Monday, July 16, 2018

that guy again, with a timeline this time

One thing I miss about Twitter is Hale Razor and his tweets:

In case you need a refresher:

1. In 2009, Hillary Clinton, at the time cozying up to Russia, brought out a plastic toy in the shape of a large reset button that symbolized a resetting of US-Russian relations. The Russian-language label on the button was a mistranslation of the English word "reset": the actual translation, as Foreign Minister Lavrov laughingly pointed out to Clinton upon receiving the button, would have been "overcharged."

2. The "after the election, I'll have more flexibility" quote from 2012, during the presidential election campaign, was overheard thanks to a hot mike as President Obama quietly made the promise to President Dmitri Medvedev. Left-leaning Snopes rates the claim that Obama was making secret promises as "true."

3. The snide "want their foreign policy back" gibe came from President Obama during a debate with Mitt Romney, who claimed that Russia loomed large as "our number one geopolitical foe." There's value in pointing out that the Democrats have since flip-flopped on this issue, but this one is a two-edged sword because the Republicans can also be said to have flip-flopped: Trump, operating these days as an avowed Republican and conservative, has made no bones about trying to make peaceful overtures with Russia. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has taken a more hawkish stance toward Russia, even once openly declaring she would take military action against the country should it be determined that Russia had carried out cyber-warfare against the US. This is one of the reasons why Styx, in his videos, insists on calling Hillary (and John McCain, while we're at it) the true warmonger, and not Trump. Meanwhile, Trump hasn't been as dovey as all that: he's reinforced existing sanctions and slapped new sanctions (albeit reluctantly) on Russia. One could also argue, as Styx does, that Trump is basically a New York liberal, not a conservative Republican at all, in which case it's merely Trump, carrying the GOP flag, who has redirected GOP policy into a more pacifistic channel, very much against the GOP's will. That leaves open the question as to why the liberals flip-flopped so thoroughly on the Russia issue. Consider that, a month before the 2016 election, it was Trump who was saying he might not take the election results at face value if it was discovered that there had been any jiggering of the polls. The Democrats' response was to laugh in Trump's face and assert that the elections were utterly kosher. Only weeks later, with Trump having won, the Dem's flipped (in every sense of that word), and suddenly it was Russia, Russia, Russia all the time—which it's been to this day, 1.5 years after Trump's electoral victory... which corresponds to the final joke in Razor's above-mentioned tweet.

More on this silliness here.

ADDENDUM: Trump on who the US's "foes" are:

"Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe. Russia is [a] foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive."

From here, with a deliberately misleading headline that makes it sound as if Trump thinks the EU is simply an enemy, period. This is why it's important to read more than a headline plus the first two paragraphs of a story these days.

For more on Trump versus Russia, see here.


Nathan B. said...

Hi Kevin,

I normally part ways on politics with you nowadays--despite my admiration for you as a writer and friend, but I wanted to try to address these comments.

I think that Razor's original post makes a number of errors of various kinds.

1.) It takes a binary approach to an issue. Every coin may have two sides, but issues don't have to be only two-sided. And I think the basic approach here--which is to blame "liberals" for everything that Trump's administration has done--is wrong.

2.) It makes mountains out of mole-hills--to wit: the "reset" button. This was an embarrassment for the translator, but was hardly an actual scandal, much less a fiasco. Similarly, any political leader in a democracy is going to say things like "I'll have more flexibility" after an upcoming election. Quite often, the big decisions are made after elections, not before. Obama's saying this is therefore not even remotely scandalous or surprising.

3.) Razor's post sees molehills where there are actual mountains: i.e. the Russian meddling in the American elections of 2016. There's no doubt that such meddling took place--even the Republican Senate has admitted as much (though the House is reluctant to own up to the same facts).

4.) It sees inconsistency where none exists. It is not inconsistent for political commentators to have approved a warmer approach to Russia in 2009, while wanting a much harder approach now. The difference between these two years is the combination of the Russian invasion of Ukraine--on a far larger scale than their 2008 invasion of Georgia together with the enormous and absolutely unprecedented level of meddling by Russian agents in the US election.

(Part 1--part 2 to follow immediately.)

Nathan B. said...

There are a few other objections I have, too. When Trump was asked before the election if he would respect the results, this was not asked with reference to foreign meddling, which at that time was not public knowledge or on the news radar. Trump's actual quote:

"I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win."

