Many American elections have been harsh and difficult. Without Donald Trump, however, the 2015-2016 presidential campaign would not have been anywhere near as tumultuous, fearful, absurd and cruel.
Not one of the sixteen other 2016 Republican presidential candidates would have thought to ban all Muslim immigrants; bully and insult dozens of leaders on all sides as if imitating the most selfish and immature children of elementary school age; frequently pour praise on terrible demagogues like Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin; aggressively promote forms of torture worse than waterboarding; advocate for killing terrorist’s families; constantly talk about building a wall across our southern border; display fiercely authoritarian and sociopathic tendencies against anyone who challenges them or if it increases their celebrity in even the tiniest manner; repeatedly make a wide range of outlandishly racist, misogynist and bigoted statements; denigrate Mexicans in a sweeping damnation; sympathize with KKK members and other hate groups; overtly incite violence at campaign rallies and promise to pay legal fees for supporters who act on his pleas; suggest dropping a nuclear bomb on ISIS; deeply question a federal judge’s ability to do their job fairly because of their ethnic background; invoke numerous wild conspiracy theories about other candidates; and effusively and narcissistically praise themselves daily as if worshiping a supernatural god. It’s true that many of those types of things (with the notable exception of the self-aggrandizing techniques) were encouraged and said in hyper-macho, alienating and fear-mongering ways by a whole lot of Republican leaders in recent decades (which puts much culpability on their shoulders for what has happened in this campaign), but no one had ever taken it to the Trumpesque extreme.
Clinton is certainly a flawed candidate in many ways. Are we willing to equally and honestly evaluate Trump’s seriously dangerous behavior and glaring deficiencies in knowledge?
For a wide array of reasons, this next line will inspire shock, frustration or mockery from many readers. According to a long list of non-partisan fact checking organizations that get criticized for being both too liberal and too conservative, Clinton is among the most honest politicians in America today. Politifact, for example, has been labeled as unfairly biased in one direction by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and the opposite by the Republican National Committee. Given the decades of intense negative publicity about her, whether grounded in reality or not, one might say that the standard for truthfulness in this case hovers much too low. The evidence from a very wide range of media outlets, academics and independent analysts show, however, that she tells the truth more consistently than a large percentage of her peers. These researchers have consistently rated the extensive catalog of thoroughly studied statements of Clinton at about 25%, much like John Kasich from the other party (see slideshow below). Those same groups give Trump a score of 3%. Even if by some chance the researchers are wrong by 5% or 10%, the difference is still startling. Trump’s far-fetched claims number in the multiple hundreds. In just one speech, fact checkers found 25 outlandishly false assertions:
This comparison does not excuse the many instances in which Clinton told us outright false information or half-truths. And maybe this collective analysis further reveals how morally murky is the space inhabited by powerful people in America (or in any country, to various degrees).
Clearly, some leaders lie periodically and some spread untruths habitually. Some are more guilty of intermittently bending the truth while others are notorious for wholesale fabrications, even as foundational pillars for their public identity and career. A continual effort is required to quantify and qualify the consistency and breadth of their truth-telling and the extent of their deceit. The conclusions and interpretations we gain and develop from this process should be directed toward precision and contrast instead of false equivalencies and casual generalizations.
We must be realistic and pragmatic to challenge those qualified politicians currently in office and on the next ballot to be substantially more ethical and transparent. We will not benefit from bringing in a host of novices with vast ignorance regarding the basics of political knowledge, a strong understanding of history and seasoned insight into which of the available foreign and domestic policies are typically most effective. Unfortunately, over the past decade the Republican Party has increasingly encouraged people with little or no relevant experience to seek high political office. What makes this situation even worse is that many of these people claim their lack of experience and knowledge is a virtue or provides them with an advantage. Far too many 21st century American voters don’t see this as deeply unwise. No amount of smart and skilled government staff advisors can correct for comprehensive incompetence in their leaders, regardless of how potentially earnest the intentions of these politicians might be.
