Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART 2] [CORRECTED!]

David Frum’s assertion that President Trump is one of the “least physically capable” Presidents only shows that his knowledge of the Presidents is an inch deep and about as wide….or, in the alternative, that he knows what he is saying is false but is counting on the public’s ignorance of history and CNN’s complicity in gratuitous Trump bashing to get away with it. Well, at least on Ethics Alarms he’s not going to get away with it.

Let’s look first at Trump’s predecessors after FDR. Recall that Frum’s  statement was that Trump is “the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair.”

  • George H.W. Bush, tough old bird that he was, dealt with more health issues as President than Trump. He suffered from bleeding ulcers, arthritis,  atrial fibrillation and the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease.
  • John F. Kennedy was a sick man throughout his short term in office; he just had his staff and reporters cover it up.  His 1947 diagnosis of Addison’s disease, an incurable disorder of the adrenal gland, was kept secret until well after his death. JFK’s chronic back pain caused him to develop an addictions to painkillers, stimulants, and other medication; historians suspect that he made important decisions while “bombed out of his mind.”
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower had three major medical incidents during his two terms in office: a heart attack, a stroke, and Crohn’s disease. Saying Eisenhower was more “physically able” than Donald Trump is either gross ignorance on Frum’s part, or a lie. Of course, Stelter couldn’t correct him, because he’s an idiot, and wouldn’t correct any false attacks on President Trump anyway.

Going back before Franklin Roosevelt (who was beyond question the least physically able President in history when he won his final term in 1944, since he was dying of heart disease and worse, knew it; it had nothing to do with his whellchair) we have a veritable Presidential intensive care unit. Let’s skip over Harding, who suffered his whole life from anxiety and emotional problems, and who had undiagnosed heart problems that ultimately killed him, and go to the runner up champ of physically disabled Presidents, Woodrow Wilson. Afflicted with untreatable (then) hypertension, Wilson was plagued by chronic headaches and double vision until he had  a series of strokes. One affected his right hand, leaving him unable to write normally, then more serious strokes rendered Wilson blind in his left eye, paralyzed on his left side, and eventually unable to discharge his duties as President. This was hidden from the public and Congress, with his wife and his doctor handling most of Wilson’s presidential tasks.

President Taft, as we all know, was morbidly obese at well over 300 pounds, and as a result suffered from sleep apnea (he dozed off during meetings), high blood pressure, and heart disease. Teddy Roosevelt managed to exude health with his ostentatiously vigorous lifestyle, but he wasn’t healthy. TR battled clinical depression his whole life, and despite what you will often read, he never overcame his childhood asthma. He was also diagnosed with a heart murmur, and advised to live a sedate life.  He did not.

This may well have contributed to the fact that he was dead shortly after his 60th birthday.

In addition to being the second most obese President, Grover Cleveland suffered from many maladies while President, most notably cancer, necessitating a secret operation that replaced his upper palate with a rubber prosthetic. My favorite obscure President, Chester A. Arthur, was ill during his entire three years in office, and died shortly after. He had progressive kidney failure from Bright’s Disease.

Before Arthur, the previous physically-limited President was, surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was another depressive, but his symptoms probably had a physical cause: likely permanent brain damage from being kicked in the head by a horse when he was young. Lincoln also had malaria flare-ups, and got smallpox during the Civil War. He may have suffered from mercury poisoning from pills that were frequently prescribed at the time.  Abe’s  photographs indicate drmatic weight loss and muscle wasting during the war, and some doctors believe he  was afflicted with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B) or Marfan syndrome, rare genetic disorders, although he lived longer than either of those conditions usually permit.

Two Presidents before Lincoln we had poor, broken Franklin Pierce in the White House, perhaps the most disabled of all.  He spent his entire, disastrous term in office in deep depression following the horrible death of his young son before his eyes in a train accident as his family headed to Washington after his election. Pierce’s wife Jane was never the same after teh accident, and Pierce’s alcoholism became intermittently debilitating.

Donald Trump, as you probably know, is a lifetime abstainer from alcohol.

