Kevin Drum

An Incomplete Catalog of Donald Trump's Never-Ending Fabrications

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 1:00 AM EST

There's a legal term applied to advertising called "puffery." For example, if Coca-Cola says Coke is the best-tasting soda in the world, that's just puffery. They can't prove it, but that's okay, even if polls show that most people prefer Pepsi. Legally, statements like this are evaluated not as strictly factual claims, but as mere ordinary boasting, something that "ordinary consumers do not take seriously."

The same concept applies to politics. Presidential candidates always say their tax plans will balance, they'll crush every one of our enemies, and the current incumbent is the worst ever in history. This is just puffery. It's worth pushing back on, but it's not generally a hanging offense.

But Donald Trump is different. Sure, his picture is probably in the dictionary next to the word "puffery," but he also tosses out wild howlers with a con man's breezy assurance and tells flat-out lies as a matter of routine. He'll say things one day, and 24 hours later he'll blandly insist he's being malignly misquoted even though it's all on tape. These aren't just exaggerations or spin or cherry picking. They're things that are flatly, incontrovertibly wrong.

And that's not all. Trump doesn't do this only in private or only when he's under pressure. Nor does he do it to cover up dubious past deeds. That would at least be normal human weakness. Rather, he does it again and again in front of huge crowds and on national TV, whether he needs to or not. It's just his normal, everyday behavior.

We need an official list of this stuff. Like I said: not exaggerations or spin or cherry picking. Things that are just plain wrong. Here's a start:

  1. On 9/11, he personally saw thousands of Muslims in Jersey City cheering.
  2. He never said Marco Rubio was Mark Zuckerberg's "personal senator."
  3. There are actually 93 million people not working and the real unemployment rate is about 40 percent.
  4. The Obama administration is sending Syrian refugees to red states.
  5. Climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.
  6. He opposed the Iraq War and has dozens of news clippings to prove it.
  7. Thirteen Syrian refugees were "caught trying to get into the U.S." (Actually, they just walked up and requested asylum.)
  8. He never said the stuff Megyn Kelly accused him of saying in the first debate.
  9. He will allow guns at Trump golf resorts.
  10. People on the terrorism watch are already prohibited from buying guns.
  11. Among white homicide victims, 81 percent are killed by blacks.
  12. America has the highest tax rate in the world.
  13. CNN lied when it reported that a speech he gave in South Carolina was one-third empty.
  14. His criticism of Ford prompted the company to move a factory from Mexico to Ohio.
  15. Vaccines cause autism.
  16. The Obama administration wants to admit 250,000 Syrian refugees.
  17. ISIS built a luxury hotel in the Middle East.
  18. He was on 60 Minutes with Vladimir Putin and "got to know him very well."
  19. He was never interested in opening a casino in Florida.
  20. November 17: The United States only started bombing ISIS oil fields "two days ago."
  21. His campaign is 100 percent self-funded.
  22. Mexico doesn't have birthright citizenship.
  23. The Iran deal forces us to "fight with Iran against Israel" if Israel attacks Iran.
  24. We still "really don't know" if Barack Obama was born in the United States.
  25. More than 300,000 veterans have died waiting for VA care.
  26. The Bush White House begged him to tone down his "vocal" opposition to the Iraq War.

This is not normal political hucksterism. It's a pathological disregard for the truth. Trump knows that the conventions of print journalism mostly prevent reporters from really calling him out on this stuff, and he also knows that TV reporters won't usually press him too hard because they want him back on their shows. And when he does get called out, he just bluffs his way through. He knows his followers will believe him when he says the fault-finding is just another example of how the liberal media has it out for him. Within a day or three, he's repeated the lie often enough that it's old news and enters the canon of what "everyone knows." Journalists don't even bother with it anymore because they're already trying to play catch-up with his latest whopper.

Anyway, this list is meant only as a start. It's what I came up with just by digging through my memory and doing a bit of googling. I'm sure there are plenty of others. Feel free to add them in comments.

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Carson Joins Trump Idiocy About Jersey City, Then Backs Away

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 6:09 PM EST

The latest from la-la land:

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson joined GOP rival Donald Trump in claiming that he, too, saw news footage of Muslim-Americans cheering as the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001 — despite the fact that no such footage has turned up yet. "I saw the film of it, yes," Carson told reporters at a Monday campaign event, adding that it was documented by "newsreels."

