Blow and Krugman

In “Trump, Grand Wizard of Birtherism,” says once again the Republican candidate has lied, and has compounded his lie by blaming the controversy on Hillary Clinton.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Vote as if It Matters:”  Will minor parties do major damage?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So, on Friday the Grand Wizard of Birtherism against President Obama admitted that birtherism was bunk, not by apologizing for his prominent role in the racist campaign — no, that would have been too right — but by suggesting that he deserved credit for dousing the flames he’d fanned.

This man is so low that he’s subterranean.

Donald Trump said Friday: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.”

That was a lie. There is no evidence Hillary Clinton and her campaign either started or took part in the efforts to question the location of Barack Obama’s birth.

He continued: “I finished it.”

That was also a lie. Well after it had been established that the president was born in this country, Trump continued to traffic in speculation to the contrary, all the way up to and including this year.

Then Trump said, without elaboration or allowing questions: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”

Trump has a long history of elevating the idiocy of conspiracy theories and normalizing the nonsensical.

Trump has claimed that Bill Ayers wrote the President’s acclaimed, best-selling memoir because surely this black man couldn’t have the talent to write the book. As Trump put it:

“I think somebody else had a lot to do with that book. I think he wrote the second book, which was certainly not a masterpiece. I’m very good at books, and it certainly wasn’t a masterpiece.”

It should be noted that Trump’s own best seller, “The Art of the Deal,” was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz, who told The New Yorker in July, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

Trump claimed in a 2011 interview with Sean Hannity that President Obama was “born Barry Soetoro, somewhere along the line, he changed his name.” Soetoro is the surname of Obama’s mother’s second husband, who she married when Obama was a young boy.

But Trump didn’t stop there. He strung together more conspiracy theories, including coming back to his obvious envy of the success and quality of Obama’s first book:

“I heard he had terrible marks and he ends up in Harvard. He wrote a book that was better than Ernest Hemingway, but his second book was written by an average person. He shouldn’t have written the second book.”

Speaking of college, Trump has insinuated that Obama never attended Columbia University. In 2011, Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference that “our current president came out of nowhere” and “In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

The fact-checking site PolitiFact rated this lie “Pants on Fire.”

He once suggested to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that maybe Obama hadn’t produced a birth certificate because it could reveal that he’s a secret Muslim. He said:

“People have birth certificates. He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that.”

Indeed, the list of conspiracy theories Trump has floated about President Obama is long, but Obama has not been the only target. Trump has also entertained the suspicion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered, just as he suggests Vince Foster was. He has also intimated that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This is what Trump does: He exalts gossip and innuendo, which has the direct and opposite effect of degrading truth and honesty. He finds a lie in which the depraved have faith and he lifts it up as if it’s a secret that their opponents fear.

This is an enormous distraction, because it means that time and attention that could be put into exposing that Trump’s policies are either paper thin or laughably unworkable are instead diverted to disproving lies which usher forth from his mouth like water from a hose at full throttle.

And even when confronted with proof positive that his conspiracies are baseless, he often doesn’t back down, or if he does, he does so without apology.

He is not only bending the truth, he is breaking the notion that truth should matter in the first place.

This is what is so baffling about the people supporting him: They know he’s lying, but they so want to believe the lies that they have pushed themselves into a universe of irrationality that is devoid of logic.

So, his admission on Friday was too little, too late; too contrived, too strategic and too lacking in context. In fact, Trump has peddled so many lies about the president that this clearly election-driven, down-to-the-wire political ploy rang hollow and felt like as much of an insult as the original claim.

No one who so proudly wears the mark of dishonesty and defamation possesses the power to grant the stamps of legitimacy and absolution.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will. Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.

But do 29 percent of Americans between 18 and 34 believe these things? I doubt it. Yet that, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, is the share of millennial voters who say that they would vote for Mr. Johnson if the election took place now. And the preponderance of young Americans who say they’ll back Mr. Johnson or Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, appear to be citizens who would support Mrs. Clinton in a two-way race; including the minor party candidates cuts her margin among young voters from 21 points to just 5.

So I’d like to make a plea to young Americans: your vote matters, so please take it seriously.

Why are minor candidates seemingly drawing so much support this year? Very little of it, I suspect, reflects support for their policy positions. How many people have actually read the Libertarian platform? But if you’re thinking of voting Johnson, you really should. It’s a remarkable document.

As I said, it calls for abolition of the income tax and the privatization of almost everything the government does, including education. “We would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.” And if parents don’t want their children educated, or want them indoctrinated in a cult, or put them to work in a sweatshop instead of learning to read? Not our problem.

What really struck me, however, was what the platform says about the environment. It opposes any kind of regulation; instead, it argues that we can rely on the courts. Is a giant corporation poisoning the air you breathe or the water you drink? Just sue: “Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required.” Ordinary citizens against teams of high-priced corporate lawyers — what could go wrong?

It’s really hard to believe that young voters who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary think any of this is a good idea. But Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein have received essentially no media scrutiny, so that voters have no idea what they stand for. And their parties’ names sound nice: who among us is against liberty? The truth, that the Libertarian Party essentially stands for a return to all the worst abuses of the Gilded Age, is not out there.

Meanwhile, of course, it does make a huge difference which of the two realistic prospects for the presidency wins, and not just because of the difference in their temperaments and the degree to which they respect or have contempt for democratic norms. Their policy positions are drastically different, too.

True, much of what Mr. Trump says is incoherent: in his policy proposals, trillion dollar tax breaks are here today, gone tomorrow, back the day after. But anyone who calls him a “populist” isn’t looking at the general thrust of his ideas, or at whom he has chosen as economic advisers. Mr. Trump’s brain trust, such as it is, is composed of hard-line, right-wing supply-siders — whom even Republican economists have called “charlatans and cranks” — for whom low taxes on the rich are the overwhelming priority.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton has staked out the most progressive policy positions ever advocated by a presidential candidate. There’s no reason to believe that these positions are insincere, that she would revert to 1990s policies in office: What some are now calling the “new liberal economics” has sunk deep roots in the Democratic Party, and dominates the ranks of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers.

Now, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you consider center-left policies just as bad as hard-right policies. And maybe you have somehow managed to reconcile that disdain with tolerance for libertarian free-market mania. If so, by all means vote for Mr. Johnson.

But don’t vote for a minor-party candidate to make a statement. Nobody cares.

Remember, George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, but somehow ended up in the White House anyway in part thanks to the Nader vote — and nonetheless proceeded to govern as if he had won a landslide. Can you really imagine a triumphant Mr. Trump showing restraint out of respect for all those libertarian votes?

Your vote matters, and you should act accordingly — which means thinking seriously about what you want to see happen to America.

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