling and killing the Iran nuclear testing deal. A three-year media assault has deliberately framed these and other foreign policy initiatives as unequivocally negative, which is disinformation and anti-Trump propaganda. It is also one of the main reasons public trust in the news media is evaporating.
In an exchange between former Defense Secretary Mattis, who was promoting his book, and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell,began a question with the presumption that the President had weakened the NATO alliance. Mattis directly contradicted that assumption from a position of authority, leaving Mitchell flustered and without a response.
No, everything isn’t terrible or even close to terrible. The claim is based on a bizarre definition: when Democrats are not in power and their agenda isn’t being fulfilled, it’s an existential tragedy for the nation, democracy, and humanity. Or, using a simple metaphor from childhood, the Democrats, like children who cannot get what they want, have been throwing a loud, emotional tantrum claiming that their lives are unbearable, even though they have loving parents, nice clothes, a safe home, three meals a day and a bright future.
Ironically, among the conditions that are terrible now are many that have been created by “the resistance,” not President Trump. Imagine a deranged family member who screams epithets and insults at top volume, all day and all night, listing grievances that culminate in “And it’s so NOISY here! There’s no peace! It’s unbearable!” That’s “the resistance,” assisted by the news media and your Trump Deranged friends on social media.
Ann Althouse has been especially vigilant in documenting this phenomenon. For example, she republished part of a post from August of 2015, where she had written,
“I hate the news right now. Everyone seems to think the thing to talk about is Donald Trump, which strikes me as profoundly stupid. I watched 5-and-a-half Sunday morning talk shows yesterday, and I heard the same thing over and over. Trump has lost some unregainable portion of the women. He can never get them back, but he could never have won anyway, and really what he is is America’s expression of anger. We’re an angry, angry America, and this lout is, apparently, an embodiment of our collective id.”
She commented this year, “I can’t take the anger. I can’t take the constant obsessing over Trump. And that was 4 years ago. Little did I know how much anger and obsessing would follow. But, as I did then, I can get away from the media-enforced anxiety.”
Yes, the constant anger, hate and anxiety is terrible. The divisiveness is terrible; the fear-mongering is terrible; the contrived impeachment attempt is terrible; the unprecedented expression of contempt and disrespect for the nation’s leader is terrible; people being physically attacked for expressing support for their President is terrible; masked thugs attacking conservatives is terrible; re-segregation is terrible; campus censorship of non-conforming opinions is terrible; the cancellation culture is terrible; social media intimidation and denigration of conservatives is terrible; the blatant use of false narratives and Big Lies to undermine a President is terrible; the Democratic Party’s refusal to accept the results of an election is terrible; the constant efforts to find some way to oust the President from office is terrible, the way the Russian collusion conspiracy theory was used by Democrats and the news media to interfere with the President’s efforts to do his job was terrible; the mainstream media’s complete abdication of journalism ethics is terrible; the absence of any honorable, trustworthy political leaders is terrible—and all of these terrible developments for the country and more are the direct result of the relentless efforts by the same people who are insisting that everything is terrible.
Much about the President himself is, in fact, terrible. His manners are terrible; his tweeting is terrible; his character is terrible; his habits, self-indulgence, lack of impulse-control, chaotic leadership style, honesty, trustworthiness and ethics are all terrible. The character and style of a President, however, while important, are not as important as conditions in the the nation itself. Presidents, as much as Barack Obama has tried to argue otherwise, get credit for how the country is faring while they are in office….and far from being in a terrible crisis, the United States of America is doing just fine—not perfectly, but fine— under President Trump.
Big Lie #6: “Trump’s Defiance Of Norms Is A Threat To Democracy”
Steven Levitsky and , the two authority-abusing political scientists who wrote the equally indefensible “Why Democracies Die.,” have been the leaders of this particular slur. They were at it again in a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Republicans Play Dirty (They fear that if they stick to the rules, they will lose everything. Their behavior is a threat to democratic stability.)”
Even though the latest from these two partisans posing as objective scholars focuses on the GOP rather than the President, the dishonest strategy is the same. The exact conduct being engaged in by the “resistance” and the Democrats is projected on their adversaries, accompanied by the false claim that they are endangering American democracy. In truth, the calculated efforts to de-legitimatize the President, his election, and the Supreme Court by “the resistance”(and in this group we must include unethical academics like Levitsky and
And, of course, the New York Times gives the two a platform for their distortions. Of course.