The implication, obviously, was that he would not accept the result if he did not win. This is something that should have been a wake-up call for anyone who has studied how dictators rise to power in democratic systems. Mr. Erdogan, of Turkey, would be the most recent and excellent (though very sad) example of this. Trump doesn't care about democracy. It's a tool for him to win with, and he didn't even really win. Despite the efforts of the Russians, more people voted for Democratic Senators than Republican ones--but the Republicans won control of the Senate. More people voted for Clinton than Trump--but Trump carried the presidency anyway.

The fact that Russia was able to get away with meddling in the US election is not something that "liberals"--or anyone else--should accept. The reason that Democrats have been harping on this issue for the last 1.5 years is because Trump's administration has lied about, obfuscated, and minimized this issue for the last 1.5 years. What is sad is that so many Republicans have surrendered the truth of the most prolific liar ever to hold the US presidential office.

Finally, there is the business about the newspaper headline. At present, this is what it says:

""I think the European Union is a foe," Trump says ahead of Putin meeting in Helsinki"

I do not know if the headline has changed before I read it just now, but there is nothing misleading about it as currently written. The headline reports only fact: Trump said that he thinks the EU was a foe, and he said this just before his meeting in Helsinki with Putin. What he said, and when he said it, are not in doubt.

Furthermore, anyone who has followed the news at all knows not to take Trump's pronouncements at face value. This is known to Trump supporters and opponents. If one wants more information on this pronouncement, then one reads the article.

Meanwhile, I think it is absolutely astonishing that before meeting with the Russian president, the American president has labeled the EU a "foe." Even factoring in Trump's penchant for exaggeration, this kind of thing is most discouraging. Trump praises the governments of North Korea, China, and Russia, while attacking traditional US allies.

Trump is upending the world order. In a time of climate change, he has ripped up the Paris accord and appointed men who are diametrically opposed to the findings of science as regards climate change to positions of power within the EPA. He is driving wedges between the US and its traditional allies in a way that fulfills long-standing Russian foreign policy goals. And he is appointing judges to all levels of the judiciary. A number of these judges lack the character and/or the knowledge necessary to actually serve as judges, while others have obvious conflicts of interest. All are of an ideology that sees big business as sacrosanct, but not individual rights as regards personal sexuality. It will be the LGBT community, and women everywhere, who will bear the brunt of these rulings. Trump's judges will re-make America for decades to come.

Nathan B. said...

Notwithstanding the above, I do very much agree with Trump on one very important foreign policy matter: US allies do need to pull more weight in regards to military matters. My own Canada's approach has been to trust the US to protect our sovereignty, while skimping on military spending. I think this is extremely unwise and short-sighted on our part!

Well, I could write more, but maybe that's more than enough.

On an unrelated note: congrats on your 15-year blogging anniversary!

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for commenting! And I have a response in multiple parts!

Part 1

"I think the basic approach here--which is to blame 'liberals' for everything that Trump's administration has done--is wrong."

I don't think it's possible to extrapolate Razor's approach from a single tweet. I appreciate how he points out hypocrisies and inconsistencies in a humorous way, but even after having read dozens of his tweets during my time on Twitter, I wouldn't say he's blaming liberals for everything that Trump's administration has done wrong.

"hardly an actual scandal, much less a fiasco"

I'll readily agree it wasn't a scandal, but it was a fiasco insofar as it was an embarrassment that revealed several things at once, including the fact that no one could be bothered to vet something as simple as the correct Russian translation for "reset." A partisan Democrat or committed liberal will, predictably, disagree, but merely out of a sense of party/ideological loyalty or solidarity, not for reasons of objective truth.

"Razor's post sees molehills where there are actual mountains"

I don't think anyone's denying the existence of Russian attempts at influencing the election, but the debate is over how consequential such meddling was. Indeed, it is a violation of US sovereignty to interfere in a presidential election, but how many votes were really swung by Russia? My alt-media sources contend that Russia's influence was mathematically insignificant—a few thousand votes total, out of tens of millions. Besides, as the left loves to point out, Hillary won the popular vote by millions. (That claim, by the way, stems from a lack of understanding of how the Electoral College functions, and why it exists in the first place.)

"It sees inconsistency where none exists."