From many studies on this topic, I can say that Politifact’s conclusions are largely representative of the many other groups that research the validity of truth claims made by these political leaders:
It seems highly likely that Trump has lied more often and more grossly than any leader in U.S. history. The modern aspect of this can be easily demonstrated by comparing the number and scope of fact-checked lies by dozens of media and academic sources from the full careers of other political figures to virtually any single month in his campaign in which he made up far more outlandish things and hypothesized with supreme confidence on random subjects as if basing his comments on established truths.
Trump verbally trashed and negatively labeled any and every public figure who didn’t praise him throughout the 2015-2016 campaign: Ted Cruz as “Lying Ted”, Jeb Bush as “Low Energy Jeb”, Bernie Sanders as “Crazy Bernie”, “Goofy Elizabeth Warren”, Marco Rubio as “Little Marco”, Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and John McCain as not a war hero because he was caught by the enemy in the Vietnam conflict. There must be tens of millions of elementary school kids in this country with abundantly greater self-control, maturity and self-awareness than Trump. Clinton has fired back various critiques in Trump’s direction in response to his endless attacks on her character and integrity. Whether or not he’s right about the accusations toward Clinton, it’s hard to argue against one of the main arguments she made against the validity of Trump’s candidacy in her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016:
”Ask yourself, do you really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander in chief? Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign…He loses his cool at the slightest provocation, when he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter, when he’s challenged in a debate…imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons…..Trump says he’ll put America first. Well, please explain, what part of America first leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado? Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan? Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio? Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin? Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again; well, he could start by actually making things in America again.”
Can anyone think of a political leader in at least the past 50 years who was more braggadocious, in love with himself effectively to the point of worship and cosmically over-confident in his alleged abilities to fix and improve the United States in ways he says that no one has or could have ever done? He’s constantly complimenting himself in the most excessive ways. It’s ridiculous. He’s not a god.
I’ve written an article about the insanity of supporting people for political office who are not even close to qualified either because of their perpetual irrationality in speech and decision making or their shockingly weak knowledge of governmental functions and foreign policy. They’ve repeatedly demonstrated a profound lack of political realism in relation to the statistics and other facts that specify and forecast how an actual government, international relations program and economy pragmatically operate. I’m particularly referring to a group of recent GOP candidates that ought to and often do embarrass much more credible and able politicians and supporters in the party. These inept and likely disaster-prone individuals if and when placed in high political office are people like Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The GOP leadership, conservative media and electorate bear responsibility for creating conditions for and encouraging people like this to radically disrupt the imperfect but still vital standards of competency, professionalism, knowledge and experience that has been normative throughout U.S. history. Trump would be the first president ever with no military, elective or appointive experience. Hillary has plenty of problems of her own, but they’re not regarding a lack of the kinds of professional knowledge and ability required for public office. Trump’s lack of preparedness is so egregious as to be outside the category that encompasses all major elected American leaders in government from every era. Even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when discussing a potential running mate for Trump, “He needs someone highly experienced and very knowledgeable because it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t know a lot about the issues.”
Slate created an extensive list, that can be easily fact checked, of “230 Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done That Make Him Unfit to Be President”. In order to maintain integrity, any critic of Hillary Clinton and sincere Trump supporter would be wise to either find legitimate ways to refute most of these points or abandon allegiance to this presidential candidate. Here are some examples:
He refuses to apologize for anything, including instances where he was clearly in error regarding the facts on numerous topics and when he thoroughly disrespected someone. Regarding the epic number of insults that Trump has thrown around, the New York Times has compiled a large collection, “The 258 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List”. Most people can readily admit that he’s a loose cannon. Even some of his own followers have voiced regret that Trump too many times didn’t choose his words carefully and unnecessarily offended voters with different leanings that otherwise might have been persuaded toward his camp. Public opinion research group, Langer Research Associates discovered, “Nearly eight in 10 Americans surveyed say Trump doesn’t ‘show enough respect for people he disagrees with.’…Sixty-seven percent say ‘he lacks the personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively, 64 percent doubt his understanding of world affairs…and 60 percent think he’s biased against women and minorities.”
One major disqualification should be Trump’s fervent involvement with the birther movement. Never before had the legitimacy of a president’s natural citizenship been so thoroughly doubted.