Here’s the opening argument of Levitsky and op-ed:
“The party’s abandonment of fair play was showcased spectacularly in 2016, when the United States Senate refused to allow President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February…. While technically constitutional, the act — in effect, stealing a court seat — hadn’t been tried since the 19th century. It would be bad enough on its own, but the Merrick Garland affair is part of a broader pattern.Constitutional hardball has accelerated under the Trump administration. President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to divert public money toward a border wall — openly flouting Congress, which voted against building a wall — is a clear example. And the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, manufactured by an earlier act of hardball, may uphold the constitutionality of the president’s autocratic behavior.Constitutional hardball can damage and even destroy a democracy. Democratic institutions function only when power is exercised with restraint.”
The only way this argument could be made without giggling is if the advocates deliberately ignore the other side of the aisle—in other words, lie. Yes, the burying of Merrick Garland’s nomination by the GOP Senate majority, was indeed “playing dirty,” but no more so than the rejection of Robert Bork’s nomination for the Court by a Democratic Senate majority, permanently shattering the tradition of Senate confirmation of any SCOTUS pick who was qualified for the job. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the one who took the “nuclear option,” of eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominations—that was “playing dirty” by Levitsky and ‘s definition.
So was the unprecedented use use of the arcane device of “reconciliation” by Reid to sneak Obamacare through Congress without reconsideration by the House after the Senate majority had shifted. So was Reid’s outright lie that Mitt Romeny hadn’t paid any taxes for years (“He lost, didn’t he?” was Reid’s smirking justification later) So was Barack Obama’s attempt to use an executive order to block federal prosecution of immigration violations; so was Obama’s attempt to intimidate conservative Supreme Court Justices into upholding the Affordable Care Act; so was the use of the IRS to hamstring Tea Party groups during the 2012 Presidential campaign; so was the orchestrated public disinformation regarding what really happened in Benghazi. There are many, many more examples, topped by the three year efforts by Democrats to manufacture a justification to impeach Donald Trump, turning on its head the institutional tradition of having clear evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” first, followed by fact-finding and bi-partisan assessment of the responsible response.
This is not an “everybody does it” justification of “Constitutional hardball,” but rather a demonstration that the argument that Trump and the Republicans are uniquely “breaching norms” in dangerous ways despite the fact—and it is a fact— the Democrats have done so and are doing so now as flagrantly or worse is a lie. It is an especially cynical lie (designed in part to hide from the public what Democrats have been doing to undermine democracy for three years) and a Big Lie worthy of the Goebbels playbook
As for the Big Lie’s application to Donald Trump, Big Lie #6, the ridiculous claim, plausible only to Trump-Hating partisans and the historically ignorant, that the this President is behaving autocratically and “abnormally” by defying the “norms” defined by his predecessors, I already debunked this thoroughly in 2018 when Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt came out with their book:
The authors of the book, Professors Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, were the most credentialed of the “resistance” attack dogs sicced on Donald Trump to carry a core message of the movement: unlike any other President, this one was willing to discard tradition, established practice, and “democratic norms.” The New York Times wrote about it; so did the Atlantic and others. The theme began emerging when the President fired James Comey. Yes, yes, the critics said, a President can fire an FBI chief, but Presidents don’t because of the importance of keeping law enforcement apolitical. Well OK, Bill Clinton fired one, but that was special. All right all right, every President from about 1945 to 1972 SHOULD have fired J. Edgar Hoover since he abused his power outrageously–that’s five Presidents—but Trump doing it proves he’s a dangerous authoritarian.
This deliberately misleading talking point comes from the quieter Siamese Twin of Fake News, Fake History. Every President defies previous norms, or makes up new ones, and the stronger the Presidents involved are, the more norms they shatter. This doesn’t automatically threaten democracy, as the “resistance” and the news media, adopting the boot-strapping argument of “Why Democracies Die” claim. What threatens democracy is efforts to de-legitimize presidential power as an alternative to winning elections.
Andrew Jackson threatened to lead an army into a state and hang a Senator, John C. Calhoun. No President had ever done THAT before. He openly defied the Supreme Court. He set out to kill a powerful government institution, the Bank of the United States, and did. This is only a sample of Jackson’s norm-denying conduct, but he was a transformational President, and he didn’t leave the democracy in tatters.
