And yet, on and on, Ms. McEnany went on, trying to explain that Trump was being honest and only talking about young people -- despite that, no, he wasn't, and, of course, despite there also being an actual recording of Trump telling Bob Woodward that he knew young people could get infected by it.
And as I listened to someone from the White House once again try to explain what Trump meant when he said something horrible and irresponsible and cruel and racist, I just started to wonder when it was that we formally went past the line where it become officially head-numbing to hear a White House spokesperson again explain "What the president meant when he said..." something.
I mean, words matter. But when it comes to the President of the United States, words not only matter, they can be life-and-death critical. A president should ever have to have it explained what he meant, but though in life that does occur on occasion, those occasions should be rare -- not something so common that the White House Communications Office has the words, "What the president meant when he said..." on speed dial and a macro.
Of course, most people know what Trump "meant" when he says something. We've heard him for four years. We know he meant something egomaniacal or cruel or untrue or racist. The only time we don't know is when it's totally incomprehensible and a mindless bunch of word less. Or "covfefe."
The thing is, this -- like most things -- isn't just about Trump, though he and his spokespeople have turned it into an art form. (Can we ever forget "alternative facts"?) But Republicans making bald-faced lies and then having to explain what they actually meant when the lie is too egregious even for them to double-down on and they're called out on it. The list is too long and massive, but a few leap out. Like when Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson said that President Obama was responsible for the battle that killed Captain Humayan Khan (son of Khizr Khan, who had spoken at the Democratic Convention) -- except the problem is that Capt. Khan did in Iraq in 2004, and Barack Obama didn't take office until 2008. And of course, there was Republican lying claims of birtherism long before Trump made it his campaign issue. And maybe one of the most legendary of all, there was the infamous article by Ron Suskind in 2004 when an unnamed W. Bush White House official (now believed to be Karl Rove) who chided Democrats for living in a "realty-based community" while Republicans "created our own reality."
In other words, you tell the truth, we make it up.
And that's just been standard operating procedure for Republicans. And as it often happens, I can delve into the archives and explain what I mean.
Back in 2011, I wrote an article about then-senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) getting caught in a lie so blatant that he ended up coming out with one of the more stupid, teeth-aching attempts to explain it away.
This isn't about Trump. It isn't even specifically about All Republicans. This is just one individual. But especially because of what his mind-numbing explanation for his lie was, it is all too indicative of what Republicans have been doing for decades, and what Trump does when he breathes. Over 20,000 Trump lies that the Washington Post documented in just over two years of his time in office.
Yes, all politicians lie. All people lie. But it's how you lie, what you lie about, how you explain your lie, how you correct your lie, if you correct your lie and why you lie that separates people.
This is just a look at Jon Kyl.. But when we live with this sort of thing for decades because one party has "created their own reality" and live on "alternative facts," and as a result of all that we now live with the standard, default White House explanation of "What the president meant when he said..." -- this is far more than a look at Jon Kyl. It's about Trump. And it's about much more than Trump, it's about the elected members of the Republican Party who enable him, are complicit and, in fact, long-since laid the foundation for him.
So, we head back to April 13, 2011.
As a young man, Jon Kyl, the Republican junior senator from Arizona, was convicted of selling heroin, and he spent eight months in federal prison.
This remark was not intended to be a factual statement. Rather, it was to illustrate that Jon Kyl, a Republican senator, is from Arizona.
Yes, that was unfair. But just because Jon Kyl wasn't actually convicted of drug crimes doesn't mean he hasn't committed any legal abuses. Make no mistake, in his early days in Arizona state politics, he was reprimanded for 12 ethics violations, though avoided expulsion on a technicality, changing the spelling of his name which originally was "John Kyle."
This remark was not intended to be a factual statement, either, rather it was to illustrate that Jon Kyl doesn't have the letter "H" in his name.
Joking aside, there is something I do admire Sen. Kyl for. It is his deft skill manipulating the English language to avoid responsibility for making a gross smear on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Addressing his senate colleagues, Mr. Kyl had said that abortions accounted for "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" - though the actual, truthful number is 3 percent. When later confronted over these shamefully inaccurate remarks now in the official Congressional Record, he hid behind his staff, which commented that "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions."
Forgetting for a moment that this isn't even an attempt at an apology, there only two options here: either Jon Kyl takes you for an idiot, or himself.
To be fair to Jon Kyl and sympathetic, he has unfortunately been painfully distracted lately, due to a bitter divorce he's going through, brought about by the exposure of a 12-year, secret affair with his secretary.
Just to clarify, this remark is not intended to be a factual statement, rather it was to illustrate that Jon Kyl has a secretary.
A case could be made that Jon Kyl knew his senate statement was a lie when he gave it, or at least that he didn't care whether it was false or not. But even if one chooses to graciously accept that it was just a horrific mistake - we all know what a proper reply should have been. We all know how we ourselves would have apologized. We would have said -
"I'm sorry. I made a mistake. I relied on information given to me, and I should have checked it myself. I apologize to Planned Parenthood, to my senate colleagues, and to the American public. I will immediately correct the Congressional Record. And will strive to make sure such a horrible error doesn't occur again."
We wouldn't have had a lackey say for us - "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement."
Jon Kyl's lie and lying response reminds me of an election several years back for the Writers Guild Board of Directors. An unsigned letter was mailed that smeared each candidate on an opposition slate. Later, one of the non-attacked candidates was asked for his reaction to the anonymous smear of his opponents. Not wanting to defend his opponents, he said with a thoughtful, sad expression, "The fact that it got all the names and some of the ages right is what made the letter so hurtful."
All I could think was, "No! The fact that it got all the names right is what made the letter - a smear."
It was the same attitude weaving through Jon Kyl's own smearing statement and smarmy, staff reply. It's as if the truth doesn't matter. That anything can be said if it helps you. And if you're forced to address the lie, dismiss it as not being intended to be the truth.
Of course it's not intended to be the truth. It was intended to smear!
This is an attitude that permeates the conservative movement these days. Democrats can lie, too, and when they do, it's just as wrong. But these days, the "say whatever you want," "truth be damned" weight has been falling more heavily on the Republican and conservative side. Perhaps because they're the ones in attack mode. Perhaps because the truth that Social Security, Medicare, universal healthcare, and public education all actually help people causes Republicans political trouble.
Whatever the reason, when the truth hurts you, and you choose to say anything to win, the truth doesn't matter.
To make a point attacking President Obama, Bill O'Reilly describes U.S. troops massacring Germans at Malmedy during WWII - when the truth is the exact opposite. To prove a rally was popular, Glenn Beck shows a photograph of the crowd - when the truth is that the photo was taken years before. To terrify the GOP base, Sarah Palin and others lie that Democrats want to kill old people. And on and on the spiral downward goes.
But of course, truth actually does matter. And we should not only expect it of our children, but also our politicians and social voices. Yes, I know that's a lot to expect. So, let's make it easy and start small -
Let's expect it of Jon Kyl.
That remark is intended to be a factual statement.