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Fri Oct 26, 2018, 07:59 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Liar In Chief

In 2003, Al Franken wrote a book called Lies: And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them, which was written about Fox News (Bill O'Reilly, in specific). Though the title now seems prophetic in the age of Trump, even Franken would have had a hard time believing back then how far the right wing would eventually go down this rabbit hole.

Case in point this week was pretty much everything Trump said all week long -- just like all the other weeks we've spent listening to his blatant lies. Most ironic were the statements his staff obviously forced him to make on the domestic terrorism unleashed by one of his followers. In a monotone voice reminiscent of a hostage video, Trump stated: "The bottom line is that Americans must unify, and we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens." Does anyone alive actually believe the president cares about "peace and love and harmony" anymore? The very idea is downright comic, even if the circumstances are not. Later in the same day, inside the White House, Trump led some of his supporters in a chant of "Lock him up!" in reference to George Soros, one of the bomber's targets. Trump even laughed as he answered back: "Lock him up!" How peaceful of him! How loving! How harmonious!

Trump also took time today to lament the real tragedy -- to him, of course. Which was that the news media was spending so much time on the worst targeted political bombing campaign in American history, rather than the politics of the midterm elections. He tweeted:

Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this "Bomb" stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows -- news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!

In other words, the bombs are bad because they are not helping Trump politically. Or, more succinctly: everything is always about Trump. Always.

Earlier in the week, Trump had been previewing how he would explain things if the midterms went against him. From a Politico report:

According to two people familiar with the conversations, Trump is distancing himself from a potential Republican thumping on Election Day. He's telling confidantes that he doesn't see the midterms as a referendum on himself, describing his 2020 reelection bid as "the real election." And he says that he holds {House Speaker Paul Ryan} and {Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell} responsible for protecting their congressional majorities. According to one person with knowledge of these talks, Trump has said of Ryan and McConnell: "These are their elections... and if they screw it up, it's not my fault." Other sources said Trump is sure to lash out at perhaps his favorite bogeyman of all -- the media -- for allegedly opposing him.

Now, though, it seems like Trump is pivoting to attempting to blame any midterm losses on the bomber, and (of course) on the media for covering the story.

But of course, Trump's been lying about lots of other things as well. The Toronto Star had the best rundown of how Trump is attempting to close the deal on the midterms:

Democrats will kick seniors off their health insurance. Democrats will end insurance protections for people with health problems. Democrats will destroy the Social Security retirement system. Democrats will give illegal immigrants free cars. Democrats will abolish America's borders. Democrats are behind the latest migrant caravan from Latin America. That caravan includes people from the Middle East.

False, false, false, false, false, false, false.

U.S. President Donald Trump made a brief attempt to campaign on his record of accomplishments but, as the November congressional elections approach, he has traded that shiny new positivity for the well-worn tactic that helped him win the presidency in 2016: a blizzard of fear-mongering and lies, many of them about darker-skinned foreigners.

Trump has been a serial liar about just about everything for his entire tenure in office, but he has rarely before deployed so many complete fabrications about so many important subjects at the same time.

But apparently all of this wasn't enough for Trump, so he tried to outdo himself by just making up a magic tax cut that was going to appear before November. Here's the best rundown of this particular falsehood:

In recent days President Donald Trump has twice promised a new "major tax cut" ahead of the November midterm elections, mystifying White House officials, congressional leaders, and tax wonks around town who mostly have no idea what he's talking about.

. . .

White House officials spent the day trying to decode what Trump meant because no one knew the substance of any such tax cut, or had seen any policy proposal related to it. Aides were left wondering what Trump had read in newspaper clippings, or seen on Twitter, to inspire this grand promise from his rally podium.

One senior administration official on Sunday night had not even heard about the president's tax cut remark on Saturday in Nevada and said they had no idea what he was talking about. "I guess I'll hear about it when I get to work on Monday," the official said.

