“The leaks are real. The news is fake.”
-- Donald Trump at Thursday's press conference
Okay, I've got this one. Please, let me take it. I had my hand up first.
If the news from the leaks were fake...then they' wouldn't be leaks.
This really isn't a hard concept. It's one or the other. You can't have it both ways, even in a world of "alternate facts." Easy though it is, let's break it down in small bites for Trump --
What makes news fake is if the leaks being reported are fake. On the other hand, If the leaks are real, that's specifically what makes the news reporting them real. It doesn't work any other way.
The thing is, figuring out the reality is even easier. After all, if the leaks were fake, then Trump wouldn't be upset about there being non-existent leaks and wouldn't be claiming the intelligence services was involved in illegal acts doing something that isn't real. Since they were fake. But given that he is upset, even calling a press conference at which spoke haphazardly for an hour and a quarter about how upset he is, the only thing to be upset about is that the news about real leaks is real.
But then, it's clear that Trump.has a challenge with what is real and fake. This was most pronounced during an exchange during the same press conference when NBC news reporter Peter Alexander confronted Trump directly about his difficultly with facts. He pointed out that Trump has repeatedly said that he had the most Electoral votes since Ronald Reagan, and Alexander then noted (using specific, accepted facts) that this isn't remotely true, which lead to his question, that if Trump is charging others with supposedly "fake news," and he himself is passing off information that is actually fake, "Why should Americans trust you?"
It's an admirable, bold question, but one where Alexander wisely came prepared with irrefutable, established facts. And it clearly caught Trump off-guard, since he wan't his usual confrontational, bullying self in response. Indeed, his initial reply has been overlooked by most coverage since he said it while Alexander was talking, so it's easy to miss.
If you listen closely to the tape (which I post below) Alexander points out that Barack Obama got more Electoral votes, and Trump interrupts, trying to cover himself by saying that he had only been talking about Republican presidents. Now, of course, this is not remotely true, he's always been talking about what a major victory he had, period. Not merely just "for a Republican." But all elections. As I said, though, most coverage missed that because he's talking over Alexander..
Yet the reporter goes on finishing his question, as he notes that both George Bush and George W. Bush -- each of them of course Republicans -- got more Electoral Votes than Trump, which refutes not only Trump's actual lie but even his attempted obfuscation.
And the best Trump can do is keep repeating that "I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.” And after Alexander contradicts him with more acknowledged facts and finally asks his question about why Americans should trust him, all Trump does is continue to repeat himself, "I was given that information. Actually, I’ve seen that information around."
Where did he see it around, on Twitter? On Breitbart? On InfoWars? Written on a napkin?
He's the president of the United States. He has the most expert news sources in the world Surrounded by research teams and analysts entrusted with the most impactful information a government can have. And he's defending fake information someone (he says) put in front of him that can be refuted in a fourth grade history book without calling in his army of top experts to double-check with them? Any one of whom could say in a blink, "No, that isn't true. I can put together a research report for you. Or wait, let me do a quick Google search, it'll take me eight seconds."
Besides which, he's president of the United States. Doesn't he himself just KNOW how many Electoral votes his predecessors got??? Even if he didn't learn it during the course of the past couple decades, it was all over theis year's election coverage. The real election coverage. But then, who knows what he knows and how that compares to what he says and what he believes and what he wants to believe.
In the end, unable to really contradict Peter Alexander with reality, his last effort was to meaninglessly and childishly spurt out, "But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”
Alexander paused a moment, and very diplomatically but pointedly replied in a non-answer, "You're the president."
Of course, the real answer is -- "I don't know, what do you consider 'substantial'? Given that you had a smaller Electoral margin than two-thirds of our presidents in history, and given that all of your predecessors up to Ronald Reagan each had an election with more Electoral votes than you, and you lost the popular vote by almost three million...then, no, honestly, I do not agree that you had a substantial victory at all, let alone a 'very' substantial one. I think you squeaked by."
The leaks are real. The news is real. The so-called president is fake.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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