John Tyler defied the consensus regarding what the Constitution meant about Presidential succession when a President died. Everyone told him that as Vice President, he was just a place-holder until a special election could be held. Tyler said, in essence, “I’m President now, so bite me. The next election will be in four years.” That’s how we ended up with the smoothest succession system in the world. James K. Polk expanded the U.S. territory by starting a war. Abe Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and locked up a newspaper editor for publishing critical editorials during the Civil War. Andrew Johnson openly defied a law passed by Congress as unconstitutional. Grover Cleveland talked a private citizen into floating a loan to keep the U.S. from bankruptcy; he also hid a serious operation—he had part of his upper jaw removed—from the public. Teddy Roosevelt invited a black man, Booker T. Washington, to the White House. TR traveled outside the United States; he shattered previous norms of Presidential dignity and decorum. He remade the office in his own image, and to fit his unique personality.
Much of the caterwauling about Trump’s “authoritarian” defiance of norms is fed by his idiotic tweeting and use of the social media platform to attack individuals and the news media. There are no “norms” regarding social media. Other Presidents didn’t use Twitter this way because, of course, there was no Twitter. I made a list of the past Presidents who would have eagerly resorted to Twitter to fight the press and critics, or reach the public directly. A conservative list would be John Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Teddy, Wilson, Coolidge (a limit in characters wouldn’t bother Cal at all), FDR, Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Regan and maybe Clinton.
Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson shattered a norm when he addressed Congress directly with his State of the Union message rather than just submitting it in writing. Franklin Delano Roosevelt paid no attention to “norms.” He defied the two-term tradition. He defied the norm of not locking up American citizens because of their heritage, one of the most disturbing abuses of Presidential power in our history. He defied the norm of not trying to change the size of the Supreme Court. He defied the rather crucial norm of not secretly plotting behind Congress’s back to send aid to combatants in a foreign war in violation of a law passed by Congress. He defied a norm by dictating who would be his Vice President. One of his Vice Presidents, President Truman, then defied a norm by personally attacking a newspaper columnist. Jack Kennedy ignored a norm by appointing his own brother as Attorney General, and also broke one of decorum, allowing citizens to see him, indeed touch him, while he was in a bathing suit. LBJ showed his abdominal scar to the world. Both Nixon and Clinton, trying to stave off impeachment, broke with multiple norms in their claims of executive privilege. Gerald Ford became the first President to pardon a predecessor. Jimmy Carter, in my personal least favorite norm defiance, met with ordinary citizens on TV and asked them how they would run the country. ( Carter violated a crucial Presidential norm by being a weenie.)
Believe me, this is just a tiny sampling; I could go on and on. The point is that Presidents break norms, and norms are made to be broken…unless they are broken by President Donald J. Trump. Then doing what all strong leaders do is proof of dangerous authoritarian motives that threaten democracy.
Big Lie #7: “Trump Is Anti-LGBTQ”
This Big Lie, which I have been hearing and reading from my many theater friends and colleagues, was nicely highlighted by the Washington Blade, an LGBT publication of long standing in the District. It published an extensive post called “All of Trump’s anti-LGBT actions since last Pride (plus a few welcome moves).” As with Michael Moore’s self-rebutting list of why Trump’s election was illegitimate, the piece neatly shows why the accusation of anti-gay bias is a politically convenient fabrication.
Big Lie #7 was launched immediately after the election. Gay rights activists decided to join in the attacks on Trump by their fellow progressive base members, even though Trump’s history and statements suggested that he was the most gay-friendly Presidential candidate in history.
“This morning, LGBTQ people — particularly young people and their parents — woke up scared and filled with questions about our country and their place in it,” Sarah McBride, national spokeswoman for the LGBT Left Human Rights Campaign, said. McBride added that “much of our community’s progress over the last eight years is at risk after yesterday’s election.”
This was fantasy, fear-mongering, and deliberate misrepresentation. The greatest threat to gays was the presence of Mike Pence, who had adamantly opposed gay marriage as Governor of Indiana, as Trump’s Vice-President. He was chosen to appeal to the Religious Right, and the Mid-West. Vice Presidents are almost always chosen for their states, regions, and constituencies, not ideological affinity with the President. Ike chose Nixon as his VP, and detested him. Kennedy disagreed with LBJ on many issues, but needed Texas in the electoral vote column.. George H.W. Bush was well-Left of Reagan, but Ronnie needed to mollify the Republican center (back when it had one). I think it is fair to regard Pence as anti-gay, but Vice Presidents are not Presidents…that is, unless you impeach the President and put the VP in the Oval Office. Nobody called Barack Obama an idiot just because Joe Biden is.
