Fact Checkers Are Low-Balling Trump’s Lie Rate

The Toronto Star identified 25 lies that President Trump told in a thirty minute softball interview with Michael Schmidt of the New York Times. Some of these lies are fairly innocuous, like claiming that Sen. Diane Feinstein heads a committee when she actually serves as the senior member for the minority, i.e., the ranking member. Some are more serious, like his claim that millions of Americans are joining health care associations that don’t yet exist. My favorite lie is somewhere in-between.

16) “I know more about the big bills. … (Inaudible.) … Than any president that’s ever been in office. Whether it’s health care and taxes.”

There is no way to conclusively demonstrate that this false, but it’s so ridiculous that we are going to take a rare liberty and declare it false anyway. Trump has consistently misstated the details of major bills, spoken only in generalities about the health bill (“fantastic health-care”), and brushed off almost all specific questions. Whatever one thinks of Obamacare, Barack Obama demonstrated a vastly greater understanding of the nuances of his bill than Trump did about any version of the Republicans’ proposed replacement bills.

It bothers me when newspaper fact checkers contort themselves into pretzels in an effort to find any grain of truth in the president’s pronouncements, so it’s a relief to see an example where the benefit of the doubt is boldly abandoned. What Trump said here is a lie. It’s a giant, “ridiculous” lie. And there’s nothing wrong with saying so even though it’s obviously a subjective judgment. There’s really no need to try to explain how we know that Barack Obama “demonstrated a vastly greater understanding of the nuances of his [health] bill than Trump did about any version of [his own].” We just know.

Yes, it is generally better to be able to demonstrate how something is not factual by pointing to some statistics or a map or the historical record. But we don’t need some academic paper that tries to scientifically analyze the degree of understanding presidents have of their own legislation. There’s simply no effing way that Trump knows more about “the big bills” than Obama or Clinton or either of the two Bushes or even Ronald Reagan. Saying so is foolish and stupid.

And, frankly, we don’t write things in newspapers to convince every skeptic. We write for an informed audience that presumably cares about facts enough to spend part of their day seeking them out. They don’t deserve to be treated like infants. When Trump says something spit-out-your-drink false, the correct thing to do is to call it a lie.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.