Jumping past Presidents Taylor and William Henry Harrison, neither of whom were sufficiently physically able to last a single term before succumbing to illness  (Taylor less that a year and a half, Harrison about a month), we finally reach the all-time champion of unhealthy Presidents, Andrew Jackson.

When he finally won the Presidency at the age of 62 (after having been robbed of victory four years earlier), Old Hickory was plagued by the lingering wound from two of his less successful pistol duels. One bullet was lodged in his arm, where it festered and gave him chronic pain. ( This bullet was finally removed when Jackson was President) A second bullet, lodged in his chest near his lung and  heart, was considered inoperable. It caused serious pulmonary problems and caused Jackson to cough up blood periodically. The bullets also caused lead poisoning.

Jackson was seriously underweight, and there was a good reason for that: his digestive tract was permanently damaged. He suffered from recurring flare-ups of malaria, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, progressive heart failure, and some sources say he had tuberculosis as well. Like Lincoln, Jackson was poisoned by mercury pills given to him by his doctors.

I think I’ll stop with Andy, the President that Trump most identifies with, and justly so.  There is more than sufficient evidence that David Frum didn’t know what he was talking about, and that CNN allowed him to misinform its viewers by adding fake history to its usual fare of biased and fake news.

Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART I]

Answer: Spectacularly ignorant and misleading.

As you know, I love fake history about the Presidents, a specialty on CNN. Add to this the feature that Atlantic contributor and former Bush speechwriter David Frum–he’s also a prominent NeverTrumper, as are virtually all former members of the Bush camp—had his gratuitous ad hominem attack outburst on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” fake media ethicist Brain Stelter’s reliably unreliable bias-fest, and debunking Frum’s blather is  like Christmas morning for me.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Here’s what Frum said:

“One of the ideas that Donald Trump tried to spread in 2016 is that Hillary Clinton was somehow physically incapable of managing the presidency. It’s audacious, Donald Trump was the oldest presidents ever, one of the fattest presidents ever, the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair…He can’t pick up a ball, never mind throw it. But he was able to put in the minds of tens of millions of people the idea that Hillary Clinton, who is a very vigorous woman in good health, was somehow too sick to be president.”

First up, Frum’s mischaracterization of Hillary’s health issues. She had episodes of uncontrolled coughing fits throughout the 2016 campaign, and actually collapsed during a 9/11 event in New York while suffering a bout of pneumonia. Then she lied about it, until video made it necessary to admit she was ill. When a candidate tries to cover up the truth about her health, her health becomes a legitimate issue. This would be true no matter who the candidate was.

Another easy one is Frum’s absurd remarks about how Trump can’t pick up or throw a ball, wherever that came from. This is the kind of statement that would be defamatory if it wasn’t about the President—I’m up on my defamation law after having to defend myself against a defamation suit for the past two years. That’s the kind of inherently slanderous  allegation that suggests unrevealed sources or evidence that the listener has no access to, when in fact such evidence doesn’t exist, because the claim is malicious and false. The President is constantly criticized for playing golf—and he cheats at it, according to Mike Bloomberg’s billboards—but he can’t pick up a ball? What proof does Frum have that Trump, who played baseball as a young man, can’t throw a ball now? Frum made all that up.

Now comes my favorite part, Frum’s claims about where Trump fits in the spectrum of Presidential health. As a starting point, all that matters is that a President is healthy enough and able enough to do his job, and by the evidence of the results so far, that’s not a problem. The health of other Presidents have been a problem for them in discharging their duties, as we shall see.

The oft-stated point that Trump was the oldest President at the time of his election is true, but misleading. He was 70 when he was elected, but the significance of age is relative, as well as what constitutes “old” in our society. The average life expectancy of a white male in the US today (and in 2016) is just under 80; if you make it to 70, your life expectancy jumps into the mid-80s. Many Presidents before Trump were well over the nation’s life expectancy for their demographic group when they were elected, including all of the 19th century Presidents, who were relatively “older” than Trump.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1920, when Warren G. Harding was elected, that a President wasn’t over the average mortality age, and Harding was right at it: 54. He also died in office, three years later. Herbert Hoover became the first US President to be elected at a younger age than the average age of death for white males,  in 1928. After that, no American President has been elected after he reached the average morality age.