Newsreels? What is this? 1943? But wait. We have breaking news via Twitter from Jon Karl of ABC News:

@RealBenCarson spox Doug Watts: Carson was mistaken when he said he saw film of Muslims celebrating on 9/11 in Jersey City...."He doesn't stand behind his comments [on] New Jersey and American Muslims," Watts told ABC's @KFaulders...."He was rather thinking of the protests going on in the Middle East and some of the demonstrations" there on 9/11.

This is nuts. These guys are trying to put the Onion out of business for real. "We have investigated and discovered that East Jerusalem is not on the Hudson River after all." But hell, at least Carson is willing to admit his error. One brownie point for that—though it does raise some questions about his vaunted memory. Trump will continue to insist forever that he saw it, and his supporters will continue to believe him because you can never trust the mainstream media, can you? They're always covering up for Jersey City's Muslim community.

Americans Both Love and Hate Government

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 4:25 PM EST

Pew Research once again shows us that Americans are hopelessly confused. Do they distrust government? You bet! Only 19 percent say they trust the government most or all of the time.

Does the government do a good job? Hell n—wait, what? Majorities think the government is doing a pretty good job in almost all areas—including keeping the country safe from terrorism. In fact, the only two areas that get a low score are immigration and poverty.

So why all the distrust? I haven't read the whole report yet, so I don't know what ideas they have. Maybe I'll do that later tonight. Basically, I just think this shows once again that Americans are schizophrenic. They hate education but love their local schools. They hate Congress but love their local member. They hate the government but....yeah, it's actually doing a decent job. The French may have a problem governing a country with 246 kinds of cheese, but what do you do about Americans? You could always just ban a couple hundred kinds of cheese if you really wanted to, but how do you get Americans to adopt some kind of coherent view of how they want to be governed?

Robots Will Take Your Job Someday, But In the Meantime They'll Decide Which Jobs You Can Have

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 1:38 PM EST

Are you worried about the robots coming to take your job? You should be! But that's still a ways away for most of us. In the meantime, the robots will be deciding which jobs we're allowed to have. Today, the consistently fascinating Lydia DePillis points us to a new study that evaluates how well computer algorithms do at hiring new workers. The test bed is a large company with multiple locations. The workers perform relatively rote cognitive work that the authors can't reveal, but it is "similar to jobs such as data entry work, standardized test grading, and call center work."

In order to hire better workers, this company rolled out a new test that consists of "an online questionnaire comprising a large battery of questions, including those on technical skills, personality, cognitive skills, fit for the job, and various job scenarios." So how did stony-hearted Mr. Robot do?

Better than humans, according to the authors. The test rates each applicant as green, yellow, or red, and they found that greens stayed on the job for 12 days longer than yellows, who in turn lasted 17 days longer than reds. This is significant since the average job tenure at this company is 99 days. More to the point, the authors find that more interference from hiring managers leads to worse results. "In our setting it provides the stark recommendation that firms would do better to remove discretion of the average HR manager and instead hire based solely on the test."

But maybe hiring managers choose more productive workers? Nope. "In all cases, we find no evidence that managerial exceptions improve output per hour. Instead, we find noisy estimates indicating that worker quality appears to be lower on this dimension as well."

Hmmph. I guess it's HR managers who really need to be scared here. Apparently they simply add no value at all for jobs like this. Eventually, though, we're going to start looking at whether these tests systematically discriminate against women or blacks or other protected classes. It would be pretty easy for this to happen either intentionally or unintentionally. Then the robots will either have to get smarter or else, ironically, find themselves out of a job.

Marco Rubio Bravely Rules Out Negotiation With ISIS That No One Has Ever Proposed

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 1:15 PM EST

Marco Rubio has aired his first TV ad, and I suppose it's no surprise that we've already seen it. The whole thing is his schtick about the fight against ISIS being a civilizational struggle etc. etc. Here it is:

Once again, Rubio offers up his odd bit about ISIS hating us because we let women drive. But forbidding women to drive is actually one of the few odious things that ISIS doesn't do. It's our great and good friend Saudi Arabia that has a problem with women drivers. I'm pretty sure Rubio has never said a bad word about the Kingdom, so it seems a little odd to obsess about this when he's got such a huge panoply of other horrific stuff to choose from (we don't behead heretics, we don't sanction slavery, and so forth).

At the end Rubio gravely intones that "there can be no arrangement or negotiation." Where did that come from? Rubio would just as soon not let anyone know this, but the Obama administration is pretty firmly at war with ISIS. We're bombing them. We're taking territory from them. We're doing out best to wipe out their financial infrastructure. Obama's official policy is to "degrade and destroy" ISIS. Nobody—literally nobody—has ever suggested negotiating with them.