As for Trump, he couldn’t have been much more pro-gay. He had donated heavily to charities that focused on the AIDS outbreak in the 80s and 90s. In 1999 he went on record saying talked about adding sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is believed to be the first private club in Palm Beach to admit gay couples.
In June 2015, Trump condemned the terror attack at the LGBT Pulse nightclub, and uttered the inconvenient truth that Islam and the LGBT community were incompatible. Trump told Republican delegates, “As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” (Islam is a hateful ideology, you know.)
Trump unequivocally reiterated his acceptance of same sex marriage in an interview with Lesley Stahl. “It’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done,” he said when Stahl asked if he supported marriage equality.
At the same point in his Presidency, Barack Obama was saying that he was “evolving,” but not yet ready to accept same sex marriage. Oddly, nobody among LGTBG leadership sounded the alarm as Obama took office, or spun dire prophesies about the anti-gay purge to come.
Trump also said he would not try to appoint judges who would seek to overturn the same sex marriage ruling, again saying, “It’s done. It– you have– these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.”
Why were LGBT leaders telling members of their community that Trump’s election presented a threat to gay marriage? They were lying, that’s all. They were and are allied with the Democratic Party and the Left, the Left was and is violently opposed to Trump. Gays were being good soldiers, and like the rest of the “resistance,” dishonest and corrupt ones.
Now let’s look at what the LGBT community cites to justify its continued false narrative (aka Big Lie) that President Trump is a foe of their rights. Here’s a typical example: “Trump’s TIMELINE OF
..which leads off with the sentence,
“Since the moment Donald Trump and Mike Pence walked into the White House, they have attacked the progress we have made toward full equality for the LGBTQ community and undermined the rights of countless Americans.”
The quality of logic employed here is signaled very early, with statements like, “Trump signed an executive order stating policy to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — landmark legislation that provides access to healthcare for millions of LGBTQ people.” Yes, I remember well how the principled objections to Obamacare were based on its alleged benefits to LGBT citizens. Another alleged example of Trump’s “anti-gay hate”? “HRC and millions of demonstrators around the world came together for the Women’s March to protest Trump and his new administration aimed at tearing back our progress.” Ah! If people organize protests claiming something is true, then it is true.
My rule for all such lists is that if the accusers have a legitimate case, he, she, they or it will not include contrived, ridiculous, obviously tortured claims like these. In law school, we were taught to avoid desperate or contrived arguments in our briefs, because they undermined the strong ones and signal weakness of an advocate’s position.
The few genuine examples of the Trump Administration opposing items on the LGBT political agenda on this site are policy disagreements, and that’s all they are. Big Lie #7 is predicated on the “If you’re not 100% supportive of everything we want, then you’re against us, and that means you hate us, because we are obviously infallible and always right” theory. This isn’t unique to LGBT advocates; it is the same theory whereby all critics of affirmative action, opponents of slavery reparations, those who didn’t think Barack Obama was wonderful, or who question whether every cop who shoots an unarmed black man is a murderer have proven they are racists. This is right out of the progressive play book.
To it’s credit, the Blade’s list includes the positive, LGBT-supportive measures the Trump Administration has undertaken in the past year:
- Trump restaffed the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS with 11 new appointees.
- Trump has appointed LGBT individuals to various posts, including Mary Rowland, a lesbian with ties to the LGBT group Lambda Legal whom Trump named to a federal judgeship in Illinois, and Patrick Bumatay, a gay federal prosecutor whom Trump named for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
- President Trump’s State of the Union address announced an initiative to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, asserting “remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS” in recent years. The plan seeks to reduce new HIV diagnoses by 75 percent within five years, and by 90 percent within 10 years. Efforts will focus on 48 counties, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico and seven states where the epidemic is mostly in rural areas.
- Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2020 followed up on the State of the Union address pledge, seeking $300 million in new funds for domestic HIV programs.
- In his tweet recognizing June as Gay Pride Month, Trump emphasized acknowledged his global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality. Same-sex relations are illegal in 71 countries. The project is led by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Trump administration.
