Donald Trump is the biggest liar and the most reckless exaggerator in the history of the universe.
OK, if that’s a slight overstatement (and I’m not saying it necessarily is), it is much closer to reality than a great deal of the speech Trump just gave.
Most of it was either just over-the-top promises about the benefits of incoherent Trumpian policy proposals, braggadocio about himself, and highly contested allegations of corruption against Hillary Clinton and policy failure by Clinton. Almost 100 percent of it was a new, special, great again, Trumpian level of hyperbole and oversimplification, mixed with well-documented lies he has long been repeating.
And, to make matters worse, the instant analysis on CNN – not Fox, CNN – was that this was exactly the kind of substantive, presidential-sounding speech Republicans have been hoping Trump would give. I kid you not. Shame on CNN anchor John Berman and political reporter Dana Bash.
Is it possible we’ve sunk this low? Say it ain’t true.
I’m not the biggest Hillary Clinton fan in the universe. I have plenty of problems with her record. And I’m not naïve to the possibility that in the heat of a campaign, candidates will make selective use of the facts to exaggerate their own strengths and their opponents’ weaknesses. But if this speech can be given and praised and helps the candidate who gives it, I fear (even more than I already did) for the future of democracy.
This was not the usual incoherent Trump ad lib routine. This was a prepared speech with a transcript released in advance. I’ll put a link to that transcript below, and you can also watch the speech. But first, a few notes from one shaken soul:
We’re used to politicians exaggerating their records, the benefits of their promised programs, and the failures and weaknesses of their opponents. Sure. But this is a different order of magnitude. A few examples, all quotes from Trump:
“Hillary Clinton is maybe the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.” (That one got a standing ovation.)
“Hillary Clinton wants to bring in people who believe that women should be enslaved and gays should be put to death.”
(Translation: Clinton does not agree with Trump’s belief that no Muslims should be allowed to emigrate to the United States.)
As proof of Clinton’s corruption, Trump relied (and he actually read out quotes from the book) on a highly speculative attack book, “Clinton Cash,” which assumed a direct but unproven relationship between contributions from foreign countries to the Clinton Foundation and benefits to various foreign countries and companies from U.S. policies. Trump cited these as if the link were proven. David Gergen said on the CNN roundtable that none of the links have been proven. But the book was the basis for statements like:
The other candidate in this race has spent her life making money for special interests and, I will tell you, she’s made plenty of money for them and she took plenty of money out for herself. Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft. She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund, doing favors for oppressive regimes and many others, and really, many many others, in exchange for cash, pure and simple folks. … She gets rich making you poor.
Perhaps you can believe the argument that Trump lifted from that book. The cause and effect has not been proven. But Sometimes Trump resorts to factual sounding statements that are clearly false, like:
“We are the highest taxed nation in the world.”
A few other interesting moments from the speech that some might think border on hyperbole, and a dash of Trumpian hubris:
“She [Clinton] has virtually done nothing right.” (No evidence cited.)
“She [Clinton] is a world-class liar.”
“Our military is totally depleted.”
“Our problems can all be fixed … but only by me.”
(In the same speech, Trump repeated one of my favorites of his regular lies – that he, Trump, opposed the Iraq War in advance – this time he specified that it was in advance, although there is no record of him ever publicly saying so and some record of him endorsing the Iraq War, in advance, as when radio shock jock Howard Stern asked Trump if he favored invading Iraq and Trump replied: “Yeah, I guess so.”
Those are just a few examples. As for the alternative, Trump promised pie in the sky. Here’s how life will be under Trump, according to Trump (I’m relying on my own transcription here, because I’m sure some of his weird asides were not the teleprompter from which Trump (who likes to mock the use of teleprompters by others) read the speech:
“Our country is going to start working again. Jobs. People are going to start working again. Parents are going to start dreaming big for their children again, including parents in our inner cities.
“Americans. Americans. The people that we love. Americans. America First. Make our country great. Americans are going to start believing in the future of our country. We are going to make America rich again. We are going to make America safe again. We are going to make America great again. For everyone, everyone living here.”
OK, maybe I’ve lost my perspective, but to me it was a speech you could only give if you assumed that facts and logic matter even less than they have mattered during the previous two and a half centuries of American political rhetoric.
So I was a little taken aback when the first reaction of CNN anchor John Berman was:
“This was undoubtedly a speech with discipline – the kind of speech that Republicans have been pining for.”
Berman then threw to Dana Bash, who replied:
“You took the words right out of my mouth. When it comes to tone, substance, message, this is exactly what Republicans have been begging for Donald Trump to do, to scrap the personal insults of people like federal judges, to scrap policy proposals that offend millions of voting Americans, and to really focus in on building a cogent case for why Republicans believe Hillary Clinton is the wrong person to be in the White House. What Republicans have been begging him to do – to look more presidential, to not just throw out insults but to have an argument that is well thought out. He did that today.”
I may have lost perspective on how bad it was. Or Trump may have previously lowered the bar so low that Berman and Bash have lost perspective on what a major televised address by a presidential nominee is supposed to sound like. But if that was presidential and cogent, I’d hate to hear demagogic gibberish.