The Not Fake News, as a general rule, tends to focus on events that fell out of the headlines too soon, or angles on stories that have plenty of merit but somehow get discarded by the major media. My reasoning behind this is simple: CNN has a zillion reporters, a massive staff, and a huge budget. I’ve got me, my internet Brain Trust of volunteers, and whatever spare change people kick into the pot to pay my web costs.
There’s no need for me to repeat work that CNN has already done.
However, there’s a problem I did not foresee when I came up with my standard operating procedures: Turns out, most of the things that get skipped or under-reported or ignored are when Trump, against all expectation, somehow failed to screw things up. Perhaps he said something outlandish that happened to be true. Perhaps he made a courageous policy decision instead of a venal one. Whatever the weirdness, when that happens, CNN takes the opposite tack: regardless of the facts, it’s always wrong if Trump did it.
To be fair, that’s usually a safe bet. Just… not always.
What this means for me is, my stories out here far too frequently defend something Donald Trump has said or done. That’s nothing I ever expected. What’s more, it might leave readers with a false impression of me and my views. So let me take a moment and state my opinion in such a way that there can be no mistake.
Donald Trump is a truly odious man.
Not only is he a member of that lowest class of humanity, the real estate developer — not merely does he hail from New York City, making him a member of the foulest branch of that profession — but Donald Trump is that one developer that gives other New York developers a bad name. He’s renowned, even legendary, for cheating people in the same line of work — which means he’s extremely capable, because he manages to fleece con artists and steal from the slimiest people imaginable. It also means he has all the moral sense of a used car salesman, the ethics of a mass tort lawyer, and a vision of humanity that would make Charles Manson shudder (possibly with anticipation).
I’m going to leave to one side all the accusations of venality and corruption. Politicians often are venal and corrupt; ex-Presidents all tend to become multi-millionaires. If Trump is extraordinary in this respect, it’s mainly because he’s so bad at it.
Instead, I’d like to focus on his tendency to say outrageous things whenever he feels the need to distract the press. If there’s a scandal and someone has to resign, Trump will insult Belgium to get the embarrassment off the front page. It’s what he does; the sad thing is that we still pay attention. Truth be told, I couldn’t care less about that part; what’s Belgium ever done for me?
The trouble is, his statements are often counterfactual. It’s not just that he lies; he states something as absolutely true without (apparently) bothering to check it out in advance. Very rarely does he retract or apologize; if he thinks he’s screwed up, he just announces something different to distract the press yet again. And that leaves us with a lot of egregious untruths sitting out there uncontested.
Forget about the Sharpie and the hurricane map (or, as I prefer to call it, #Penghazi). That may have caused a run on plywood in Alabama, but in a larger sense that’s fairly minor.
August 22nd: “Yesterday, we had the strongest dollar in the history of our country.”
August 19th: “Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election!”
August 2nd: “We are doing great with farmers now in a lot of ways. One way is we’re giving $16 billion out of all the tariffs we’re collecting… Sixteen billion dollars all comes out of the tariffs that we’ve gotten from China.”
July 23rd: “Mexico, they took 30% of our automobile business.”
These are four lies. They’re not just wrong; they’re not even close to true.
This is a small sampling from a month ago; there’s far more out there. (Both PolitiFact and the New York Times maintain lists.) I picked these because they’re not just misrepresentations; they’re egregiously untrue. Each one was a lie; each one hurt business or individuals; each one misled people in a way that could cause serious financial harm.
In general, Trump’s habitual mendacity harms our nation as a whole, degrading our very system of government. After all, how can people be expected to vote wisely when they’re being systematically misinformed? How can democracy have any value when the people we rely on to make decisions — the general public — are consistently and deliberately being misled?
In an article published by Brookings, Professor James P. Pfiffner of George Mason University — one of the modern authorities on historic presidential behavior — put it like this:
“Trump’s refusal to admit the truth of widely accepted facts corrodes political discourse and is consistent with the practice of many authoritarian leaders. The assertion of the power to define reality is destructive of democratic governance, in part because many people believe him and are not amenable to contrary evidence.
Even though his narcissistic lies are detrimental to the democratic process, Trump’s continued adherence to demonstrably false statements about politics and policy strikes at the very heart of democracy… If there are no agreed upon facts, then it becomes impossible for people to make judgments about their government or hold it accountable.”
People may respond to this with “But what about Hillary?” To this I’d reply, what about her? I’m perfectly willing to criticize her as well; she has her flaws, and she did some nasty stuff. But that’s for another article; this one’s about Donald Trump, who in my considered opinion is a truly odious man.
I sincerely hope the DNC doesn’t screw up their primaries again. It’s difficult to imagine a candidate so bad that I’d vote Trump instead. However, history shows us that if anyone can manage that, it’s the Democrats.