Gaslighting 101

Yesterday, Trump and Pence faced a “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl which has been a pre-election tradition since CBS launched its show in 1968. Trump had the same interview four years ago but this time he behaved contentiously and obnoxiously, much like his first debate with Joe Biden.

From the outset Trump interrupted Stahl and browbeat her. He accused her of unfairness even though up to that point all she had asked him were about common facts on the ground. It was obvious that his game plan for this interview was to keep Stahl on her back foot and away from questions he didn’t want to answer two weeks before Election Day. He behaved like an arrogant, entitled thug, sounding more like an evasive mob witness at the Kefauver Hearings than an incumbent president trying to sell his message to undecided voters.  Besides the daisy chain of boilerplate lies we’ve heard from him hundreds of times before, which I’ll get to in a moment, that was essentially the subtext of the entire interview. It had the added body language of a frightened, semi-deranged animal about to bolt from his chair and run from the room. Which is what he did.

Trump’s unabashed dishonesty in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary has been a hallmark of this administration for the past four years. It was never more obvious than his denial of Stahl’s statement that Trump had pleaded with a rally audience, “Suburban women, will you please like me?!  Please? Please?” Trump got testy and denied it emphatically with “No, I didn’t say that! That’s so misleading… the way you said that is why people think of you and everyone else as Fake News!” This was after Stahl played him a video clip of him saying exactly that, word for word.

It was like Trump was practicing for his upcoming subpoenas from the NY Attorney General and Manhattan DA. If so, his lawyers should tell him that people don’t get to walk out on those interviews and that false statements under oath lead to perjury charges. So perhaps he should be practicing his post-election Q&A delivery instead: “On the advice of counsel I invoke my right against self-incrimination, and respectfully decline to answer your question.

Here are some highlights, and fact checks, from the interview:

Trump: (01:33) Well, ultimately let me, and I’ll tell you, it was happening. We created the greatest economy in the history of our country and the other side was having-

In terms of economic accomplishment, that distinction definitely belongs to the “other side“, i.e. the former administration of the man Trump’s facing in 2020. Trump has obsessed for years on smearing Obama, including an economy that Trump was gifted and did little to improve. 90% of what Trump takes credit for creating was actually accomplished by the Obama/Biden administration. He inherited an economy with 80 straight months of economic growth in the 2-3% range, 4.7% unemployment and 12.2 million jobs created — the third highest in history and twice the job creation under Trump. In 2016 Trump promised to do even better with “4, 5, and maybe 6% growth“. But the average annual growth from 2017-2019 was just a mediocre 2.5%.  Then it tanked in 2020 to record lows. Q1 was -5% and Q2 was a jaw-dropping -31%. Even the rosiest GDP prediction for the 2020 annual GPD is -3.7%, or much worse than 2009 following the global banking collapse.

In addition industrial output tanked under Trump, and that began long before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19. Trump’s singular economic achievement has been a record high stock market, which was undoubtedly fueled by $1.5 trillion in tax cuts mostly to corporations and the “investor class” and paid for by taxpayers. PS: if you want to know what happened to Trump’s campaign promise of $1.5 trillion for infrastructure, now you know.

Trump:  (01:44) Best unemployment numbers, best employment numbers, 160 million people working…

Wrong. Obama dropped the unemployment rate from 10% and handed Trump 4.7% unemployment on Jan 20, 2017 with a solid trajectory for even lower numbers. Trump reduced it just another 1.1%, But now unemployment is almost twice what he inherited from Obama: 7.9%. There have also been 26 straight weeks of record-high unemployment claims under Trump so not so “best”.

Trump: (02:41) And then we got hit with the plague and we had to do it again. And we closed it up and I saved millions of lives. Millions of lives we saved.

It would interesting to hear Trump define exactly what he did to save those millions of lives. It certainly wasn’t his non-existent travel bans, which were just State Dept Level 4 travel advisories that had no restrictive affect on either the airlines or US citizens, green card holders or their families. That’s why 40,000+ people entered the US just from from China in the three months after that so-called ban and why foreign airlines from Pacific Rim countries continued to fly to/from China via American portal airports. It’s also how the virus got here: from Americans who traveled in infected regions abroad and brought it home without quarantining.

It certainly wasn’t because Trump ordered a national response to defeat the virus, which unlike virtually every other nation, he still hasn’t done yet. I would urge anyone who wants to know just how little Trump did to watch an amazing documentary on Hulu and YouTube: Totally Under Control. (My friend, Lindy, won the Critic’s Choice “Best Editing” for it).

