Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year, another year of 'unprecedented deception'

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker, documents A year of unprecedented deception saying that “Trump averaged 15 false claims a day in 2018.”

Here’s the math. Trump started 2018 with a record-breaking 1,989 false claims made in the first year of his presidency. By the end of the year, he racked up a total of 7,645. So we obtain the 2018 number by subtracting 1,989 from 7,645 for a 2018 total of 5,656. So in 2018 he almost tripled his 2017 record. What will 2020 bring?

Trump made false claims in 2017 at the rate of 5.45 per day, and that rate increased in 2018 to 15.50 per day. I used Excel to fit two curves so as to project Trump’s rate of falsehoods by the time of the November 5 election in 2020. Both linear (y = 7.75 x - 0.7667) and polynomial (y = 3.15x+ 2.3 x2) functions were excellent fits (R-squared = 0.972 and 1.00, respectively). Projecting to the 674 days remaining to the election, the linear function predicts 27.86 per day and the polynomial predicts 43.00 per day. Thus I predict that by the time of the 2020 election, Trump will be making somewhere between 27.86 and 43.00 false claims per day. Or, at an hourly rate between 1.16 and 1.79 per hour.

Impossible, you say? Consider these examples from Kessler’s report.

President Trump’s year of lies, false statements and misleading claims started with some morning tweets.

Over a couple of hours on Jan. 2, Trump made false claims about three of his favorite targets — Iran, the New York Times and Hillary Clinton. He also took credit for the “best and safest year on record” for commercial aviation, even though there had been no commercial plane crashes in the United States since 2009 and, in any case, the president has little to do with ensuring the safety of commercial aviation.

The fusillade of tweets was the start of a year of unprecedented deception during which Trump became increasingly unmoored from the truth. When 2018 began, the president had made 1,989 false and misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database, which tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. By the end of the year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency — averaging more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018, almost triple the rate from the year before.

"When before have we seen a president so indifferent to the distinction between truth and falsehood, or so eager to blur that distinction?” presidential historian Michael R. Beschloss said of Trump in 2018.

Beschloss noted that the U.S. Constitution set very few guidelines in this regard because the expectation was that the first president would be George Washington and he would set the tone for the office. “What is it that schoolchildren are taught about George Washington? That he never told a lie,” the historian said. “That is a bedrock expectation of a president by Americans.”

Kessler goes on to document instances of the gross dishonesty of this un-George-Washington president.

The president misled Americans about issues big and small. He told lies about payments that his now-convicted attorney says Trump authorized to silence women alleging affairs with him. He routinely exaggerates his accomplishments, such as claiming that he passed the biggest tax cut ever, presided over the best economy in history, scored massive deals for jobs with Saudi Arabia and all but solved the North Korea nuclear crisis.

He attacks his perceived enemies with abandon, falsely accusing Clinton of colluding with the Russians, former FBI Director James B. Comey of leaking classified information and Democrats of seeking to let undocumented immigrants swamp the U.S. borders.

The president often makes statements that are disconnected from his policies. He said his administration did not have a family separation policy on the border, when it did. Then he said the policy was required because of existing laws, when it was not.

The president also simply invents faux facts. He repeatedly said U.S. Steel is building six to eight new steel plants, but that’s not true. He said that as president, Obama gave citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during the nuclear-deal negotiations, but that’s false. Over and over, Trump claimed that the Uzbekistan-born man who in 2017 was accused of killing eight people with a pickup truck in New York brought two dozen relatives to the United States through “chain migration.” The real number is zero.

Etc., etc. And on and on Trump goes.

Now armed with these instances, go back to the math for a moment. I projected somewhere between 1.16 and 1.79 falsehoods per hour by the time of the 2020 election. You might think those to be preposterous estimates. Really? After what you just read above?

You can track Kessler’s fact checking at the database website.

Welcome to 2019.

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