Is Trump one of the fattest Presidents? No doubt about it, but he’s also in a group of hefty Presidents who were all about the  same degree of obese. Here is a chart of the fattest Presidents as measured by their body mass index, which admittedly is a blunt instrument, not distinguishing between muscle mass and fat:

So it is fair to say that Trump is in the top 25% of overweight Presidents, and who cares? Of the porky POTUSes on the list, only Zachary Taylor wasn’t able to complete his term, and there is no evidence that his weight had anything to do with his demise.  Among the Presidents ahead of Trump on the fat list is Theodore Roosevelt, who nobody ever dared call “fat” when he was running amuck across the political landscape, not while he was climbing mountains and seemingly in perpetual motion.  In short, that part of Frum’s rant is pure cheap shot.

I’ll debunk the best part of Frum’s garbage in Part 2.

Comment Of The Day: “The Many Species Of Fake News”

Few things make me happier than when a commenter relieves me of the duty of writing about a topic.

In 2017, after the New York Times published a spectacularly dishonest list of President Trump “lies” since his inauguration,  I wrote a post demonstrating just how outrageously the Times was warping the meaning of “lie,” and also applying a biased standard to Trump’s statements. I wrote,

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

The entire exercise was an extension of #16 on the Fake News list, “Dishonest Factchecks. Here was a typical “lie” according to the Times, and its “proof”:

Jan. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”

Says the Times, “Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.”

Trump was making the general point that he had been on TIME’s cover a lot. He guessed that the number was 14 or 15; it was 11. That is what is known as a  non-material misrepresentation: it’s meaningless and harmless, and certainly not an intentional deception. (“Heh, heh…I’ll make those poor, gullible fools think I was on TIME”s cover 14 times when it was ONLY ELEVEN!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!) Then he said he “thinks” that’s a record. When someone says “I think” it means the speaker is acknowledging that he may be wrong. But Trump is not accorded the usual leeway given to everyone else, including other elected officials.

When a list includes something this clearly contrived, that list has no credibility. I found going through the Times list annoying, then shocking, and finally infuriating. So when the Washington Post pulled the same stunt, I kept putting off giving it the same treatment that I did the Times’ exercise in lies about lying.

Thus I was thrilled to receive this Comment of the Day from stalwart Steve Witherspoon, on the post, The Many Species Of Fake News: Continue reading

Anti-Trump Hate Porn

I’ve written my quota of “resistance” ethics articles today I know, but I can’t help posting this one.

I was stuck in the DMV, and read a New York Times book review titled Which Came First, Trump or TV?” The reviewer is , who is described in biographies as a writer of satire. The book he reviews is “Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America” by James Poniewozik, the Times TV critic.

Both the positive review and the book it describes cannot be justified except as salacious efforts to slake the hate of the most Trump-Deranged among Americans. Poniewozik‘s book, described as non-fiction, is full of negative characterizations of the President, his thinking and his personality that are not justified by the author’s education, background, research or expertise. Poniewozik is a TV critic, and that’s pretty much all he has ever been. He has no special expertise or experience in politics or history; he is not a biographer; he isn’t a psychologist. This is his only book, and he is obviously using Trump hate to attract readers and sales, as well as positive reviews by writers who also have no qualifications to justify their getting the assignment. Both the book and the review are the product of bias, designed to foster bias.

Early in the review, we get this:

But Poniewozik, the chief television critic of this newspaper, uses his ample comedic gifts in the service of describing a slow-boil tragedy. If humor is the rocket of his ICBM, the last three years of our lives are the destructive payload.

Everything is terrible! Where have I heard that Big Lie before? I would have stopped reading right there, but you know: Department of Motor Vehicles.

Almost immediately after that moment of signature significance from the reviewer, we get this… Continue reading

An Unethical Quote About An Unethical Quote!

This was Trump’s fault? OK, that makes sense, Senator….thanks for clarifying

I’m sorely tempted to write an unethical post, thus creating the first unethical quote about an unethical quote about an unethical quote…but that would be wrong, as Richard Nixon said.

