Fact-checking Trump is a bizarre task since nothing he says is especially grounded in objective reality. Every utterance is a negotiating ploy. Nothing is true in the way normal people define “true.” During the debate Sunday night, Jesse Williams, a former school teacher best know for his acting role as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey's Anatomy, tweeted that “Trump is the king of empty sentences. No actual information. Like giving a presentation in class when u did none of the reading.” How do you fact check his Adderall-fueled psycho-babble that channels Hate Talk Radio hosts and Fox News' right-wing pitchman? Sunday's strategy– to hold onto his demoralized base and fight the primaries, the Trumpist glory days, again was a remarkable stream of unrestrained lies and laughable bluster.
By Monday morning, PolitiFact had rated 29 debate statements, 20 of them from Trump. Of the 20, most were rated either an outright lie (or worse) or, at best, a half-truth. One– his relationship with Putin– was unrateable and given a Full Flop rating.
New York Times debate coverage included a late Sunday night editorial: Donald Trump Goes Low that started with an assertion that Trump “boiled his decadent campaign down to one theme during the presidential debate on Sunday night: hatred of Hillary and Bill Clinton.”
Sniffing and glowering, Mr. Trump prowled behind Mrs. Clinton as she presented herself again as the only adult on stage, the only one seeking to persuade the great majority of Americans that she shares their values and aspirations. Mr. Trump, by contrast, fell back on the tricks he has learned from his years in pro wrestling and reality television, making clear how deep his cynicism goes.
…Trump struggled once again to coherently explain his policies, instead wandering down twisting, shadowy alleyways in muttering pursuit of his various claims about Mrs. Clinton, including that she, not he, was responsible for his birther lie about President Obama. He complained that the moderators were ganging up on him and failing to question Mrs. Clinton about her private email server– immediately after they had done just that… Now, as he struggles to close the biggest deal of his lifetime, a woman is getting the better of him. That’s not surprising, but it is apt.
Better yet was David Leonhardt's fact-checking column Monday morning. It was far better and more straight-forward and clear-eyed than PolitiFact's.
He lied about a sex tape.
He lied about his lies about ‘birtherism.’
He lied about the growth rate of the American economy.
He lied about the state of the job market.
He lied about the trade deficit.
He lied about tax rates.
He lied about his own position on the Iraq War, again.
He lied about ISIS.
He lied about the Benghazi attack.
He lied about the war in Syria.
He lied about Syrian refugees.
He lied about Russia’s hacking.
He lied about the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.
He lied about her health care plan.
He lied about her immigration plan.
He lied about her email deletion.
He lied about Obamacare, more than once.
He lied about the rape of a 12-year-old girl.
He lied about his history of groping women without their consent.
Finally, he broke with basic democratic norms and called on his political opponent to be jailed– because, in large part, of what he described as her dishonesty.
This is all straight out of the Murdoch-stoked right-wing Id. When Keith Olbermann described Trump's deplorables as “unthinking dolts… a third-rate demagogue's cult-like following whose members have turned off the reality switch in their heads and who got out of school, somehow, without being about to know the difference between the true, the possible and the imaginary,” he's talking about the people– the only people– still listening to Trump as anything but a source of some kind of ugly, perverse entertainment. Steve Reich, a Westchester, New York social studies teacher and coach, doesn't find Trump entertaining at all. His Sunday post, Not In My Locker Room, has gone viral.
I’ve been a coach for 33 years and played sports throughout high school and college, and I know what does and doesn’t fly in a well-run locker room. A few days ago, Donald Trump suggested that the profane, sexist, predatory comments he made on a bus tour were fine in my world– just boys being boys, just “locker room banter.” He was wrong.
First, he needs to get a grip on the facts. He wasn’t in a locker room. He was hot-miked on a tour bus that was part of a celebrity TV show. He was spewing foul comments while a sniveling host was goading him on. Had he been in my locker room, you can be certain that this coach would have come down hard on his behavior.
The locker-room line shows that Donald Trump clearly doesn’t get what a good physical education teacher or coach does. We don’t show up just to run sports teams, count pushups or clock sprint times and then clock out, as if that’s all our students need. Our biggest job is to help kids become good, decent human beings. We’re trying to help students grow into men and women whose lives are guided by courage, by respect for others, by fortitude and perseverance, by all the building blocks of good character.
That’s the heavy lift in my work. And I’m by no means special: All good PE teachers and coaches take this part of the job very seriously. And all responsible adults know they have a role, too, when it comes to raising good kids with strong character. We’re out there trying our best, even in a world where the wind is sometimes in our faces– from outrageous social media behavior to life-cheapening video games. And now, those headwinds include a politician who spews inexcusable filth and passes it off as acceptable “locker room banter.”
We’re out there trying our best, even in a world where the wind is sometimes in our faces– from outrageous social media behavior to life-cheapening video games. And now, those headwinds include a politician who spews inexcusable filth and passes it off as acceptable “locker room banter.”
As you might expect, I wasn’t counting on having my work undercut by some 59-year-old, private-school-educated wealthy white man– modeling behavior that I would never tolerate from my kids at school.
People who educate have been trying to eradicate this type of behavior for a long time. We teach that good men and good women treat those around them with decency and respect. We try to elevate the next generation by instilling a strong moral compass. It’s stuff Donald Trump likes to talk about from the stump– leaving something better behind for the next generation– but he doesn’t get what’s involved in that work. It takes more than just a better-paying job and a higher standard of living; you also need a life that’s shaped by character, by respect and compassion for everyone around you.
As a coach, I’d say Donald Trump needs to work on his fundamentals. He needs to learn what is and isn’t acceptable conduct. And one more thing: He needs to stop passing off his ugly comments as appropriate and acceptable in my domain. What he calls “locker room banter” is stuff we work hard to shut down in school.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis