It’s time to Break It Down!
For years Donald Trump repeated the trite and untrue bromide that Barack Obama was not born in America. He alleged that he sent his own investigators to Hawaii to prove that non-fact. Not surprisingly, they got zero, zilch, nada, not one scintilla of evidence supporting this ridiculous alternative fact, which by the way is defined as, not a fact.
Yesterday though, Mr. Trump reached way back into his virtual vault of anti-facts. Standing front and center before the United Nations General Assembly, he began to spin one of the yarns his beloved Red Cap crew perennially and unanimously finds so spastically titillating. However, in full disclosure, the foundation for this claim starts with a premise he falsely claimed long before he ever heard of Barack Obama.
Actually, for decades, Trump has argued that people the world over were laughing at Americans, especially their leaders, and ultimately, Barack Obama in particular. You might say he has maintained a decades long fixation with the notion of people in other countries deriding our president.
And yesterday, under the bright lights of one of the world’s most auspicious stages, in reaction to Trumpian pulp fiction, the honorable assembly laughed. Out loud! According to Thomas Wright, a Europe analyst at the Brookings Institution:
“He has always been obsessed people are laughing at the president. From the mid-’80s, he’s said: ‘The world is laughing at us. They think we’re fools.’ It’s never been true, but he’s said it about every president. It’s the first time I’m aware of that people actually laughed at a president. I think it is going to drive him absolutely crazy. It will play to every insecurity he has.”
In a 2014 Twitter rant, he argued that not only had the U.S. been taken advantage of by other countries; he added that we were a “laughingstock to the entire world.” According to those captivated by his spell, his rise was at least in part fueled by his contention and their belief that his strength and resolve could change that situation.
In the early stages of Trump’s speech yesterday, which was intended to establish U.S. “sovereignty” over the whims and needs of other nations, he ran headlong into an unexpected and not at all pleasant dose of reality. In the first minute of the speech, Trump boasted that his administration had accomplished more during his two years in office than “almost any administration” in American history. That bit of fanciful blarney resulted in audible guffaws in the cavernous chamber.
For his part, Mr. Trump was flummoxed. After grasping for a suitable response, he finally managed, “Didn’t expect that response…but that’s OK.” Again, chuckles. This time the laughter was probably in sympathy with or embarrassment for him.
It’s a pretty safe bet Trump is sure to miss the irony of the laughter at his own expense. Later in the day, after he had an opportunity to compose himself, consult with aides, and develop an alternative fact narrative, he suggested the line was intended to elicit laughs.
Sure it was. Better late than never.
Trump would ramble on for another 34 minutes. But no other moments would match the impact or import of his rhetorical nadir for the day. The moment made for a pointed rejoinder for a man who seems to take such an exultant joie de vivre in poking our traditional allies and partners in the eye on trade, security alliances, and general diplomatic bonhomie.
At first blush, the moment was embarrassing, but it was more than that. It tore a gaping hole into a core fabulist assertion that has been a key element in Trump’s stock-in-trade bloviating for decades, and since his election. As I’ve noted on several previous occasions, the New York Times and the Washington Post have kept a running tab on Trump’s false or misleading statements since taking office. In case you are keeping track, the total has eclipsed 5,000.
From The Art of the Deal, to The Apprentice, to the White House, Donald Trump has never been shy about highlighting what he believes to be his accomplishments, even if it means employing a tactic he has referred to as truthful hyperbole. As the midterm elections begin to come into focus, Trump has spent increasingly more time touting his administration’s “long list of accomplishments.”
As he has done so, he has routinely claimed a stunning array of sweeping successes, and placed himself in a favorable position in historical comparison to America’s great leaders. Just last week at a speech in Missouri, he veered off script, asserting that his 2016 election was one of “the greatest movements in the history of our country.” Yesterday’s claim at the United Nations that he has done more in less than two years than most of his 44 predecessors defied reality, hubris, logic, reason, truth, and well, just about any other measure available to us, except perhaps the one he created, truthful hyperbole. Ah, but he apparently failed to account for the fact he was not at a MAGA Rally. Where are the Red Caps when you need them, he may have been thinking? Sad!
Thomas Wright framed it thusly:
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