- The President tweeted: “Great news today: My administration just secured a historic donation of HIV prevention drugs from Gilead to help expand access to PrEP for the uninsured and those at risk. Will help us achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in America!” The Department of Health & Human Services had reached a deal with Gilead to make PrEP available for generic production one year earlier and to secure a donation of the medication for up to 200,000 individuals each year for up to 11 years.
- The United States joined 15 allied countries at the U.S. Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe in an investigation of alleged anti-gay human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Prof. Glenn Reynold’s running joke whenever the President engages in more support for Israel comes to mind here: “Worst Nazi President ever!” Those seven items are inconsistent with a President who is “anti-LGBT,” and in fact disproves the accusation all by themselves. If President Trump were truly “anti-LGBT,” why would he bother to embrace any of these measures? That community is allied with his enemies; it is not a constituency that he needs to pander to, since it gives him nothing but abuse.
The negative items on the Blade’s list, meanwhile, demonstrate neither bigotry nor hate. Some are definitely wrong-headed (and, in my view, unethical), such as the so called “conscience clause” protections for health workers and pharmacy workers who have religious objections to same sex relations. These positions and actions, however, are not anti-LGBT just because that community supports different ones. There are legitimate reasons to oppose the Equality Act (#3 on the Blade’s list) , for example, other than “anti-LGTB” hate.
The Blade’s list also shows the telltale signs of desperation and bootstrapping. For example, President Trump, says the Blade, showed his anti-gay bias by meeting with Ginni Thomas and other anti-LGBT activists, and “quietly listening.” (This is #2 on the list) My favorite of the Blade’s alleged smoking guns is “anti-LGBT” action #17, however:
“Trump gave an unflattering moniker to Pete Buttigieg, the gay presidential candidate with growing support in the Democratic primary. Trump dubbed him “Alfred E. Neuman,” the Mad Magazine character famous for the phrase, “What Me Worry?” In a dog whistle that perhaps gay people could hear, Trump said, “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States.”
I love it. It’s so, so MSNBC, so progressive, so typical of the “Gotcha! You’re a racist/xenophobe/sexist/homophobe!” tactic that was polished into high art during the Obama Administration. Trump engages in juvenile name calling with everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to Marco Rubio to Hillary Clinton to Adam Schiff, but when he does the same with Buttigieg, it’s proof of anti-gay bias.
Sure. I’m convinced!
Does anyone seriously believe that Trump wouldn’t have called him “Alfred E. Newman” if he were as straight as laser beam?
Enough. The Big Lie that Donald Trump is anti-LGTB is a cynical device without evidence or justification that relies on the audience’s ignorance and bias to succeed.
Big Lie #8: “Trump Only Cares About Himself, Not The Country”
When I combined the seven “Big Lies of the Resistance” posts above, I though I had collected them all. What a mistake. Not only had I complied an incomplete list, I had managed to miss the most egregious, unfair and, for the impeachment effort, the most useful Big Lie of all. I’m sorry. It’s time to remedy my error.
I’ve been feeling the need to add Chapter 8 to the Big Lie record since the midst of the Democrats’ ostentatiously unfounded impeachment claims over the President’s dealings with the Ukraine. Their entire argument was built on an assumption: President Trump sought further information regarding the suspicious activities of Joe and Hunter Biden while the elder Biden was Vice-President and the younger was somehow pulling down big bucks from a Ukrainian corporation only to “find dirt” on his likely opponent in the Presidential election. This description was repeated over and over again by the news media, like a mantra or a hypnotic suggestion. Hearing it so often and repeated with such certitude, one might almost forget that the President of the United States has a legitimate purpose in finding out whether a high elected official in the previous administration was influence peddling, sacrificing the interests of the nation for a wayward son.
The President’s attackers and those who have been searching for a way to remove him without having to prevail at the ballot box have framed the controversy as if there was no reason on earth to suspect Joe Biden of wrongdoing–after all, he’s a patriot—so Trump’s waving a Congressional aid package as a carrot that could turn into a stick was an attempt to “interfere with the election.”
The funny part is that there was never any evidence that this was Trump’s motive. It was assumed that this was Trump’s motive because “everyone” knows he’s a bad guy.
