Diary

Donald Trump spews misinformation during South Carolina GOP debate

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Donald Trump has a fact problem – and a truth telling problem.

It is chronic, but the most recent examples came up in the CBS News GOP debate Saturday night at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Simultaneously, when called out on his record by Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump had a melt down on the stage and began hurling accusations of lying at Cruz and Jeb Bush, when the criticism best describes himself.

“You are the single biggest liar. This guy will say anything. You are probably a worse liar than Jeb Bush”, Trump exclaimed in an angry retort to Ted Cruz’ accurate  statement that Trump had made favorable comments about Planned Parenthood. Trump doesn’t even have any sincerely held “pro-life” convictions.

Underlining Cruz’ assessment of Trump’s views, is his proposal that his sister, Federal judge, Maryanne Trump Barry would make an excellent choice as a Supreme Court nominee.  Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in National Review, outlines Judge Barry’s view on the ghastly procedure known as Partial Birth abortion:

She called a New Jersey law against it a “desperate attempt” to undermine Roe v. Wade. It was, she wrote, “based on semantic machinations, irrational line-drawing, and an obvious attempt to inflame public opinion instead of logic or medical evidence.” It made no difference where the fetus was when it “expired.”   

One of Trump’s repeated claims in the debates and he raised it again Saturday, is that he was on record as having opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq launched by George W. Bush. If that claim was true, it would credit Trump with a fair degree of sagacity and a visionary grasp of the situation that would eventually evolve both in Iraq, and more generally, the region.

The problem is that no such evidence exists of Trump vociferously opposing the invasion before it commenced.  Trump said,

“I’m the only one on this stage that said do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq. Nobody else on this stage said that. I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn’t a politician, fortunately, but I said it, and I said it loud and clear, you’ll destabilize the Middle East. That’s exactly what happened.”

Well, Mr. Trump – it’s exactly what happened – yes, but you didn’t predict it.  The earliest comment attributable to Donald Trump on the subject that could be found by data mining the public record, was one made by him to the Washington Post, after the invasion – where he merely said, “the war’s a mess.” This was at an Oscar after party event From the Washington Post review of the Vanity Fair event following the Oscar ceremony:

Donald Trump, with Amazonian beauty Melania Knauss at his side, pronounces on the war and the stock market: “If they keep fighting it the way they did today, they’re going to have a real problem.” Looking as pensive as a “Nightline” talking head, the Donald concludes, “The war’s a mess,” before sweeping off into the crowd.

The next reference Donald made to the Iraq war, was in August of 2004 in an interview with Esquire Magazine, telling Esquire:

“I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country? C’mon.”

Again, well after the invasion had been undertaken and the fictitious claims of the Bush administration became widely known.  Donald Trump did make a public reference to the Iraq situation prior to the invasion, but unfortunately for his supporters who think everything that proceeds from the man’s mouth is gospel – the quote in question undermines his entire line of contention. On January 28, 2003 in an appearance on the Neil Cavuto program on Fox Business Channel, Trump said,

“Well, he has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know. He’s under a lot of pressure. I think he’s doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.”

Amazing really. Nothing there that remotely him saying “loud and clear” that invading Iraq would “destabilize the Middle East”.

Bottom line on Donald’s claim about being “the only one on this stage that said do not go into Iraq.”? Demonstrably false in the absence of anything to substantiate it – and there is nothing to be found. Anecdotal private conversations are not dispositive.

To add to Donald Trump’s contradictions regarding his foreign policy views, is the fact that when Donald Trump sat for an interview with Chuck Todd, on NBC’s Meet the Press, he was asked to suggest a name of an individual he would consult on national security and foreign policy. The “go-to” expert? John Bolton. If you are not familiar with John Bolton, he was the Bush administration’s Ambassador to the United Nations during the Iraq war. Bolton is a notorious advocate of employing American forces as a Global Police force and inserting them into confrontational postures with Russia and into tribal and sectarian conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa among others. In short, he is the textbook NeoCon War Hawk.

Trump said of Bolton, “He’s, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about.” In this, Trump tells you a lot about either his deliberate intent to deceive voters on his stance on Iraq, or his near complete lack of depth of understanding of the players involved. Ambassador Bolton was as gung-ho to invade Iraq as anyone you could find on the subject, and to this day, defends Bush’s actions. Doubles down on them, in fact.

But there’s more. Trump was asked for a specific plan on how he would shore up Social Security. In his vague citation that there exists an enormous amount of fraud, waste and abuse, Trump spontaneously reached into his grab bag of fallacious assertions and pulled out a truly bizarre one.

“We have in Social Security right now thousands and thousands of people that are over 106 years old. Now, you know they don’t exist. They don’t exist. There’s tremendous waste, fraud, and abuse, and we’re going to get it.”

But again, Donald Trump has a fact problem. The problem is that he would recognize one if it slapped him in the face. A report of the Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General from March 2015, flatly contradicts Trump’s anecdote. While it is likely that 6.5 million people’s names of people over the age of 112, “almost none of these number-holders remained in current payment status,” the inspector general said.

Almost none – Donald. So, all he is really proposing is just a clean up of the database that would have no discernible effect in reducing the portion of the entitlement budget in which Social Security resides.

Not that any of Trump’s misrepresentations of his record, his faulty grasp of reality or his accusations of other’s “lies”, when his finger should be pointed inwards, will make much of any difference with his hard core devotees. For them, truth and facts are secondary concerns, if they are concerns at all.