As I wrote in the post, the Democrats were insisting the election was kosher right up until Trump won. Timing-wise, and coming after Obama's scoffing at Romney—who may have seen the future more clearly than did Obama—this sudden change in attitude (on several fronts) was the sign of a desperate left grasping at straws in an attempt to explain Hillary's loss by offering any reason except her own incompetence and unpalatability. I'll grant that Russia's push into Crimea may have done much to sour attitudes toward Russia, but people on both sides of the aisle were soured, and even now, as per the link I provided in my post's addendum, Trump is circumspect and far from making doe eyes at Putin, which is how the left-leaning media want to spin Trump's attitude toward Russia.

If Hillary Clinton had become president, then we'd have gone to war with Russia, per her own words.

"When Trump was asked before the election if he would respect the results, this was not asked with reference to foreign meddling, which at that time was not public knowledge or on the news radar."

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this is absolutely true. The fact remains that the blanket counter-claim about the election's integrity covered all bases, including foreign meddling. That's only a matter of logic. If I say, "The election's integrity hasn't been violated," then that's a comprehensive statement covering all factors known and unknown.

There's been some pushback from the right, recently, against the continued whining of the left as to how "Russia won" the US election. If meddling happened, then it happened on Obama's watch, and as we now know, Obama told the NSC's cybersecurity chief, Michael Daniel, to "stand down" regarding the probing of possible meddling by Russia. Which is scarier: the thought that Obama deliberately asked for the stand-down after much thought, or that Obama was merely displaying incompetence regarding national security?

Kevin Kim said...

Part 2

"This is something that should have been a wake-up call for anyone who has studied how dictators rise to power in democratic systems."

This is in line with the regular "Trump is Hitler!" propaganda that the media continue to push. The shtick is getting old, I think. The simplest counterargument to the idea that Trump is acting like a dictator is that anti-Trumpers feel perfectly free to scream their vituperation out loud, and repeatedly. In a true dictatorship, if Trump actually were Hitler, these people would be rounded up and summarily shot. That's just not happening, and there’s obviously no fear that it will.

Of course, I have my own cynical reasons to explain why Trump allows the insults: he's an attention whore and a media guy who understands that bad news is good news if what you're seeking is publicity. Ever since Trump threw his hat in the ring, he's been the absolute center of media attention, and boos and angry catcalls are music to his ears. Everything he does is guaranteed to set somebody off, given today's discursive climate, and the left has deteriorated to the point where it can be set off by the littlest seeming provocation. As some on the right joke, Trump could cure cancer, and the media would accuse him of putting doctors out of work.

”It's a tool for him to win with, and he didn't even really win. Despite the efforts of the Russians, more people voted for Democratic Senators than Republican ones--but the Republicans won control of the Senate. More people voted for Clinton than Trump--but Trump carried the presidency anyway.”

Maybe it’s time to talk about how the US Electoral College works. As you well know, the US isn’t a direct democracy, but rather a republic, with representational mechanisms that mediate and modulate direct democracy. In the US, when you’re the resident of a given state, your state is assigned X number of “electors” who, generally speaking and with very limited exceptions, must all vote the same way once it’s clear who, in that state, is the winner of a given election. My home state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, has 13 electors, and thus 13 electoral votes; the number 13 is a proportional reflection of Virginia’s population. California, our most populous state, has 55 electoral votes. If, say, Trump were to win the majority of individual votes in Virginia, then all 13 electors would have to cast their votes for Trump, and Trump would add 13 electoral votes to his pile.

Hillary Clinton won California, a heavily Democrat state, by about three or four million votes, which is roughly the margin by which she won the overall popular vote. She could have won in California by a margin of ten million votes, and this wouldn’t have changed the fact that she would still have gotten only 55 electoral votes. The Electoral College is in place precisely to keep super-populous states from exerting a kind of tyranny over the entire electoral process. As things are, California has the largest number of electoral votes.

The Electoral College is enough of an explanation for the supposed injustices that you’ve written about. They aren’t really injustices, and such cases have occurred in the past: other nominees have won the day with fewer popular votes than their opponents. It may look bizarre from the outside, but the Electoral College is one of the US’s many checks and balances, put in place to prevent oppression by blocs with agendas. And if we assume Russian influence is ultimately more molehill than mountain (as I do), we can say with confidence that the system, while admittedly imperfect, largely works.

Kevin Kim said...

Part 3

"What is sad is that so many Republicans have surrendered the truth of the most prolific liar ever to hold the US presidential office."

I could say something about how egregious lying is a problem on both sides of the aisle, but that would be trafficking in the tu quoque fallacy, so I'll stop here.