Many critics accused the “birthers” as being motivated by racism. This can be debated. Trump claimed that he had evidence of serious gaps in Obama’s birth certificate paperwork. He said he had sent investigators to Hawaii, the president’s birthplace, and they were finding a lot of damning information. In reality, there is no record that Trump ever sent agents to look into the issue. Meanwhile, his conspiracy theorizing on this and other topics spread false ideas and an increasingly deep mood of suspicion into a large portion of conservatives and Republicans. This strategy was similar to that used by other critics of Obama in an attempt to discredit him. A primary example was their constant mockery of his alleged inexperience, saying that he had just been a “community organizer”. Many people were naive enough to believe this, regardless of the truth that after achievements such as being editor for the Harvard Law Review, he worked as a lawyer, taught law for 12 years at the prestigious University of Chicago Law School and served 10 years as a congressman in Illinois and Washington D.C. Trump and others effectively influenced the minds of a significant section of the population regarding the birth certificate issue so that even as late as September 2015, after numerous media agencies, think tanks and universities for many years reported how empty and thoroughly unfounded the “birther” assertions were, Time explained: “The latest poll shows that 20% of Americans believe Obama was born outside the United States, with 9% saying there is solid evidence to prove it and 11% saying it is just their suspicion.” Far-fetched conspiracy theories on the right like this have flourished during Obama’s tenure, including one purporting that he’s a Muslim, believed by “29% of Americans…including 43% of Republicans.” A person such as Trump who will use such extreme and intentionally demeaning fabrications to gain attention and rise in political power, especially through the low morality of denigrating another person’s citizenship upon no factual basis, should not be considered for any leadership position in government. Another conspicuous and related fact should not be ignored: how unreliable a person like this would be in the business realm.
Regarding Trump’s first run for president, The New York Times commented:
“The more Mr. Trump questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Obama’s presidency, the better he performed in the early polls of the 2012 Republican field, springing from fifth place to a virtual tie for first….A Gallup poll from that period showed that only 38 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Mr. Obama was ‘definitely’ born in the United States. That number rose to 47 percent after Mr. Obama released his long-form birth certificate….Mr. Trump also said repeatedly that he had sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to unearth information about Mr. Obama’s birth records. ‘They cannot believe what they are finding,’ Mr. Trump told ABC’s ‘The View.’…
“Raising questions about the president’s birth certificate — and even threatening to send a team of investigators to Hawaii — had served its purpose, raising Mr. Trump’s political profile and, whether he knew it or not at the time, providing him with the rudimentary foundation upon which he built his 2016 campaign….He even skirted close to birther innuendo after the massacre in Orlando, Fla., last month, calling into ‘Fox & Friends’ to insinuate that Mr. Obama might sympathize with Islamic extremists. ‘He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands,’ Mr. Trump said….But for all of his fascination with the president’s birth certificate, Mr. Trump apparently never dispatched investigators or made much of an effort to find the documents….Dr. Alvin Onaka, the Hawaii state registrar who handled queries about Mr. Obama, said recently through a spokeswoman that he had no evidence or recollection of Mr. Trump or any of his representatives ever requesting the records from the Hawaii State Department of Health.”
In September 2016, Trump abandoned his 5 1/2 year attempt to discredit Obama’s standing as a U.S. citizen and abruptly announced, “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” The Washington Post depicted the scene of the “revelation” or “confession” in their article titled, “Donald Trump just summed up his entire despicable campaign in 30 seconds”. After having some veterans express and explain their endorsement for 45 minutes, during an event centered around the opening of a new Trump hotel and promoted as a chance for reporters to ask the candidate pressing questions regarding the campaign and the birther issue, Trump took no questions. He made what should be an unbelievable claim that actually Clinton started the birther movement and he just “finished it”. True to the pattern throughout his life, he offered no apology for disseminating radical misinformation about the commander in chief within what has arguably been the main publicity stunt that forwarded Trump into the political limelight and enabled a successful run for the Republican nomination. He rode the wave of attention and crass novelty from this fringe conspiracy theory until it had served its purpose, only letting go of it less than two months before the national election. The Post further described it this way:
“Almost everything Trump is about and what he represents could be seen in his brief statement and what led up to it. To put it simply: He skillfully manipulated the media to maximize attention to himself. He told an obvious, indisputable lie about Hillary Clinton. He falsely took credit for something he didn’t do. He tried to evade responsibility for his successful efforts to foment and exploit racism. And all in 30 seconds. It’s hard to imagine a more succinct summary of the Trump campaign than that.”