We heard this during the Russian conspiracy investigation constantly: Trump “colluded” with the Russians because of course he did—he’s that kind of guy. The Trump haters who slowly devolved into the Trump Deranged came to regard the President’s character as one and the same as guilt of the dastardly acts they attributed to him. This is called, I remind you, bias. Bigotry. Prejudice…the intellectually indefensible assumption that someone is guilty of unethical acts because of who and what they are, rather than what we know they did.
I had a fascinating discussion about the Ukraine allegations and impeachment with a close friend from college who was fulminating about how investigating the Bidens was obviously misusing the Presidential foreign relations power to rig the election.She couldn’t believe, she said, that Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t vote to convict him. I asked a question that was not original with me: What if, instead of Joe Biden, the immediate VP who was suspected of corrupt schemes in the Ukraine were a Republican VP, not planning or likely to run for President. Would the President using foreign aid to persuade the Ukraine to investigate that former official be misconduct then? The best she could come up with, even after a couple of beats of thought, was “it depends,” and she couldn’t tell me what it would depend on.
Ultimately, she defaulted to “Honestly, do you really think the Trump wasn’t just trying to find ‘dirt’ on Joe Biden to help him win re-election?” There it was again: the presumption, without proof, that the President’s conduct which would be otherwise presumed to have been undertaken in the best interests of the nation with any other POTUS , must have been based on corrupt and selfish motives. “Without proof,” did I say? Why there’s proof: he’s Donald Trump! That’s proof enough.
Big Lie #8 has been deliberately fertilized by two other Big Lies: Big Lie #3: “Trump Is A Fascist/Hitler/Dictator/Monster,” and Big Lie #4: “Trump Is A Racist/White Supremacist.”
From the beginning, the undermining of this Presidency has been built on the logical fallacy of the ad hominem attack. It isn’t that Trump is untrustworthy because of what he does,; no, what he does must be bad because “everyone knows” he’s untrustworthy. Thus, after being bombarded daily, even hourly, by stories, trivial, silly, contrived, irrelevant, old, new and substantial, about how much this President is just a villain, and that’s all there is to it, the ignorant and the gullible are ready to accept that the U.S. is a sitting duck for disaster as long as he remains in the White House. And making Americans think that has been the plan.
From a false premise, garbage follows. It is amazing how many “The sky is falling!” op-eds have been written and published that ignore reality and retreat to the Big Lie driven myth. Here’s “Bernie Sanders is a risk we can’t run at this moment of national peril,” by Trump Deranged, former conservative blogger turned Never-Trumper Max Boot. Wait: what’s the “national peril?” The economy is doing very well. Illegal immigration has been reduced. Crime rates are down. Trump’s trade deals have been an improvement. NATO members are paying a fairer share of the organization’s expenses. Iran is being opposed, rather than appeased. Due process has been brought back to college campuses.
Yes, there are major areas of neglect that will become existential threats, like the infrastructure, uncontrollable health care costs and the national debt, but those are shared failures at this point. Max thinks the “national peril” is that the President is warping the rule of law to his own whims, rather than discharging the duties of his office as he believes is in the best interest of the nation. For example, like others using Big Lie #8 as their compass, firing (that is, reassigning) Vindeman, a proven leaker whom he quite reasonably doesn’t trust is an act of personal vengeance. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, any leader or manager who doesn’t jettison subordinates he doesn’t trust—and it doesn’t matter why!—is an irresponsible, incompetent fool.
There is no reason to believe that Donald Trump is any less dedicated to his country than any of the men who came before him, and so far, all 43 of them have that one thing in common: as Americans, they have taken on the job of President as public servants and as patriots.
I’ve studied these men; I study them still. There are great perquisites of being President of the United States, of course, and there is that guaranteed place in American history too. No American wants to be remembered as an unsuccessful President, much less a bad President, or one who didn’t do the best he could for his country. Narcissists like Trump especially want to be seen as good Presidents. Super-villains do not become President. Our system and culture doesn’t permit it.
Becoming President is a sacrifice for Donald Trump, as it has been for every President. The proposition that he is using his office to enhance his business is ludicrous. He doesn’t need the money, and the political controversy that being President naturally generates is bad branding and ultimately bad business.
Never mind that, however; what matters is that every bit of evidence and historical precedent indicates that this President, like all the others, wants to do the best he can for his country in the limited time he has to do it. Claiming otherwise is a particularly vicious and unfair piece of defamation, designed to make it more difficult for him to achieve that goal, as he defines it.