"I do not know if the headline has changed before I read it just now, but there is nothing misleading about it as currently written. The headline reports only fact: Trump said that he thinks the EU was a foe, and he said this just before his meeting in Helsinki with Putin. What he said, and when he said it, are not in doubt."

But, like the writer of the headline, you're leaving out the context. Simply declaring the EU "a foe" is not what Trump was doing: he said the EU was a foe because of "what they do to us in trade." He then went on to say, "But that doesn't mean they [the aforementioned countries] are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive."

The headline, divorced from context, makes Trump look belligerent in the classic, Latin-root sense of that word; this is manipulation by omission. Trump is not using "foe" in the sense of a military enemy; he's using it—admittedly awkwardly—in the context of global economic competition. He's also dismissing the impact of his own language by saying, "It doesn't mean anything." (Granted, he contradicts himself right away by saying, "It means [these countries] are competitive." With Trump, you often have to "average out" his statements to get an idea of what he means. It's a bit like talking to a Korean: don't take the interlocutor literally, as you yourself note in a subsequent statement about Trump.)

Regarding the final paragraph in your second comment: there's a lot there that's based on perceptions brought to you (us) by a mainstream media determined to propagandize against Trump and his agenda. I would suggest great caution and circumspection, here; it's not just Trump who shouldn't be taken at his word. The mainstream media have shown no reason for me to trust them, which is why, these days, I listen to and watch alt-media sources, which strike me as (1) much more truthful and more anchored in actual reality, and (2) much better at predicting future events than the wild-eyed leftist media are. Cases in point: dire predictions that Trump was going to round up and deport transgender people; dire predictions that Trump was going to get us into a nuclear war with [pick a country], when he's actually proved to be more pacifistic than both Hillary Clinton (who laughingly said, "We came, we saw, he died" regarding Qaddafi) and John McCain (who sang, "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran"); dire predictions that Trump would nominate someone to the Supreme Court who would immediately deconstruct Roe v. Wade. These predictions (way more silliness found here) are the result of a severe detachment from reality that is promulgated by the mainstream media. I would respectfully suggest that you add some alt-media sources to your regular diet of news sources. I would never tell you to stop watching the sources you trust, but I would say it's a good idea to treat them with caution and to round out your news consumption with other perspectives.

King Baeksu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Kim said...

Part 4

"Notwithstanding the above, I do very much agree with Trump on one very important foreign policy matter: US allies do need to pull more weight in regards to military matters. My own Canada's approach has been to trust the US to protect our sovereignty, while skimping on military spending. I think this is extremely unwise and short-sighted on our part!

Well, I could write more, but maybe that's more than enough.

On an unrelated note: congrats on your 15-year blogging anniversary!"

Well! I'm glad we agree on something.

Also: regarding my earlier suggestion that you look into alt-media sources: that probably came off as condescending, and I apologize. But the suggestion was sincerely meant, and it's a reflection of the sea change in my own thinking, which I've documented on this blog. I'm not coming at any of this from a position of superior knowledge, morals, or whatever; all I can say is that, thanks to the 2016 election, my own worldview was pretty much shattered and has been re-forming along very different lines. I may sound like a crazy person to be recommending alt-media sources, but these folks really do work hard to bring up and analyze news that simply doesn't make it into the mainstream. The more I listen to alt-media talking heads, the more astonished I am that anyone would continue, naively, to trust anything the mainstream media have to say.

Thanks for the congratulations re: my blogiversary. Much appreciated!

Nathan B. said...

Hi Kevin!

First things first, I did not find you condescending or patronizing at all--these are flaws that, I believe, I may be guilty of from time to time.

There is so much that we could talk about, and much that I would further object to in your own well-written objections to my objections, but I think I'd rather focus on why you have experienced, in your words, a "sea change" in your political thinking as a result of the 2016 elections.

It seems to me--and I'll look forward to your answer--that you have a tremendous amount of bitterness that you hold against the "mainstream media." I've never really been sure why this is the case, though, unless you think that the media should have collectively predicted Trump's election.

I've lived long enough to have seen many elections and referenda in my native Canada that were mis-predicted by the dominant broadsheet papers and TV news programs. Probably the best example of this would be the Charlottetown Accord of the early 1990's. Basically, this was a constitutional change that needed to be ratified by parliamentary vote and a nation-wide referendum. As I recall, not only did the newspapers and TV newscasts predict a "yes" vote, but all the experts--from big unions to Big Business were in the "yes" camp--as were--you guessed it--the journalist editorials themselves. In the weeks leading up to the referendum, the polls showed a decisive win for the "yes" side. Well, guess who won? "No!"