It certainly isn’t the example he has personally set for his staff and the country, which resulted in Trump and 38 other White House figures catching the virus.

Trump: (03:21) They’re [China] an adversary. They’re a competitor. They’re a foe in many ways, but they’re an adversary. I think what happened was disgraceful. It should never have happened. They should never have allowed this plague to get out of China and go throughout the world. 188 countries. It should never have happened.

There’s a good chance that it wouldn’t have left China, or at least entered the US, if Trump hadn’t defunded the pandemic early warning response team that Bush2 and Obama had set up especially to monitor and set policy for such global health emergencies. I urge everyone to watch a jaw-dropping documentary released just this week on Hulu called Totally Under Control. It shows just how far off into the weeds Trump has driven us since the last three administrations.

Sadly though, it would still depend on having a proactive president brave enough to alienate some of his base during an election year so maybe not. It’s all about priorities for Trump: saving tens of thousands of lives or getting re-elected. We know where his head is. And let’s be clear: the US had 80,000 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday.  China had 28. Coronavirus became the “Trump Flu” for most of the world way back in May. That’s why almost every nation on the planet is refusing entry to Americans and letting the Chinese back in. Because to most countries we’re Trump’s China.

Trump: (04:57) We do more testing than any country in the world by far. Second is India with 1.5 billion people. We do more testing. If we did half the testing, we’d have half the cases. If we did no testing, like many countries, we would have very few cases. Because we do so much testing, the fake news media loves to say cases are up. The fact is we’ve done a very, very good job.

This is both idiotic logic and a flat out lie.  It’s like saying if we didn’t do pregnancy testing there would be no pregnancies. The proof’s in the pudding, Trump: the US has the greatest number of Coronavirus deaths in the world. Second place Brazil isn’t even close.  One in 38 Americans has or had Coronavirus. That makes us 13th worst in the world, in company with second-tier Arab nations like Qatar and Bahrain and Central/South American countries like Panama and Peru. We’re also only 19th in the world for per capita testing. All these numbers are published on the WorldOMeter page with sortable columns to expose Trump’s bullshit.

Trump: (05:53) We’re rounding the corner. We’re doing well. We’re doing well. We understand the disease. I saved millions of people. 2.2 million people were supposed to die. You go back and you look at your models, 2.2 million people. We saved tremendous numbers of people. Plus I closed it very early from China, heavily infected, and even from Europe heavily infected, we’ve done a good job. We’ve done maybe a great job. What we haven’t done a good job on is convincing people like you because you’re really quite impossible to convince, but that’s okay.

When Trump said that I swear it sounded to me like he said “coroner“.  Anyway, this isn’t even close to anything resembling the truth. The fact is that last Friday the US set an all-time high for new infections since this pandemic began: 83,000 new cases in one day. That’s not just a record high for the US but for every other country in the world. The only corner we turned was on to the road to 100,000+ new cases per day by the end of November from this “hoax” of a “flu” that “will be gone tomorrow“. (Update: by Dec 1 we hit double that number: 203,000 new cases in a single day!)

2.2 million people wasn’t a statistic. It was WHO’s estimate for the number of Americans who might die if we did absolutely nothing, which is actually pretty much what Trump has done. Nothing. Fortunately, state governors like Andrew Cuomo recognized the enormity of the emergency, stepped up and did the fed’s job as best they could.  And, like everything else in Trump’s useless life, he’s taking credit for other people’s work and blaming others for his own failures.

Trump: (09:22) Leslie, we just picked up 11.4 million jobs. It’s the largest number in the history of our country in a short period of time.

While 11.4 million jobs were added over five months is a fact, there was another, much larger record set here: the loss of about 22.2 million jobs in August and September alone. That too is a record that Trump owns. The US is still down 10.7 million jobs since March. Overall, Trump has presided over a loss of 3.9 million jobs since the beginning of his presidency. Only a tiny number of presidents have managed to do this, and only one other in the last 80 years: George W. Bush and the “jobless recovery”.

Trump: (10:38) … and we’ve done a good job, not a good job. We’ve done a great job. Remember that number, a very important number, 56% say they’re happier now than they were four years ago under Biden and Obama, right? I’ll put his name first, Biden and Obama. And they didn’t have a pandemic. Although, Biden did have a big problem with H1N1, which he says in reverse, with the H1N1, swine flu and it was a disaster. And his own chief of staff said it was a total disaster. They didn’t know what they were doing.