But I suppose none of that matters. Mostly, this is just Rubio trying his best to use dramatic lighting and a grave tone to avoid looking like he's 22, which is probably his greatest drawback in the presidential race. It's unfair, but with that baby face and breakneck speaking style that sounds like he's still on the college debating team, he just doesn't look old enough to be the leader of the free world. He seems more like a well-regarded up-and-comer, not the guy who already upped and came.

Does the ad work? It seems a little to strained to me, but I'm hardly his target audience. We'll see.

Hillary Clinton Is Strongly Trusted on National Security

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 11:50 AM EST

In the wake of the Paris attacks, who do Americans trust most on national security? Thankfully, the answer is not Donald Trump. Surprisingly, the answer appears to be Hillary Clinton. According to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, she beats all the major Republican candidates, and she beats Trump especially heavily.

This poll was done at the beginning of last week, when post-Paris hysteria over ISIS had already begun. But it was before the Republican field went completely loony. Has that reduced her lead a bit or opened it up even further? We'll probably never know for sure. But national security has been one of Donald Trump's biggest calling cards, so it should be of some concern to him that he's nonetheless well behind Clinton. In fact, the only two Republican candidates who are even close are the two most mainstream ones: Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. When national security takes over the conversation, maybe America isn't quite as hungry for a rank amateur in the Oval Office as some people think?

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What's the Matter With Kentucky?

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 10:45 AM EST

Last year I wrote a post about the Democrats' problem with the white working class. You can read the whole thing here, but the short version is this: the white working class really hates welfare, and unlike all of us hyperverbal liberal types, they don't view it as some kind of abstract "policy." It's far more personal: "For them, the poor aren't merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They're the folks next door who don't do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. For a lot of members of the white working class, this is personal in a way it just isn't for the kind of people who read this blog."

Like anyone, I enjoy seeing my opinions confirmed, so I was pretty happy a couple of days ago to see a long piece on ProPublica by Alec MacGillis that took on this exact subject. MacGillis did a lot of shoe-leather reporting on this issue, and came to the same conclusion I did. Using Kentucky as his case study, the question he's addressing is why so many poor communities vote against the very policies that help them the most:

The people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

....These voters are consciously opting against a Democratic economic agenda that they see as bad for them and good for other people — specifically, those undeserving benefit-recipients in their midst. I’ve heard variations on this theme all over the country: people railing against the guy across the street who is collecting disability payments but is well enough to go fishing, the families using their food assistance to indulge in steaks.

....With reliance on government benefits so prevalent, it creates constant moments of friction, on very intimate terms, said Jim Cauley, a Democratic political consultant from Pike County....Where opposition to the social safety net has long been fed by the specter of undeserving inner-city African-Americans — think of Ronald Reagan’s notorious “welfare queen” — in places like Pike County it’s fueled, more and more, by people’s resentment over rising dependency they see among their own neighbors, even their own families. “It’s Cousin Bobby — ‘he’s on Oxy and he’s on the draw and we’re paying for him,’ ” Cauley said. “If you need help, no one begrudges you taking the program — they’re good-hearted people. It’s when you’re able-bodied and making choices not to be able-bodied.” The political upshot is plain, Cauley added. “It’s not the people on the draw that’s voting against” the Democrats, he said. “It’s everyone else.”

This helps explain a much-discussed article in the Lexington Herald-Leader a week ago. It concluded that counties with the highest number of Medicaid recipients were also the most reliable voters for Republican Matt Bevin—despite the fact that Bevin had loudly insisted that he would slash Medicaid if he won the election. It's not that all these Medicaid recipients were voting against their self-interest. They weren't voting one way or the other—and all the while, their slightly less-poor neighbors were voting to cut them off.

This news won't necessarily surprise anyone, and it doesn't really point toward any obvious solutions, either. But it's nevertheless worth a few minutes of your time to read MacGillis's piece. It takes the problem out of the realm of the abstract and puts some meat on its bones. If you want to get a feel for what safety-net politics looks like at ground level, click the link.

My Morning Advice: Don't Talk About Taking Down Donald Trump. Just Take Him Down.

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 9:35 AM EST

Here's the latest on GOP panic over the possibility that Donald Trump might actually win the Republican nomination:

A well-connected GOP operative is planning a “guerrilla campaign” backed by secret donors to “defeat and destroy” the celebrity businessman’s candidacy, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

....The most concerted effort is Trump Card LLC, the self-styled guerrilla campaign being launched by Liz Mair, the former online communications director of the Republican National Committee. “In the absence of our efforts, Trump is exceedingly unlikely to implode or be forced out of the race,” according to the Trump Card memo. “The stark reality is that unless something dramatic and unconventional is done, Trump will be the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton will become president.”