To be continued.

Nathan B. said...

In all honesty, and in hindsight, I think that there were good reasons why "yes" should have won. But it didn't. And everyone was surprised.

But that's just how things go in a democracy. Sometimes--often, even--the polls are wrong. I think one mistake many journalists make is that they treat polling as a science, with a margin of 2%, nineteen times out of twenty, or whatever.

But polling isn't pure science. When you call up a stranger and ask him about his voting intentions, you are assuming that he is (a) able to, and (b) willing to give you an honest answer. Neither should be taken for granted. Second, there is the matter of the distribution of the votes themselves. Predicting a nation-wide referendum--itself not an easy things--will be much, much easier than predicting results where votes are distributed in ridings or electoral districts.

Furthermore, polling doesn't just reflect reality. It also creates it. When enough people feel that "their" side is winning, this demotivates those people to turn out at the polls and vote. Correspondingly, it greatly motivates those who are angry or upset at what seems to be the general consensus to get out and vote. You may recall that I left a comment exactly to this effect on your blog prior to the 2016 election results.

So although you and I were both probably expecting a Clinton victory, not being 100% certain of this, I did not feel what you felt in the elections's aftermath: namely, a sea-change in how I felt about the media.

More to come.

Nathan B. said...

There is also the matter of defining what exactly the term "mainstream media" means. We could say for convenience that it is the broadsheets and the tabloids and the TV newscasts. But crucially, these don't all speak with one voice.

Consider this article from The Guardian: "Trump’s surrender to Putin greeted with outrage by Democrats and Republicans" ( The article says:

"Donald Trump drew mostly bipartisan condemnation after failing to denounce Russian meddling in the US presidential election at a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin."

And now consider this article, from the same paper:

"Republicans have decided to follow Trump off a cliff of treachery (, which says:

The headline says it all.

Now both of these articles are somewhat contradictory in their overall presentation of the current situation. We might feel that the second is more partisan (and that's before seeing the tagline at the bottom!). But we can't say that The Guardian has presented only one side here.

And that's just one paper. I read nearly every columnist in the Washington Post, but there's one I won't read because I can't trust anything he says.

Most large papers do not have every single columnist or reporter in one ideological boat. And even when most are of a particular bent, there are other papers of an opposite persuasion.

In short, I am very puzzled as to why you have such animosity against "the mainstream media" when they--like humanity itself--are subject to ebb and flow, argument and counter-argument. I see the mainstream media as comprising a cacophany of many voices, some in sync, some not, most honest, some not. A careful and critical reading of the news is necessary. We need to read from multiple sources, and stay with coverage of an issue through time. Sometimes we will correct our assumptions based on this careful, diachronous reading. Sometimes journalists themselves will do the same.

Kevin Kim said...

Fart 1


I'll refer you to this Styx video and to my original "mea culpa" post written in 2016, right after the election. That's just a taste of my sentiments toward the mainstream media (which I would define as synonymous with "legacy media," i.e., the large news establishments in print and on TV, e.g., Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, etc.

The two articles you cited do indeed show somewhat different spins, but notice that their fundamental orientations are both anti-Trump. Zoom in close enough, and you'll see difference and variety everywhere. Zoom back a bit, though, and you begin to notice that the media, taken as a whole, are relentlessly anti-Trump, and have been since before he was elected. Partially, this is because Trump duped the media on several occasions to highlight their collective stupidity; partially, it's because Trump went from there to actively waging war against the media, pretty much all of which he has dismissed as "fake news" (a term originally used by Trump's enemies before being gleefully adopted by the pro-Trump crowd).

But to my mind, a 90-10 skew in favor of anti-Trump reporting does not indicate anything balanced. It indicates, instead, a deep and pervasive bias, to the point where certain outlets, like the Huffington Post, have abandoned any pretense of objectivity in favor of brazen partisanship:

"Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S."

If a person is unable to see this rampant bias, well... I don't know what to say.

I think it's more incumbent on lefties to dip into alt-media sources than it is for alt-media folks to dip into left-meaning media: the imbalance is so extreme that it's obvious which side is in dire need of, if not objectivity, then at least some sort of balance.

Kevin Kim said...