Big Lie #9: “Trump’s Mishandling Of The Pandemic Killed People”
The Democratic Party/”resistance”/mainstream media collective got overambitious with this one. It is simultaneously attempting to blame Trump for the Wuhan virus and the economic collapse that was the direct result of measures they claim he undertook too late. Meanwhile, they are advocating continuing damage to the economy in response to the virus now, while fearmongering about its risks. The internal hypocrisy and contradictions inherent in this is too obvious even for dimmer citizens to miss.
Big Lie #9 can stand as one of the most flagrant examples of unrestrained hindsight bias in world history. Leaders often have to act without perfect or even adequate information ; this was–is— especially the case with the pandemic. Even now, not enough is known about the virus, which may also have multiple strains and mutations. Whether any measures put in place by decision-makers are “good” decisions can only be judged by what is known at the time they are made; to do otherwise is consequentialism, which is unfortunately how most people think, but which is, upon reflection, moronic. Stupid decisions that work, they reason, are smart; well-considered decisions that don’t are incompetent. President Trump’s enemies are counting on this non-logic to carry the Democrats to victory in November. It is a cynical and dangerous strategy, because it relies on undermining trust in the nation’s leadership.
The fact is that there may have been nothing President Trump could have done to make the effects of the virus any less devastating than they have been. Health organizations have been wrong; his experts have been wrong, China engaged in a deadly cover-up. One particularly hypocritical theme, which has also been employed as criticism in the wake of the George Floyd riots, is that President Trump has failed the test of leadership, that unlike President Roosevelt in his eloquent messages about the Depression and after Pearl Harbor, this President was unable to rally the nation through a crisis.
This criticism makes me particularly angry. Trump is no FDR, but the entire effort by the “resistance” and the news media since the President’s election has been to destroy his ability to be a bipartisan leader. They have withheld the respect for the office that all Presidents need to function effectively, and that all elected Presidents before this one were accorded as a matter of institutional tradition. They removed that crucial tool in their relentless efforts to destroy him, and now they denigrate him for not using it. The hypocrisy is loathsome.
One mistake Trump made, a typical one for him, was to say, early on, that he was not “responsible” for the outbreak. This is yet another example of how the President’s clumsiness in his rhetoric undermines his effectiveness and hands his foes metaphorical clubs to beat him with. He apparently thinks responsibility is synonymous with blame. It is not. Leaders are responsible for what occurs while they are in power. They are not, however, necessarily at fault.
Trump did not call the Wuhan virus a hoax:
To this day the left (and the media) claim Trump called the coronavirus a hoax. He said no such thing. While the country was distracted by impeachment, the Trump administration was busy addressing the coronavirus outbreak, taking various measures to limit the spread of the virus in the United States. Impeachment quickly faded, so they decided to aggressively politicize his response to the coronavirus outbreak. Joe Biden even called Trump’s travel ban with China an overreaction, and accused him of trying to scare the public. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia ± hysterical xenophobia — and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.”
President Trump responded to these allegations during a rally in South Carolina, calling the Democrats’ politicization of the coronavirus “the new hoax.” The media jumped on this line, claiming that Trump called the virus, not the Democrats’ reactions to it, a hoax. The lie spread like wildfire and Joe Biden even used the lie as a talking point on the stump.
I’ll interrupt Matt here to note that this was previously listed here as Big Lie #9. It is now subsumed in the even bigger Big Lie. I wrote on the “hoax” lie,
Like the similar Lie That Won’t Die that the President said that some white supremacists were “good people” (he did not—he said that some of the citizens who oppose tearing down statues are good people, and I am one of those), this one is intended as foundational. The idea is to use it to argue that President Trump was responsible for people dying from the virus, an especially nasty and unethical accusation because it is both unproveable and impossible to refute. The quote used to fabricate this lie itself rebuts it: the President called the effort to politicize the pandemic and use it to justify yet another false allegation of malfeasance a hoax, which it is. In fact, this Big Lie is part of that hoax.
Unlike the Charlottesville riot-based lie, which is just a manifestation of Big Lie #4 above, this one stands alone. It also demonstrates how Orwellian the President’s foes have become.
Now back to Matt:
The President did not turn down testing kits offered by WHO.