The topic was the recent New Zealand terror attack, the venue was CNN,  the speaker was Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard  Blumenthal ,and the quote was

“Words have consequences like saying we have an invasion on our border and talking about people as though they were different in some fatal way…I think that the public discourse from the president on down is a factor in some of these actions…Words do have consequences, and we know that at the very pinnacle of power in our own country, people are talking about ‘good people on both sides.”

That’s right, the Senator was trying to blame a terrorist attack in New Zealand on Donald Trump. I wopuldn’t have to know a thing about Blumenthal to hear such a statement and conclude, with high confidence, that the speaker was a despicable, principle-free asshole. This is the unethical cognitive dissonance game that has the vile objective of ginning up hate by associating something universally understood as terrible to the person or group you want to demonize, despite the fact that there is no connection at all. President Trump plays this game on occasion, as when he links all illegal immigrants to gang members and murderers, the worst of their number, but at least there is some nexus there. Blumenthal’s smear is completely dishonest; it is in the same category as Hitler blaming Jews for the bad economy. (Don’t throw Godwin’s Law at me: an apt Hitler comparison is the clearest way to show how despicable the tactic is.) “If you hate massacres like this, then you should hate Trump too, because he helps make them happen!” No, he doesn’t, and didn’t, you irredeemable hack:

  • Calling illegal immigrants “invaders” is harsh language but not inaccurate. or unfair. An invader is “A person or group that invades a country, region, or other place.” Invade means “to enter (a place, situation, or sphere of activity) in large numbers, especially with intrusive effect.” There is no requirement, ethically or otherwise to describe those who seek to break our laws in nice terms. Failing to do so, moreover, does not cause maniacs to kill people in New Zealand. Did I mention that Blumenthal is an asshole?
  • “Talking about people as though they were different in some fatal way”…nice turn of phrase there, Senator Boob. The President makes distinctions between law breakers and law abiding citizens, and, in fact, there are many material differences between people, which your party increasingly wants to have embodied in law, so some groups have advantages over others in employment and other areas. But how does the vague conduct alluded to in this inarticulate blob of a phrase kill New Zealanders? I’m not seeing it.
  • “Words do have consequences”...True, and what a shame you don’t know how to use them…
  • “We know that at the very pinnacle of power in our own country, people are talking about ‘good people on both sides.” Yes, Senator, we know that the position of your party and supporters is that the only good people are those who believe what you want them to believe.  Everyone else is deplorable.

Continue reading

Presenting: The Reverse Hanlon’s Razor, “Nalnah’s Razor” [UPDATED]

Sometimes you have to presume malice.

In item #1 of the March 11 Warm-Up, I wrote about Steve Bannon’s intentionally-misread statement to French nationalists, saying in part,

 “…What Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

My friend, frequent critic and former Ethics Alarms blogger of the year Windypundit responded,

“It’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. An opinion that Bannon and his supporters and you are free to reject. But still an opinion.”

This gave me pause.

If it is an opinion, it is a really stupid opinion. If one wants to argue that immigration laws are xenophobic, racist or nativist, then fine: make the case. The case can’t be made, of course. Borderless nations are not nations. From the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the white European take-over of North America, to the cultural upheavals and violence facing Europe now, history’s lessons are not ambiguous. A nation that does not protect its sovereignty and manage its population and demographics is doomed. Not knowing this is ignorant. Not comprehending it is stupid. Publicly denying it for political gain is dishonest.

Hanlon’s Razor is typically quoted as, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Should the razor be applied to the Left’s increasingly shrill and repetitive catcalls that those wanting to enforce the laws against illegal immigration are doing so because they are xenophobic, racist, and nativist?

No, it shouldn’t, because those promoting the use of those terms are not stupid nor ignorant. They are cynical, and they are using the fallacy of the appeal to emotion while wielding the cognitive dissonance scale unethically. Set up the proponents of the rule of law as universal negatives like racists, xenophobes and nativists—bigots, in other words, and whatever they oppose rises on the scale, and whatever they embrace falls. The labeling, however, is false, and intentionally so. Immigration law, the rule of law, borders and sovereignty have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or nativism. They are all independent, well-established aspects of responsible governance. Absent more, accusing advocates of these basic tools of being motivated by bigotry is indefensible, and inexplicable absent stupidity, ignorance, or malice. Continue reading