Fart 2

The dismal truth about the "fair" media:

90% negative coverage of Trump

NPR: coverage for Trump more negative than for other presidents
(and NPR is a way-liberal source)

John Kass of the Chicago Tribune points to a Harvard study showing coverage of Trump largely negative during his first 100 days. Kass writes:

"Whenever I mention the news media leans ridiculously far to the left, that it has lost half the country with its attitude and that the tone of the coverage of President Donald Trump is over-the-top hostile, I get the same darn reaction.

The eye-roll.

That big Anderson Cooper CNN eye-roll, often accompanied by a few theatrical sighs.

And when I leave the newsroom, it gets even worse on social media.

But now Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy has come out with a study of media coverage of the Trump White House in its first 100 days.

It is astonishing because it comes from Harvard, not exactly the bedrock of American conservatism.

The study found that in Trump's first 100 days in office, the tone of the news coverage of the president has been a whopping 80 percent negative to 20 percent positive.

CNN and NBC struck a 93 percent negative tone on their Trump stories, with only 7 percent positive. CBS was third in the anti-Trump race, with a 91 to 9 ratio. And the pro-Trump Fox News? That network was 52 percent negative to 48 percent positive."

Far from seeing a diverse set of opinions, I see a univocal bloc.

Styx, in his videos, bashes Fox News with the same vigor as he does the more left-leaning media; he sees all of the legacy media as overpaid corporate shills churning out propaganda, and I think he's largely right (see his above-linked video).

Anyway, I could go on, but you get the idea. There's no reason to trust anyone in the legacy media, especially these days, when everything gets spun according to a political agenda. At least the alt-media are open about their stance without pretending to be objective; they see themselves as both a necessary corrective and as a force that will ultimately replace the legacy media.

As you say: "A careful and critical reading of the news is necessary. We need to read from multiple sources, and stay with coverage of an issue through time." This is precisely what I've done, and it's why I've changed my worldview. Are others as open-minded? Hmmm.

Kevin Kim said...

Ah, yes: you mentioned that you read many different columnists. I'm not sure if these names are on your list, but I'd add Victor Davis Hanson, Walter Russell Mead, Heather Mac Donald (sic: that's how she spells her surname—as two separate words), Andrew Klavan, and possibly Jonah Goldberg. I would have added Thomas Sowell, but I think he's retired from the world of media. That said, going through the internet archives to find Sowell's earlier essays would be well worth your while.

I'm not as big a fan of Charles Krauthammer (recently deceased) and Bill Whittle: while they're both articulate, they're also both eternally angry, self-righteous, and polemical.

Nathan B. said...

Hiya, Kevin!

I would agree with you that much of the news media is decidedly negative about Trump--but I think the negative coverage of Trump that I see among the print media's editorialists and columnists is entirely appropriate, given the unprecedented number of lies that Trump and his spokespeople have been spewing, starting with that very first-day comment about crowd size. Think how many articles have been written about Trump's lies alone. That was all Trump's own, self-inflicted damage. If Trump hadn't lied so much, a massive amount of negative coverage of him would never have existed. Similarly, when Trump called white nationalists demonstrating at a violent rally "very fine people" while refusing to condemn their violence or their racism, a very large amount of critical news coverage would never have existed. I could go on.

This is not a normal president. And in addition to his history as a groper of women, he has a long track record of unethical business decisions that have actually defrauded people. Put another way, how bad would a president be before the news media would have to stop being "objective" about him? We wouldn't want Hitler to be given an equal opportunities treatment by news media.

About that, you had earlier mentioned your distaste for the "Trump as Hitler" motif. This was something that I had not raised, but like you, I notice it. It is important to note that Hitler did not go from being a nobody to being dictator in one day. First, he contested elections, appealing to people's anger and desire for a scapegoat. Then he put himself be in government with the blessing of the Chancellor. The rights and liberties (and the freedom to be Jewish and be alive at the same time) that Germans knew were not suspended in one day.

But I think that a better parallel for Trump would actually be Erdogan. This is a man who, over a long period of time, using a base in the religious community of his country, subverted the democratic norms of his country to the point at which Turkish society is no longer free. Erdogan has nailed down control of the judiciary, the police, and the media, and he has jailed thousands of people for no other reason than that he does not like their politics. All of this took time--many years.

Putin himself would be another good example of that as he, too, rose to power in a democracy, but I think Putin is far cleverer than Trump.

I think it's quite clear that Trump has authoritarian instincts, but these instincts have been until now kept in check by the constitutional limits to his authority, and by key decisions taken by key people. But I see those checks and balances weakening and eroding; they are, ultimately, only as strong as the Supreme Court is, and as strong as law enforcement is, and only as strong as the American electorate is. I used to think that Trump was only a practice run for a more serious attempt at dictatorship by someone in the Republican party who will arise in the future, but now I'm not even that optimistic. The only thing working against Trump's authoritarianism is, perhaps, his age.

