Mr. Blow says “Donald Trump Is Lying in Plain Sight” and that the media applies an entertainment standard to the Republican candidate. Mr. Kristof, in “The Black Eyes in Donald Trump’s Life,” says over his seven decades he’s left a trail of victims. In “Trump and Clinton Take Up Arms” Ms. Collins says Donald successfully spoke in full sentences but may be confused about his plan for veterans’ health, and Hillary went into wonk mode. Here’s Mr. Blow:
It has generally been my experience that when people pepper their speech with the phrase “believe me,” they are not to be believed.
The default position among people of honor — the silent agreement between speaker and listener — is one of truth and trust.
But Donald Trump is not a person of honor.
Presidents lie. Politicians lie. People lie. But Trump lies with a ferocious abandon.
For instance, the fact-checking website PolitiFact found that of the statements by Hillary Clinton that it checked, 22 percent were completely “true” and another 28 percent were “mostly true.”
But Trump is another animal. There is no true equivalency between Trump and Clinton, or between Trump and any other politician, for that matter. Only 4 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checkedwere rated as completely “true” and only another 11 percent were even rated as “mostly true.” Seventy percent of Trump’s statements that the site checked were rated as “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” the site’s worse rating.
The truth shifts beneath Trump like sand. He has no regard for the firmness of fact. For him, fact is as pliant as that Play-Doh he handed out to flood victims in Louisiana.
Indeed, PoltiFact named Trump’s collective “campaign misstatements” the 2015 Lie of the Year, writing:
“It’s the trope on Trump: He’s authentic, a straight-talker, less scripted than traditional politicians. That’s because Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down. Bending the truth or being unhampered by accuracy is a strategy he has followed for years.”
The site quotes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” in which he says, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”
In fact, Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter for that book and in July he blasted Trump in an interview in The New Yorker:
“Schwartz says of Trump, ‘He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.’ Since most people are ‘constrained by the truth,’ Trump’s indifference to it ‘gave him a strange advantage.’”
When introducing a series about “the scale and depth of Donald Trump’s lies,” the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, put it this way:
“Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, does not so much struggle with the truth as strangle it altogether. He lies to avoid. He lies to inflame. He lies to promote and to preen. Sometimes he seems to lie just for the hell of it. He traffics in conspiracy theories that he cannot possibly believe and in grotesque promises that he cannot possibly fulfill. When found out, he changes the subject — or lies larger.”
And yet in polls like the CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday, Trump leads Clinton on the issue of being honest and trustworthy by 15 percentage points. (I should point out that some have raised questions about the methodology of that poll.)
I believe that this is in large part because we, an irresponsible media, have built a false equivalency in which the choice between Clinton and Trump seems to have equally bad implications, because we have framed it as a choice between a liar and a lunatic.
But this obscures the fact that the lunatic is also a pathological liar of a kind and quality that we have not seen in recent presidential politics and perhaps ever.
Trump is in a category all his own.
Part of the reason for Clinton’s problems is that she is being held to a traditional level of honesty and integrity, as she should be.
But Trump is being held to a wholly different, more flexible standard. When he takes a different position over years or months or days or even hours, that is not simply an innocent evolution, but a flat-out lie.
He alters his positions on a whim, depending on the audience, but the truth is steadfast. It will not accept convenient alteration.
Perhaps even more troubling is that he is prone to making up his own set of false facts. He wildly exaggerated the number of immigrants in this country illegally and “inner city”crime rates. He said President Obama founded ISIS and that “the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.” He said, “I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center collapsed.
Lies one and all, but that’s just a sampling.
This is not an honest man. This is not a trustworthy man. The fact that people believe he’s honest is a result of a failed media that aims its sincerest critique at Clinton’s deficiencies with the truth, but applies an entertainment standard to Trump that corrects falsehoods but doesn’t castigate him for them.
There is no reasonable explanation or salable excuse for the media’s behavior this presidential cycle. History will look back at this period and it will not be kind to the Fourth Estate. We will all have to one day ask ourselves, “Where was I on Trump and the truth?” Far too many of us will be found wanting.
Next up we have Mr. Kristof:
Once upon a time, in New York City in the 1950s, a little boy didn’t like his second-grade music teacher, Charles Walker. So, the boy later boasted, he slugged Mr. Walker, giving him a black eye.
“When that kid was 10,” Walker recalled on his death bed, “even then, he was a ——” Oops, gentle reader, time to move on hurriedly with the life story of Donald J. Trump.
Young Donald took on a newspaper route to learn the value of money, but this was not “Leave It to Beaver”: On rainy days, Donald avoided getting wet by delivering papers while being squired around in the family Cadillac.
There are now more than 20 books out about Trump, and while I can’t claim to have read them all — I am not a masochist! — I have waded through his life story so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome! As a reader service, here are highlights.
Donald attended the New York Military Academy, where he thrived despite a regrettable attempt to throw a smaller student out a second-floor window (this comes from one of the best of the biographies, the brand-new “Trump Revealed,” by a team from The Washington Post).
Enough of Trump’s youth; now let’s hurtle through his business career. After graduating from Wharton, Trump joined his dad’s real estate business and, er, worked his way up: At about the age of 25, he was named president of Trump Management.
Unfortunately, the Trumps seemed to have a policy in some properties of not renting to blacks. “I’m not allowed to rent” to black families, a Trump building superintendent reportedly explained at the time, adding that he was just doing “what my boss told me to do.”
If a black person did make it as far as filling out an application, it was coded — in some cases, “C” for “colored” — to make sure it was not accidentally approved. The Nixon administration sued the Trumps in 1973 for breaking anti-discrimination laws.