Trump said that House Speaker Paul Ryan was involved in crafting the plan. But Ryan's office shed no light, referring questions back to the White House.

What is truly bizarre about this Trump lie is that he is not talking about the signature legislative accomplishment of his first two years: the tax cut he did sign into law. Why talk about fake new tax cuts when there are honest-to-goodness actual tax cuts?

Well, because everybody -- even Republican voters -- already has figured out that the Trump tax cut did nothing more than line the pockets of the very wealthiest Americans and Wall Street.

But the most hilarious lie this week must have been when Trump tweeted: "Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican" at almost the same time as his administration was (once again) working feverishly to dismantle those protections:

Under guidance issued Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), states seeking federal waivers to run their insurance marketplaces will be given much more leeway. That includes the ability to apply ACA subsidies to short-term and association health plans -- two types of coverage the administration has expanded as a way of making cheaper plans available to those who want them. These plans don't include coverage of certain "essential" benefits like mental-health services and prenatal care and they can refuse to cover people with preexisting conditions.

It's not just the media who are now boldly pointing out what a liar Trump is, either. Here's Chuck Schumer's reaction to that last one: "Good morning America. This is a lie. It is simply not true that Republicans will protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, Mr. President."

The New York Times broke a big story this week which has (so far) exposed a glaring double-standard for Republicans. It seems that Donald Trump has an unsecured iPhone that he uses to call up his friends all the time to chat about everything under the sun. His own security people have begged him not to use it, but Trump has completely ignored their advice. The Times is reporting that because this phone is not secure, both China and Russia have tapped Trump's line and have been listening to his private conversations all along.

Remember when the security of a high-ranking politician was a big concern for Republicans? Remember when they darkly warned of this being a threat to national security? Of course, that was back when the subject at hand was Hillary Clinton's email server. Remember how many congressional investigations were launched over this subject? So, if they were morally or intellectually consistent, Republicans would now be launching similar investigations into Trump blowing a giant hole in national security -- but, of course, they aren't. They can't be bothered. They believe Trump's lies that he never uses such a phone.

Omarosa, who actually worked closely with Trump in the White House, tweeted out about Trump's phone habits: "He ALWAYS used his personal iPhone in WH for calls even after being told over and over again about the security risk. He disliked his secure gov issued cell -- he said it was slow and 'buggy'."

OK, there has been so much major news this week that we're just going to have to whip through everything else in lightning fashion. More Trump administration news you may have missed: an official policy which erases the concept of transgendered people entirely from federal law is almost ready to be rolled out. Also, the Trump administration is pulling America out of yet another international agreement, this time the I.N.F. treaty with Russia that limits the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Ronald Reagan himself signed this treaty, but today's GOP doesn't seem to care anymore.

Trump has been making as much political hay over a caravan of people attempting to reach the American border, which has led (predictably) to a lot of thinly-disguised racism and fearmongering from the White House and elsewhere.

In other campaign news, yet another Republican candidate for office is being denounced in an ad -- by his own family. This makes at least two during this election cycle, which is kind of astonishing. Republicans up in Montana mailed out false voting information to what they said was a list of Republican-leaning voters, so hopefully they'll all follow their party's advice and vote too late to be counted. It would serve them right.

Other amusing campaign news: the baby Trump in diapers balloon will fly over Grand Rapids, Michigan this weekend. Woo hoo! Best political blimp we've ever seen, hands down.

This isn't really election news, but it is amusing. Trump ignored his spellchecker twice this week, both of which spurred hilarious mockery on social media. He first called the caravan in Mexico a "National Emergy," and then followed it up with fearmongering about "Democrat inspired laws" which "make it tough for us to stop people at the Border." He then darkly (and hilariously) warned: "MUST BE CHANDED," which sparked a fresh round of amusement online. Best response we read: "If we don't Chand, we will not covfefe."

But not everything in the news was as lighthearted. The strongest storm to hit any American territory since 1935 wiped out the Northern Marianas (an American territory in the Pacific Ocean), but the national news media largely just ignored it rather than send a camera crew or anything.