Addendum: about Anderson Cooper's eye-roll: I get my news only from print media, but I believe you, and I would agree that that sort of thing is decidedly wrong in a news anchor. This kind of thing causes people to feel patronized, and when people do that, they vote against the wishes of the patronizers. Just like what happened in Canada with the Charlottetown Accord.
About Krauthammer: he never did much for me. I'm with you there.

Nathan B. said...

Overall, then, I think that Trump gets the media coverage that he deserves.

I think a much better critique could have been made of the media in its treatment of George W. Bush. He was routinely attacked as an idiot because of the way he spoke. Again, I think that some of this coverage was deserved--because of his anti-intellectualism--but a lot of it was just very mean-spirited and vitriolic and driven by ideology and even political tribalism.

Although I didn't like Bush Jr., I always felt that Bush Derangement Syndrome was very annoying. But the second President Bush comes off looking like a gentleman and a scholar compared to Trump! (And this makes me worry that perhaps in the future, someone will rise to power in the Oval Office who will make Trump look positively wise and benign!)

Kevin Kim said...

Part 1

I absolutely agree that Trump has, at best, a flexible and/or uncomfortable relationship with the truth. The man lies, and does so casually. He recently told the public that North Korea had begun shipping the bodies of US soldiers from the Korean War back to the States. His man Mike Pompeo, who has been shuttling back and forth to and from North Korea, contradicted this and flatly stated that the US had not, as yet, received a single body.

There's a lot about Trump that's not to like. He stands accused (NB: accused, not convicted) of varying degrees of sexual harassment by 19 women—and this was before the Stormy Daniels flap erupted. He's a boor who can't spell, and he's often caught contradicting himself (which is why I wrote about the need to "average out" what he says: it changes over time). As mentioned before, he's also an attention whore, and he's got a planet-sized ego.

Overall, Trump doesn't strike me as a particularly palatable person. But does he merit the unfairly biased and often-untruthful coverage he receives? (There are articles listing Trump's lies, but there are also articles listing the mainstream media's equally numerous and equally egregious lies.) I think not. Note, too, that the leftist media, and the left in general, have been invested for years in lambasting any Republican as Hitler; Trump is merely the latest goon made to wear the label. And what's funny is the same media will pine for the days of previous Republicans in contrast to whichever GOPer currently occupies the White House.

Kevin Kim said...

Part 2

But there's a deeper way of reading what Trump is doing and why he's doing it, and the left consistently refuses to understand this, which is why the left has been so bad, recently, at predicting outcomes. Here, I'll leap over to Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, who is mockingly known these days as Trump's "Explainer-in-Chief." Adams predicted a Donald Trump win in 2016, back when everyone (including yours truly) thought Trump's candidacy was some sort of joke, and that Trump would flame out during the primaries. Adams, and alt-media folks like Styxhexemhammer666 (I've been calling him "Styx" up to now), held steady in the face of dismissiveness and outright mockery from the left (neither Adams nor Styx is a Republican), and in the end, their predictions proved correct, thus showing they were better rooted in reality than almost every other major pundit out there, including stats guru Nate Silver and his vaunted, poll-based predictive algorithms (which proved to be garbage).

Adams's take is that Trump doesn't care about facts—a notion that people on both sides of the aisle can agree on. The way Adams sees it, Trump is what he calls a "master persuader," a man who will say and do anything to change minds and win audience points. People on the left (and again, yours truly) routinely failed to understand Trump's nature, thus skewing their perception of what was really going on.

It didn't help that the US left, in 2016, was also engaging in a great deal of wishful thinking, having only Hillary Clinton—an old, unengaging, arrogant, unethical, and increasingly irrelevant white woman stuck in the 90s—as their candidate. This, too, skewed perceptions of the future, which is why, as Hillary's apparent lead drained away on the night of the election, Trump's elevation came as a shock to people on both the left and the right.

Adams sees Trump's character flaws as, in many cases, a means for Trump to perform judo on his opponents. The so-called "Trump Effect" is an example of this: people who stand and loudly accuse Trump of sexual impropriety, for example, get taken down by their own sex scandals. People who appear on Twitter to "correct" something Trump has written end up being "corrected" themselves for making some stupid gaffe, or their old tweets get dug up and presented as evidence of embarrassing self-contradiction.

