There is an interview with President Donald Trump in TIME this week. It was ostensibly to be a Q&A about whether certain statements he has made recently are false. I’ve read through it a few times now and have come away amazed at how he spins his own lies into . . . well . . . something, but certainly not the truth.
It started with Trump giving a list of his “predictions” that he felt he got right.
Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before.
There’s a lot to unpack there. Let’s take them one at a time.
“Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.”
On February 19, Trump held a campaign rally in Florida. He said, “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden — who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening Brussels, you look at what’s happening all over the world.”
The Swedish government (and news agencies around the world) were confused by this statement because nothing happened in Sweden on Feb. 18. The president may have been confused by a segment on Fox News where Tucker Carlson interviewed a filmmaker pushing highly criticized documentary about issues Sweden is having with immigrants and refugees. Two days later, on Feb 21, police clashed with rioters in a majority immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm. Some rioter threw rocks and one officer was struck in the arm. Police fired warning shots to dispurse the crowd, but no one died and the police said the riot may have been the result of increased police pressure in the neighborhood.
The fact that a riot happened two days after the president made a reference to a terrorist incident that didn’t happen three days earlier doesn’t really mitigate his statement, does it? But Trump believes he got close enough. He wants partial credit.
Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing.
In October, a little more than a week before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz at the House Oversight Committee to say that, while investigating Anthony Weiner for an unrelated matter, they discovered some emails to Clinton from Weiner’s wife and Clinton aide Huma Abedine on Wiener’s laptop. Comey has been roundly criticized for rushing to send the letter before anyone (including himself) knew if anything on the laptop was new or relevant to the Clinton email investigation. Contrary to the president’s statement, the laptop didn’t contain “all of Hillary’s email on the thing.” In fact, the wasn’t anything new or undisclosed on the laptop, leading many to speculate that Comey was attempting to put his thumb on the scale to help Trump in the week leading up to the vote. Trump wasn’t even close on that one, but he still wants credit.
NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it.
Here the president doesn’t even try to make sense. NATO isn’t obsolete. In fact, it is essential for the defense of Europe and the encroaching threat of Putin’s Russia. They have been working on counterterrorism since 1980 and stepped up those efforts in 2011 after the attack on the World Trade Center. Countries don’t pay into NATO for defense. NATO allies agree to spend two percent of their GDP on defense (this is a goal to be reached by 2026, as of now only four countries are there). None of that money is paid to the United States and our contribution to NATO isn’t a favor to Europe, but an essential part of our own national defense. A free democratic Europe is essential to the security of the western world. He wants credit for being right about something he doesn’t understand.
Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before.
The record of Trump’s predictions on Brexit will show that he wasn’t confident. In fact, when asked about his position on Brexit back in June, Trump wasn’t sure what it was. The day before the vote, he was hedging: “I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much. … My inclination would be to get out, because you know, just go it alone. … I also tell people: ‘Don’t go with the recommendation, because it’s a recommendation that I would make, but that’s where I stand.’” He got the answer right, but I doubt he could show his work. Technically, he didn’t predict how the vote would go, only how he would have voted.
Then the reporter asked about the president’s various statements that have only a passing aquaintence with the truth.
Now remember this. When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is, you know today it is different than wire tapping. It is just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes. What I’m talking about is surveillance.
Trump sent out four tweets during that fateful Saturday morning at Mar-a-Lago. In two of them he used quotes around “wiretapping” and in two he didn’t. But in all of them, he accused President Obama of illegally ordering it. In fact, he called the president “bad” and “sick.” None of that is mitigated by trying to walk it back with fake excuses about quote marks. He said it was “Nixon/Watergate” stuff. Trump brought up House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes holding an unusual press conference inwhich he said some of Trump’s campaign team turned up in surveliance files where the targets of surveillance were Russians. That doesn’t mitigate Trumps accusations or provide any sort of vindication for his ill-advised twitter storm. But Trump wants credit for it.
When the reporter brought up that Comey testified that there was no surveillance of the Trump campaign or transition team, he responded, “I have articles saying it happened.” Wow. So the FBI, the NSA, the DoJ, and the Brits all say there was no surveillance. But Trump will ignore them in favor of “articles” in the newspaper? I find it particularly gaulling that he’s referring to the New York Times here because as everyone should know, Trump has no respect for that paper, describing it alternately as “failing” and “fake news.” But if you look at the article to which Trump is probably referring, it doesn’t say anything about Obama ordering surveillance. The president is just way off here and grasping at anything to keep from having to admit he was in error. He’s wrong, but he wants the NYT to be the one to take the hit.
Three million undocumented people voted:
There is zero evidence to support that claim or any of the associated claims such as people being bussed across state lines to vote in two different states. It didn’t happen. But Trump says, “Well I think I will be proved right about that too.” He’s going to form a committee to study it.
Wait, more than that? Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub disputes that claim and has demanded the president either present his evidence or stop making it. No one else in government seems to believe that this is possible. But Trump wants to form a committee and have it spend tax dollars chasing its tail so he won’t have to admit he got it wrong. Again. He wants credit for believing he’s right.
Before the election when Trump made wild accusations and “predictions” that turned out to be false, it was just another celebrity blowhard beaking off. But now that he’s the president, it’s not a good look. The reporter asked him if there was a difference between citizen Trump and President Trump making these “kinds of predictions without having the factual evidence.”
“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right.”
No, Mr. President. You’re not. It just goes on an on from there. His contention that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father Raphael had something to do with the murder of President John F. Kennedy? “Well, that was in a newspaper.” It was in the National Enquirer and it was debunked days before Trump made the statement.
“I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap.”
Napolitano got his information from Russia Today, Putin’s state-sponsored propaganda media channel and he’s been suspended from Fox News over it. Baier was interviewing Speaker Paul Ryan about unconfirmed reports of wiretapping and Ryan denied seeing any evidence of it. Fox News has said they have no evidence of any wiretapping.
Rather than take responsibility for his own credulousness, he passes the buck. Oh, I was just quoting what I saw on TV. How can you hold me responsible for the lies of the dishonest media? The reporter pointed out that traditionally presidents don’t make wild statements without having the facts at hand.
“Well, I’m not, well, I think, I’m not saying, I’m quoting, Michael, I’m quoting highly respected people and sources from major television networks.”
So, the lying, dishonest, fake media suddenly becomes “highly respected” when he can use them to avoid taking responsibility for his outlandish statements. He lies. He lies repeatedly and with gusto over little, inconsequential matters.
“Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena.” The Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville holds 18,000 people. That’s a respectable number. No one is going to think less of him because he filled an 18,000-seat arena instead of a 25,000-seat one. Why lie about something that doesn’t mean anything and can be so easily checked?
President Trump doesn’t have the temperament for this job. He doesn’t do well when confronted with facts that oppose his own ideas. He denies his own words when confronted with the truth. I encourage everyone to read this interview and try to make sense of what he’s trying to say. He cannot admit fault. He cannot acknowledge that he got something wrong. He wants credit for getting close.
There are no participation trophies for world leaders. There are only consequences. Bald-faced lies coupled with a complete denial of the truth is the stock and trade of a toddler, not a president. It’s how a con man skates by in the world. It isn’t how an adult does his or her job.