Bzzzt!  “Biden and Obama” inherited the most broken economy since 1929 due to a global financial meltdown. They turned it around with the longest period of economic growth in US history and passed that economy on to Trump. But like everything else Trump has inherited, he broke it. So where is Trump’s recovery?

There was no H1N1 epidemic in the US because it was stopped cold. did a fantastic job of dismantling Trump’s disingenuous equivocation so I’ll just link to it.

Trump also failed to mention what could have been a far worse epidemic: Ebola. It has a much higher fatality rate than Covid-19 but it was stopped during the Obama administration at eleven cases and two (2) deaths. Nevertheless, Trump rage-tweeted for weeks that Obama should apologize and resign because of them. So where is your apology and resignation for killing 230,000 Americans, Trump?

Trump: (17:11) We have large sections of it [the TrumpCare healthcare reform bill] already done. And we’ve already come up with plans, take a look at your various secretaries, various plans that we’ve already come up with. And also, a large part of this country has private health insurance, 180 million people. And under that, Biden, he doesn’t have any clue, but under that 180 million people will lose their health care. And they’ll go to socialized medicine, and that’s not going to be acceptable. 180 million people Lesley, will go to socialized medicine. It won’t be … it will not acceptable.

Buried under all that double-talk, Trump apparently can’t even keep track of his lies. Three weeks ago he crowed that he had finally released his prodigal health care plan that he’s been “putting the final touches on” for five years. Does anyone else see a pattern here, like with the release of his tax returns? Except what he released wasn’t even a health care plan! It was just a press release summarizing some executive orders Trump had passed over the last 3.5 years, some of which had little to do with health care. So with nobody biting on that stinky bait he’s apparently going to play this “real soon now” game once again. Unless one has a tumor blocking blood flow to the brain, it should be obvious to everyone by now that Trump has no health care plan other than to incinerate something else with Obama’s name on it.

Trump: (21:22) Leslie, let me ask you. You think it’s okay for the Mayor of Moscow’s wife to give him millions and millions of dollars, three and a half million dollars, to give his family three and a half? Do you think it’s okay for Hunter Biden to say that we’re giving the big guy 10% of this massive amount of money they’re taking? Do you think it’s okay for all of these horrible things that you’ve seen, where they’re getting hundreds of thousands, and millions of dollars, where China gives them a billion and a half dollars to manage, the family, a billion and a half dollars, and then he’s supposed to negotiate? Let me tell you, it’s the second biggest scandal. The biggest scandal was when they spied on my campaign. They spied on my campaign.

I’ll let CNN debunk this “Trumped Up” bullshit about Hunter Biden and the mayor of Moscow’s wife, who incidentally wasn’t the mayor at the time of this alleged incident and was, in fact, dead at the time. If anything, it shows how squeaky clean Biden’s 47-year political career in Washington has been that Trump and his professional character assassins have to stoop to manufacturing a phony case against his son with zero evidence to support it.

Trump is right about one thing: for a high-ranking political figure to have private financial dealings with a country over which he has regulatory control would be a huge conflict of interests, highly suspicious and worthy of law enforcement investigation, especially in the case of a president who has been found with an unreported bank account in China, from which we know he personally withdrew $15 million in 2017. As for Hunter Biden’s dealings with China, who cares?  He does not now nor has he ever held political office.

As for his “biggest scandal”, Trump is apparently referencing the lawfully executed criminal investigation based on a preponderance of evidence, most of which was proven true. Trump has yet to answer for the eleven (11) Obstruction of Justice referrals to Congress from the special prosecutor in that investigation for his own malfeasance in that FBI investigation.

Problem is, two weeks ago Trump’s Biggest Scandal involved something nebulous and horrible that Obama allegedly did. Maybe there are two Biggest Scandals?  Or more?

So what’s next?

Ideally, Trump is driven from office along with all the ass-kissing hacks and corrupt poseurs he’s appointed to positions of power, a/k/a Trump’s “best people”, who have absolutely high-sided  government’s response to public health, national security, the economy and statesmanship in general. Then we repair the damage and get the country back on the rails again.

The Washington Post produced an excellent video documentary about the history of America’s response to pandemic threats since the age of Clinton/Gore. Clinton got it. Bush2 got it. Obama got it. The people who worked for them all got it. They understood what was at stake if the country wasn’t prepared for a biological event, if it delayed and made careless missteps, if the nation lost faith in our leaders to protect us. That doom scenario looked like the Age of Trump.



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