....Ms. Mair, who has ties to the libertarian movement and the GOP establishment, said that donors backing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Bush are interested, and that some worry that going public could hurt their candidate.

Rick Wilson, a Republican media consultant, said in an interview that he is prepared to make ads for the new group. Mr. Wilson isn’t involved in fundraising but predicted that a number of Republican donors will start bankrolling an anti-Trump effort.

Look, folks: the first rule of fight club is that you don't talk about fight club. What's the point of publicly announcing this strategy? It's good for the ego, I suppose, but all it does is alert Trump and ruin any jolt of surprise you might get from your campaign. Now reporters are all ready for it, and when it happens they'll just dissect it dispassionately instead of (hopefully) being dazzled. It's like the idiots in the Hillary Clinton campaign who decided to alert the world that they planned a campaign to make Hillary look more human. Nice going.

As with most liberals, I'm of two minds about all this. On the one hand, Republicans deserve every bit of what they're getting. For years they've been actively encouraging the enraged, racially-charged grievance culture that Trump represents, and it's hard to feel sorry for them now that it's biting them in the ass. Besides, if Trump does win the nomination, he's almost certain to lose, and that's fine with me. Republicans deserve another few years out in the cold.

On the other hand, life is strange, and "almost certain" is not "certain." What's more, we're now at the point where Trump is no longer a joke. Another year of his unapologetic racism and xenophobia could do serious damage to the country—and especially to the targets of his malignant rants. It's long past time to dump him on the nearest ash heap of history.

Donald Trump's Hatemongering Moves on to African Americans

| Sun Nov. 22, 2015 3:54 PM EST

Having already played the hate card against Mexicans and Muslims—and getting crackerjack results—Donald Trump has apparently decided to move on to African Americans. I don't know what the "Crime Statistics Bureau" in San Francisco is, and I don't think I want to know, but one of the most well-established facts about murder in the United States is that it's pretty racially segregated. Whites kill whites, blacks kill blacks, etc. But today Trump decided to tweet the CSB graphic on the right, for no readily apparent reason. And wouldn't you know it: it contains a wee racial error. It claims that most whites are killed by blacks, but in 2014, which is the latest full-year homicide data available from the FBI, 82 percent of whites were killed by other whites and only 15 percent were killed by blacks.

Trump's tweeted graphic swaps the the numbers for the offender's race—but only for white victims. For black victims, the numbers in the graphic are roughly correct. This makes it look like blacks kill everyone. And just in case these numbers are too subtle for you, it includes a stereotypical black thug to make sure you get the picture. Donald Trump has found his audience, and he knows what they want. So he's giving it to them.

UPDATE: Come on, folks. This graphic is not "controversial" and it's not "questionable." It's wrong. Period. The numbers for white victims are swapped in a grossly obvious way intended to make a racist point. FFS.

Father Coughlin Is Alive and Well in Today's GOP

| Sun Nov. 22, 2015 11:44 AM EST

Let's see. Over the past few days and weeks, Donald Trump has said:

More generally, Trump has said that we're going to have to do things that were "unthinkable" a year ago. Considering the list of things he apparently believes are perfectly thinkable right now, that sends chills down your spine. And yet, this man continues to lead the GOP race and appears to be gaining momentum from his Father Coughlinesque brand of xenophobia and fearmongering.

How does this happen? A big part of it is because other high-profile Republicans are too cowardly to fight back. Nearly every Republican governor has jumped on the vile, big-talking bandwagon of refusing to allow any Syrian refugees to settle in their states. Every Republican presidential candidate favors a ban on accepting further Muslim Syrian refugees. Jeb Bush thinks we should only accept Christian refugees from Syria. Ted Cruz isn't a fan of "government registries" but otherwise thinks Trump is great. Straight-talking Chris Christie dodges when he's asked if existing Syrian refugees should be kicked out of New Jersey. Marco Rubio dodges when he's asked if we might have to close down mosques.

Overall, with the semi-honorable exception of Jeb Bush, no Republican candidate has been willing to seriously push back on either Trump's old Mexican demagoguery or his shiny new Muslim demagoguery. All this despite the fact that Mexican immigration is down and the United States hasn't suffered a significant attack from overseas terrorists in over a decade. All it took to wake this latent hysteria was some terrorist activity in other countries. God help us.