Quick Takes: Media’s Handwringing Over What to Call Trump’s Lies

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Maggie Haberman set off an explosion with this tweet:

* Pete Vernon does a good job of summarizing the media frenzy over what to call Trump’s lies.

Critics were appalled at Haberman’s deliberate use of a term that falls somewhere short of “lie,” and the argument consumed political media conversations on Twitter for much of the weekend. Some defended her—and the Times’s—judgment, but many (including actor John Cusack) impugned her credibility and accused her of being soft on the administration. I’ve argued in the past that we need to do away with euphemisms like “racially charged” when the president says something demonstrably racist. But the debate over when to use the L-word is nuanced. Trump provides steady stream of untrue statements, but are all of them lies?

* Kevin Drum provides some useful context based on what Trump has actually said about his lies.

“People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you.”
To Billy Bush after Bush called him out for inflating his ratings.

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
  At a rally in Iowa.

“You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”
To Lesley Stahl, explaining why he constantly attacks the press.

“I call it truthful hyperbole.”
From The Art of the Deal.

Trump told one ally this week that he wanted “to brand” the informant a “spy,” believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public.
Explaining why he falsely insisted that Stefan Halper was a “spy.”

“They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”
After his inauguration, admitting that he lied about unemployment figures.

* The big (?) news of the day is that ABC cancelled “Roseanne” after she once again demonstrated her racism. Because it comes from a somewhat unlikely source, I’ll let Shep Smith explain.

* Speaking of racists, this is how McKay Coppins introduces a profile of Stephen Miller.

It’s late on a friday afternoon in March, and I’m sitting across from Stephen Miller in his spacious, sunlit West Wing office, trying to figure out whether he’s trolling me.

This is no easy task. A provocateur as skilled as Miller doesn’t just announce when he’s saying something outlandish to get a rise out of you—he tries to make you think he means it. So you have to look for the subtle tells. The fleeting half-smirk when he refers to himself as a “conservative social-justice warrior” early in the conversation. The too-emphatic tone he takes later when he says the best movie he’s seen in the past 15 years is The Dark Knight Rises, and then chides you for not properly appreciating its commentary on the French Revolution…

In conversation, he slides from authentic insight into impish goading and back again. It’s a compelling performance to watch—but after an hour and a half in his office, I realize I’m still straining to locate where the trolling ends and true belief begins.

* Lauren Etter and Michael Riley tell the story about the pro-Trump effort to keep Black voters from the polls in 2016.

Breitbart News landed an election scoop that went viral in August 2016: “Exclusive: ‘Black Men for Bernie’ Founder to End Democrat ‘Political Slavery’ of Minority Voters… by Campaigning for Trump.”

If the splashy, counterintuitive story, which circulated on such conservative websites as Truthfeed and Infowars, wasn’t exactly fake news, it was carefully orchestrated.

The story’s writer—an employee of the conservative website run by Steve Bannon before he took over Donald Trump’s campaign—spent weeks courting activist Bruce Carter to join Trump’s cause. He approached Carter under the guise of interviewing him. The writer eventually dropped the pretense altogether, signing Carter up for a 10-week blitz aimed at convincing black voters in key states to support the Republican real estate mogul, or simply sit out the election. Trump’s narrow path to victory tightened further if Hillary Clinton could attract a Barack Obama-level turnout.

Bannon’s deployment of the psychological-operations firm Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 campaign drew fresh attention this month, when a former Cambridge employee told a U.S. Senate panel that Bannon tried to use the company to suppress the black vote in key states. Carter’s story shows for the first time how an employee at Bannon’s former news site worked as an off-the-books political operative in the service of a similar goal.

* Here is the toll of perhaps the biggest disaster of the Trump administration to date:

At least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria and its devastation across Puerto Rico last year, according to a new Harvard study released Tuesday, an estimate that far exceeds the official government death toll, which stands at 64.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that health-care disruption for the elderly and the loss of basic utility services for the chronically ill had significant impacts across the U.S. territory, which was thrown into chaos after the September hurricane wiped out the electrical grid and had widespread impacts on infrastructure. Some communities were entirely cut off for weeks amid road closures and communications failures.

* Be prepared…we know what’s coming.

* Trump has finally surpassed Obama’s record on something.

Despite teeing off on President Barack Obama for spending too much time golfing, President Donald Trump has hit the links more frequently than his predecessor, according to an ABC News analysis.
Trump’s trips to a golf course have topped 102 through his first 493 days in office, according to an ABC News tally of the president’s activities…Obama golfed his 102nd round at Fort Belvoir, Virginia on July 15, 2012 -– his 1,273rd day in office.

Personally I have no problem with presidents golfing. Its the hypocrisy, stupid.

* Finally, I don’t watch TV talent shows. But a friend who knows how much I love this song sent this video to me. All I can say is, “Wow, Matthew has some soul to go along with that amazing set o’ pipes!”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.