Speaking of the news media, Megyn Kelly got the axe from NBC this week, after leading a discussion with other white people about what exactly constituted racism. Kelly tried to make the case that white kids wearing blackface was perfectly OK when she was a child, which went over like a lead balloon. She apologized the next day, but it wasn't enough, and by week's end her morning show had been yanked.

In other intolerance news, the ashes of Matthew Shepard were laid to rest in the National Cathedral today, alongside Helen Keller and other important American figures who have been deemed worthy of the honor. Shepard was viciously murdered in one of the worst hate crimes imaginable, twenty years ago.

Also today, the Republic of Ireland will be voting on a referendum to remove the crime of blasphemy from the books. Now, the last time a person was convicted of this crime was way back in 1702, but even so the Irish public felt that such a law really had no place in their modern society. Ireland has been becoming a lot more secular in the past few years, so this is really just part of this transition. In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, and earlier this year they successfully voted in a landslide to repeal their constitutional ban on abortion.

Of course, here in America we don't have national referenda on specific laws or issues, which is why the federal government still considers marijuana more dangerous than crystal meth or fentanyl -- even though a record-breaking 66 percent of the public now supports full legalization. That is pretty stunning and represents a wild swing in public opinion in just the past few years. The voters want to end the War On Weed by a stunning majority of two-to-one, and yet the politicians on both sides of the aisle are still too timid to act. A pox on both their houses!

Of all the Democrats in tight races this year, one in particular stands out because while Republican efforts at voter suppression have been going on in many places, in Georgia they're much more blatant and obvious.

First there were the 50,000 voter registrations held up for spurious reasons, of which -- what a coincidence! -- over 70 percent were African-American voters. Then one particular suburban county got so creative in their efforts to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible that a federal judge had to smack them down. Here's the whole story:

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Georgia election officials to stop summarily tossing absentee ballots because of mismatched signatures, delivering a crucial win to voting-rights advocates -- and to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The ruling resulted from two lawsuits filed earlier this month after election officials in a single Atlanta suburb, Gwinnett County, rejected hundreds of absentee ballots with signature discrepancies, missing addresses or incorrect birth years. The plaintiffs... argued that allowing nonexpert election officials to judge the validity of signatures without giving voters the chance to contest the decisions amounted to unconstitutional voter suppression. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May agreed, and she ordered Secretary of State Brian Kemp to instruct all local election officials to stop rejecting absentee ballots over the mismatched signatures. Instead, such ballots will be marked "provisional," and the voter will be given the right to appeal the decision or confirm his or her identity.

Throughout it all, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has fought back hard, in the best way possible: by getting as many eligible African-Americans registered as she could manage. Her opponent is the sitting secretary of state, meaning he's responsible for overseeing the election. No conflict of interest there, right? He was caught on tape recently warning his supporters that if everyone voted who was eligible, that they'd be in serious trouble.

Let's hope so.

Stacey Abrams would make the history books if she wins, because she would then become the first African-American woman to be governor of any state in the nation. That seems like a big motivating factor for Georgia voters.

Abrams has been running a very impressive campaign all along, which was capped this week by a televised debate with Brian Kemp. In it, she was asked about attending a rally years ago where a Georgia state flag -- a large portion of which (at the time) was the Confederate battle flag -- was burned in protest. Rather than try to weasel her way out, instead Abrams defended her stance back then:

In Tuesday's gubernatorial debate, Abrams said she was "proud of Georgia and proud to be a Georgian," but "deeply disturbed" by what the Confederate symbol stood for.

"Twenty-six years ago as a college freshman, I along with many other Georgians -- including the governor of Georgia -- were deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that was embedded in the state flag with that Confederate symbol," Abrams said in a response to a question, according to CNN. She called the protest "an action of peaceful protest" that reflected the views of many.