In that instance, Trump managed, for what seems to be the thousandth time in this campaign, to address complaints about his aberrant and offensive behavior and comments by offering more of the same, distracting the audience from the original issue by creating an even wilder and dastardly example of his malice, ignorance, pettiness and something like a severe adult form of ADHD. This combination makes him virtually impossible to fact-check. Conservative writer for RedState, Leon Wolf, insightfully remarked that Trump’s communication and debate style is much like a fighter jet evading a heat seeking missile: “When a homing missile locks in on a target, one of the best ways to defeat it is to release a bunch of chaff so the missile gets confused and doesn’t know what to lock on to.” Wolf continued:
“Watching Donald Trump speak and answer questions, though, is like watching a billion targets appear in the sky all at once, for a political opponent. Each thing he says is so bizarre, or ill informed, or demonstrably false, or un presidential in tone or character, that it becomes impossible to know which target to lock on to or focus on. And to the extent that he makes a policy statement, it is so hopelessly vague and ludicrous that it’s impossible to know where to begin, at least within the context of the 30-second soundbite that the modern political consumer requires (and chances are, he will say something diametrically opposed to it before the press conference is over anyway).”
This is especially easy for him to pull off because his admirers and the media accept an incredibly low standard by which to hold him accountable. It’s much like he said eight months earlier:
“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”
The same is overtly not the case regarding women and minorities. For those who doubt the sincerity of concern that Trump says he has for the black community, another analyst provides perspective:
“A day after The New York Times published an article pointing out that ‘the Republican nominee has not held a single event aimed at black voters in their communities, shunning the traditional stops at African-American churches, historically black colleges and barber shops and salons that have long been staples of the presidential campaign trail,’ Trump ventured to a suburban town outside Milwaukee that is 95 percent white and 1 percent black to tell the black population of America — a population that has been consumed in recent years by a discussion of police misconduct and extrajudicial killings — that ‘the problem in our poorest communities is not that there are too many police, the problem is that there are not enough police.’…
“Then within hours of making that speech, Trump shook up his campaign in part by naming Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, the campaign’s chief executive….This is the same Breitbart that the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to in an April ‘Hatewatch’ report: ‘Over the past year however, the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas — all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.”…Donald Trump is 70 years old. Surely there should be copious examples from those many years of an egalitarian spirit, of outreach to African-American communities, of taking a stand for social justice, right? Right?!…
“In fact, Trump’s life demonstrates the opposite. He erupted like a rash onto the public consciousness on the front page of The New York Times in 1973 because he and his father were being sued for anti-black bias at their rental property….This is the same man who is quoted in the 1991 book ‘Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump — His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall,’ as saying: ‘I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.’ The book was co-written by John O’Donnell, who was previously chief operating officer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino….[Trump] is the same man who has refused to reach out to black people in any way, including rejecting offers to speak before the N.A.A.C.P., the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Urban League. (Hillary Clinton spoke before all three.)”
This article series is continued in Part 2, covering:
TRUMP’S THOROUGHLY FALSE VIEW OF AMERICA AS WEAK ON SECURITY
PROGRESS IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM AND HIGHEST MILITARY SPENDING SINCE WWII
VIOLENT CRIME HAS RADICALLY DROPPED IN MAJOR CITIES AND NATIONALLY DURING LAST 25 YEARS
ALL 859,000 REFUGEES THAT WENT THROUGH OUR VETTING SYSTEM BETWEEN 2001-2015 COMMITTED NO TERRORIST ATTACKS
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS COMMIT LESS CRIME THAN AVERAGE AMERICANS AND HAVE BEEN COMING TO AMERICA IN MUCH SMALLER NUMBERS FOR YEARS