Something similar happened with Donald Trump’s pageants. He began with the American Dream Calendar Girl Model Search, but that led to a lawsuit from a woman who said that Trump had groped her and restrained her in his daughter’s bedroom. The lawsuit also alleged that Trump had directed that “any black female contestants be excluded” from his parties. Trump denied the claims.
Back in the world of real estate, Trump had moved into Manhattan. In 1980, preparing to build Trump Tower, he demolished a department store using hundreds of undocumented Polish workers who were paid less than $5 an hour, sometimes in vodka. Some weren’t paid at all and were threatened with deportation if they complained.
In subsequent litigation, Trump blamed the subcontractor. The judge said that Trump’s aide was on site and that Trump himself should have known.
Ultimately, Trump Tower was a financial success, but the same was not true of Trump’s venture into casinos. Anyone who had invested in his only public company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, when it listed in 1995 would have lost about 90 cents on the dollar by 2005.
Trump as a candidate has, of course, refused to release his taxes returns. But many years ago he was obliged to release them for casino regulatory filings — and at that time he paid no federal income tax at all. Because of tax loopholes, he managed to report zero income (actually losses!) for both 1978 and 1979.
Do I risk losing you with finances? Time to throw in some sex, with a look now at Trump’s family life.
Melania Trump says that her husband “is intensely loyal … he will never let you down.” Then again, she’s his third wife.
His first was Ivana Trump, and he then began a dalliance with Marla Maples, culminating in a dramatic made-for-the-tabloids confrontation between the two women while they were all skiing in Aspen. The resulting divorce negotiations were bitter, with Ivana alleging in a deposition that Trump had raped her; she later backed off that.
Trump then married Maples. She in turn gave way to Melania, who may well have arrived in the States illegally (Melania Trump denies this but hasn’t furnished a convincing explanation for her immigration).
So what does all this add up to?
Whether in his youth, in his business career or in his personal life, Trump’s story is that of a shallow egoist who uses those around him.
Even as a child, he personified privilege and entitlement. In business, he proved a genius at marketing himself but grew his fortune more slowly than if he had put his wealth in a stock index fund. He made a mess of his personal life and has been repeatedly accused of racism, of cheating people, of lying, of stiffing charities.
His life is a vacuum of principle, and he never seems to have stood up for anything larger than himself.
Over seven decades, there’s one continuous theme to his life story: This is a narcissist who has no core. The lights are on, but no one’s home.
And now we get to Ms. Collins:
On Wednesday, Donald Trump explained how good he was going to be at dealing with world leaders by pointing to the great job he did at his recent meeting south of the border: “Look at the aftermath today where the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That’s how well we did.”
Trump and international affairs is an end-of-the-summer horror thriller. At the big presidential candidates’ forum in New York, he bragged about the two high points in his diplomatic history — the firing of the official whose idea it was to invite him to Mexico and his bromance with Vladimir Putin. (“Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating according to the different pollsters. …”)
The forum, on the Intrepid aircraft carrier before an audience of veterans, was a kind of remote warfare — back-to-back question-and-answer sessions. They really did seem to be held in two different worlds. Hillary Clinton defended her work on the Iran nuclear deal and the intervention in Libya, while Trump explained why he was keeping his plan for defeating ISIS secret. (“I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.”)
There weren’t many questions on actual veterans’ issues, which was a shame, since talking about veterans brings out a lot of interesting behavior in politicians.
It’s partly guilt. Most candidates for high office are grateful to veterans for their service, and a little uneasy if they didn’t serve themselves. That second part is not true of Trump, who stressed — during his fight with the parents of the slain military hero — that he had made “a lot of sacrifices” for his country. Pressed on the nature of said sacrifices, he mentioned something about real estate development. He also once revealed that he felt as if he’d had experience in the service due to his years at a military high school.
Clinton has on occasion told a story about having gone to a Marine recruiting office when she was 26 or 27, and being rejected as too old to sign up. It’s a strange anecdote. However, there is no sign that Clinton went away feeling she had just made a lot of sacrifices for her country.
But about the forum. The biggest current veterans’ issue — health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs — came up only briefly. Trump urged people to check out the plan on his website, which is actually different from the plan he described on stage. Clinton happily dived into her wonk mode. (“I’ve met so many vets who get mustered out, who leave the service, they can’t find their records from D.O.D., and those records never make it to the V.A.”)
Listen to her in these situations and you realize that this is a woman who has been to town hall meetings with virtually every single group of Americans who have a problem.
To summarize their V.A. health plans really quickly, Clinton wants to fix the current system while Trump — or at least website Trump — wants to give the nine million V.A. health clients cards that will allow them to go to any doctor or hospital that treats Medicare patients.
The Trump plan is a solution much beloved on the right, although it could very well cost a ton of additional money. At which point, President Trump could hold a big fund-raiser to make up the difference, just the way he did for veterans during the primary campaign. The proceeds from which he will actually distribute once the media nags him about it for three or four months.
Each candidate had less than half an hour onstage Wednesday night, but Clinton managed to point out twice that she had been in the room for the plan to kill Osama bin Laden. It was not a perfect evening for her, given that it began with a long series of questions from host Matt Lauer about her emails.
Trump, on the other hand, was first asked what experiences he had that prepared him to be commander in chief.
“The main thing is I have great judgment,” he explained, going on to tell Lauer that he was against the war in Iraq from the beginning, which he wasn’t. Asked about his temperament, he pointed out how great things went on that visit to Mexico.
At times, Trump seemed to be exceeding expectations, just by speaking in complete sentences. (We have got to start raising the bar on this guy.) Then a veteran in the audience asked him about sexual assault in the military, and Lauer reminded Trump that he had once twittered, “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?”
“Well,” Trump answered, “it is. … It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that that’s absolutely correct.” He babbled on, trying to save himself, but it was really way too late.