"I said that that was wrong," she added about the Confederate symbol. "And 10 years later, my opponent, {Georgia Secretary of State} Brian Kemp, actually voted to remove that symbol."

Stacey Abrams has run an impressive campaign from beginning to end. She is trying to alter the face of the Georgia electorate in a single election. And she just might succeed. The South has been a Republican stronghold for over a generation now, but slowly some of these states are turning either purple or blue (Virginia, North Carolina). If Abrams manages an upset in Georgia, it will be one of the biggest triumphs of the midterm election cycle.

For fighting hard all the way, and for pushing back strongly on attempts by her opponent to suppress the will of the voters, Stacey Abrams is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

{We do not, as a rule, link to candidates' campaign websites, so you'll have to look up contact information for Stacey Abrams yourself, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.}

This one's a pretty easy call, this week. The Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week was Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. Avenatti has been quite open about considering a possible run for the Democratic nomination for president, because he thinks he'd have the best chance of being able to take down Trump.

This week, however, he absolutely disqualified himself, in Time magazine. Here's how HuffPost reported it:

Michael Avenatti, a prospective presidential candidate and the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, argued in a Time profile out Thursday that Democrats will have the best shot at reclaiming the Oval Office if they nominate a white male.

The basis of his thinking is not that white men are most qualified for the job, but that people listen to them more.

"I think it better be a white male," Avenatti, a white male, said of the party's 2020 nominee.

"When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight," he said. "Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes."

Hoo boy. Now, this could conceivably have helped him win a Republican primary race, but it absolutely torpedoed his chances in a contest among Democrats. Our guess is that he will try mightily, but he will never manage to live down this particular quote. Or, perhaps, more succinctly: stick a fork in him, he's done.

For saying such a boneheaded thing in a thinly-veiled attempt to boost his own political chances, Michael Avenatti easily wins the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

{Michael Avenatti is currently a private citizen, and as a rule we do not provide contact information for such persons, so you'll have to search his information out yourself if you'd like to let him know what you think of his attitude.}

Volume 506 (10/26/18)

This week, we're devoting our entire talking points section to slamming Trump, because it has just been one of those weeks when it seems necessary. None of this should ever be seen by anyone as normal, because it really isn't. These are crazy times, and we need to all be reminded of just how crazy they are.

Words matter

Republicans, from Trump on down, are in the midst of a "Who, me?" moment. No surprise, really.

"We've seen, this week, how pushing hatred in politics can turn out. In fact, it was entirely predictable that someone would start seeing political opponents as so evil that attacking them with violence seemed like a reasonable response. But this sort of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum. Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN -- a media outlet that was the target of two of the bombs -- pointed this out in no uncertain terms, issuing the following statement:"

There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.

"A Washington Post writer had some further advice for the president: 'Today would be a good day for Trump to tell Americans that journalists are not the enemy of the people.' Trump, of course, did not do so. He does not accept any of the blame, and he sees nothing wrong in apocalyptic rhetoric against his opponents. But Jeff Zucker is right -- words do matter. This is not a game. Attempted mass murder of political opponents has never happened before in America. But if Trump continues to fearmonger and demonize to win political points, it may sadly not be the only such case we see before he leaves office."

Trump now embraces "nationalist" label

Once again, words matter.

"Donald Trump this week decided to embrace the term 'nationalist,' while seemingly unaware of all the negative connotations that term has. In one of the prepared statements Trump read off a TelePrompTer this week, he denounced those who, quote, carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains,' and then went right ahead and compared himself to historical villainy. With such a friend in the White House, the white supremacists are feeling increasingly emboldened to just come right out and display their naked racism in public. This week, a neo-Nazi group started a new robocall campaign in Florida, where African-American Andrew Gillum is running for governor. The call starts off with a minstrel voice which says: 'Well hello there. I is the Negro Andrew Gillum, and I be asking you to make me governor of this here state of Florida.' It gets much worse from that point on, too. There's a reason that these nationalist groups are coming out of the woodwork and operating openly now, and that is that they think they have a friend in Donald Trump and Trump's Republican Party. Words do matter, Mister President."