A Politico hit piece from early March claimed that the World Health Organization offered the United States coronavirus testing kits, but Trump refused to accept them. This claim spread quickly, and Joe Biden even alluded to it during his March 15 debate with Bernie Sanders, claiming, “The World Health Organization offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now. We refused them. We did not want to buy them.” It wasn’t true. …So, why did testing get off to a slow start in the United States?…“Testing in the United States was fraught with difficulty in large part due to the slow approval by the Food and Drug Administration to allow testing kits developed by private companies outside of the government-controlled CDC to be used at a local or national level. Those FDA policies are consistent with the Obama Administration’s response to H1N1 and Ebola in 2009 and 2014 respectively.”
The President did not tell governors they were “on their own.”
New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay claimed that during a conference call with governors about the coronavirus pandemic, he told them they were “on their own” in getting the equipment they need. “‘Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,’ Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times.”… Gay deliberately misrepresented Trump’s words. Trump actually told governors on the call: “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves. We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
Contrary to Joe Biden’s claims, he hasn’t specified what Trump should have done differently.
Joe Biden has tried to perpetuate this falsehood by giving press briefings telling Trump what he should be doing. The big problem with that is that when Biden has offered his own plan, he simply took things that Trump had already done, said he should do those things, and pretended they were his own ideas….one of the most significant actions taken by Trump, the travel ban with China, was actually opposed by Joe Biden, and Trump’s critics on the left. Unfortunately for them, WHO experts admitted Trump’s actions saved lives in the United States.
No, President Trump did not cut the budgets of health agencies.
Back in February both Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg …accused President Trump of cutting funding to critical health agencies during a primary debate. “There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing. And he’s defunded — he’s defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don’t have the organization we need. This is a very serious thing,” Bloomberg claimed. The Obama-Biden administration “increased the budget of the CDC. We increased the NIH budget. … He’s wiped all that out. … He cut the funding for the entire effort,” Biden claimed.
…According to an Associated Press fact-check, proposed budget cuts never happened, and funding increased.
Trump did not ignore early intel briefings on a possible pandemic.
The Washington Post again was the source of another bogus claim when they reported that intelligence agencies warned about a possible pandemic back in January and February and that Trump “failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen.” It was fake news. The Trump administration had begun aggressively addressing the coronavirus threat immediately after China reported the discovery of the coronavirus to the World Health Organization….In actuality, it was Trump’s critics who weren’t taking the coronavirus situation seriously. Joe Biden even accused Trump of “fearmongering” and “xenophobia” for his travel ban.
President Obama did not do a better job responding to the H1N1 virus.
…Ron Klain, who was Biden’s chief of staff at the time and is currently advising his campaign, says it was mere luck that H1N1 wasn’t more deadly. “It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history,” Klain said of H1N1 in 2019. “It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck. If anyone thinks that this can’t happen again, they don’t have to go back to 1918, they just have to go back to 2009, 2010, and imagine a virus with a different lethality, and you can just do the math on that.”
I did the math. If H1N1 had been as infectious as the coronavirus and had the same mortality rate as the coronavirus, there would have been 231 million infections (that’s 70 percent of the country) and 600,704 deaths. Based on Obama’s handling of H1N1, he would have botched coronavirus pandemic too.
President Trump did not “ignore experts” by not shutting down the country earlier, as Joe Biden in particular has said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has repeatedly attempted to blame President Trump for America’s coronavirus deaths because he didn’t shut down the country a month earlier than he did. “This COVID epidemic has basically shut down the country these last three months. And, by the way, if we had shut it down a month earlier, we’d have probably another 45,000 to 60,000 people — would be alive instead of dead,” Biden said on June 1.
The World Health Organization declare[d] COVID-19 a pandemic until March 11. The next day, President Trump declared a national emergency. By then, there were only about 1,300 confirmed cases in the United States. When President Trump released social-distancing guidelines on March 16, there were fewer than 3,800 confirmed cases in the United States.
…Biden also delivered a speech in Pennsylvania four days after the state had declared a state of emergency. Despite the fact that Biden was holding campaign rallies into March, Biden claimed, “[Trump] didn’t listen to guys like me back in January saying we’d have a problem, an epidemic was on the way.” Biden was lying, and his actions prove this. On February 16, a month prior to Trump’s social-distancing guidelines being issued, there were only 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. No one was advocating for the country to be shut down, not Joe Biden, not the experts, not even Congress.
Which brings us back to hindsight bias, and the basic dishonesty of Big Lie #9. Whatever the President did, he should have done something else.