It wouldn't surprise me a bit

Nobody's speculated on this one yet, so allow us to be the first.

"You know what? At this point, it would not surprise me in the least if Donald Trump decides that the Florida man accused of mailing over a dozen pipe bombs to Democratic politicians, Democratic supporters, and the media doesn't deserve any consequences for his heinous actions. Maybe he'll wait until after the midterms, but it wouldn't surprise me if Trump decided to sign a full pardon for the guy tomorrow. That's the state of our politics today -- that I can even contemplate the president of the United States pardoning a man responsible for attempted mass murder of the president's political opponents. But you know what? It wouldn't surprise me a bit, at this point."

Trump lies! (part one)

Part of an ongoing series, obviously....

"Donald Trump is nothing short of our Liar in Chief, now. He is just making stuff up that directly contradicts reality, on a daily basis. He tweeted out the following: 'Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not!' in the same week that his own administration changed the rules so that insurance companies can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. He's hoping the voters just won't notice how big a lie this actually is. He's hoping they've just conveniently forgotten that multi-year effort Republicans launched to gut Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. You know -- the one that Democrats fought tooth and nail. What idiot could possibly believe that Republicans care one tiny bit about people with pre-existing conditions when they've spent so much time and energy trying to destroy those protections? How stupid does Trump think the voters are?"

Trump lies! (part two)

Ah, but there's more....

"Trump continues to just make stuff up, in the hopes that his followers will believe it, even though all available evidence shows he is flat-out lying. Just this week, he pulled the idea of a middle-class tax cut out of his hindquarters during a speech to a rally. He promised his followers that Congress would pass a 10 percent tax cut before the end of the month. This would be just about impossible, seeing as how Congress isn't even in session until after the elections. Nobody -- not his own advisors, not any GOP leaders in Congress -- had any idea of what he was talking about. But it didn't matter to Trump -- he thought the idea sounded good, so he fed it as red meat to his followers. He also took the time to warn that 'Middle Easterners' had infiltrated the caravan of refugees in Mexico, again with absolutely no proof whatsoever. Hey, Central Americans are brown, Middle Easterners are brown, so they must have banded together, right? It's astonishing to watch the president of the United States just make stuff up and ignore all evidence which proves he is doing nothing short of lying. But that's the Trump era for you...."

Trump believes Saudi lies

It's not just his own lies Trump loves, though.

"In fact, the only entity which lied more than Trump this week was the government of Saudi Arabia, which keeps changing its story on how exactly a man walked into one of their consulates and left in pieces to be buried at an undisclosed location. But the really shocking thing is not the parade of lies from the Saudis but rather that -- at every stage of this progression -- Donald Trump has been convinced that they're telling him the truth. Trump even helped the Saudis out by floating the idea of, quote, rogue killers, unquote. Maybe Trump believes the Saudis because he has lost any ability to tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Or maybe he never had this ability in the first place -- it's hard to tell, at this point."

Trump putting national security at risk

And finally, remember all those "Lock her up" chants?

"It was revealed this week that Donald Trump has an iPhone that his own security personnel cannot control, and that he uses it frequently to talk to people he doesn't want listed on the White House call logs. But because this is an unsecured phone, the Russians and the Chinese are tapping into every call he makes. Now, I seem to remember back in the 2016 campaign when Trump was outraged that a politician would ever use a communications method that was insecure, don't you? Remember all the anger directed towards Hillary Clinton's email server? Remember why Trump and his minions were so angry? They said it was because she was putting national security at risk. So I'm sure that all of those people who were so bent out of shape over Hillary's emails will now be equally outraged that Trump's talking to Tucker Carlson and all his other buddies over a phone that is being tapped by the Chinese and the Russians, right? What's that? They don't care in the slightest? How strange! Maybe Trump should start leading chants of 'Lock ME up!' at his rallies, or something."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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