Adams's blog, at, is a great source for better understanding the weird and elusive mind of Donald Trump. Styx, too, is a capable interpreter of the man.

Anyway, yeah, I agree that Trump is unsavory, and that he's a liar. Is he more of a liar than previous presidents? I seriously doubt that. Obama has a long list of canards and distortions; so do GW Bush and good ol' Uncle Bill Clinton. As for the media giving Trump what he deserves: I see them as just as dirty, just as untruthful, and arguably even more untrustworthy. They want Trump out of the White House, and they're not even hiding their intentions.

Nathan B. said...

Re the claim that Trump lies on a level that is comparable to other presidents: I'm gobsmacked!

Well, I think that will close out my remarks about this topic on this thread. Thanks for allowing me to post them, and for responding to them!

Kevin Kim said...


There are matters on which we'll likely never agree, but that said, I do appreciate the comments.

You'll recall, of course, "Bush lied—people died!" Certainly the left, at the time, viewed Dubya as an inveterate liar on Iraq and many other matters. And conservatives, for their part (and to this day), see Bill Clinton as essentially composed of nothing but lies. It would be extremely naive of me to think that Trump is somehow alone or outstanding in his obfuscation, confabulation, and prevarication.

In other news, we now supposedly live in a "post-truth" era. Gobsmacking, in such a time, must be replaced by world-weary cynicism. I, for one, find little shocking about a politician lying. I also lack a "meter" by which to tell which lying politician is a bigger liar. I don't even know how I'd begin to construct such a meter.

Nathan B. said...

Hi Kevin! Like you, I'm not surprised that there's lying in politics, but it seems to me that Trump is very much in a league of his own.

You make an excellent point about quantifying the lying--and that's actually why I'm posting again now after saying I would stop(!). Anyway, there is this article in the NYT ( In a nutshell, "in his first 10 months, Trump told nearly six times as many falsehoods as Obama did during his entire presidency." Based on my own daily political news coverage over the last many years, I think that's about right.

I hope you will not dismiss the article entirely simply because it's in the NYT. There's also another article, written before Trump took office, that puts him in a very different league than past presidents:

There is also the strong, implicit rebuke of Trump coming from the Republican Jeff Flake, junior senator from Arizona, when he wrote a hymn to the idea of Truth with a capital "T."

Kevin Kim said...

Part 1


I suppose someone had to attempt a count, but the Times doesn't impress me with its extremely vague methodology.

"We’ve set out to make that list. Here, you will find our attempt at a comprehensive catalog of the falsehoods that Barack Obama told while he was president. (We also discuss George W. Bush below, although the lack of real-time fact-checking during his presidency made a comprehensive list impossible.)

We applied the same conservative standard to Obama and Trump, counting only demonstrably and substantially false statements. The result: Trump is unlike any other modern president. He seems virtually indifferent to reality, often saying whatever helps him make the case he’s trying to make.

In his first 10 months in office, he has told 103 separate untruths, many of them repeatedly. Obama told 18 over his entire eight-year tenure. That’s an average of about two a year for Obama and about 124 a year for Trump."

A few remarks:

1. Predictably, the Times makes Obama out to be a saint. The "18 over his entire eight-year tenure" claim reeks of BS. Let's do the count again, this time using a metric designed by people who are not so obviously in Obama's camp. (Assuming the NYT's neutrality/objectivity is woefully naive at this point.)

2. The methodology for determining what counts as a falsehood isn't very well explained. Is the Times relying on some "common sense" definition? I guarantee that conservatives have, somewhere, a long, long list of Obama's lies. Of course, a liberal reviewing that list will dismiss those claims of lying by reinterpreting the claims as rightie distortions, exaggerations, or lies in themselves. This leaves both sides in a position of rhetorical parity, neither able to convince the other. This is why I apply what I think is a stricter and more reliable standard: do claims have predictive value? Do they pan out in the real world? Take an early-2016 claim like "Trump will win in November of 2016." True, such a claim was made in reference to a future event, so it doesn't qualify as a lie if proven wrong, but it's a good example of what I'm talking about: if the claim is ultimately rooted in reality, it ought to pan out. The truth will eventually out itself. Look at Trump's supposed lie about the immigration problem in Sweden: he made a comment about immigrant-caused violence that the left-leaning media laughed off, but which turned out to be utterly true. (The mainstream media still maintains Trump was lying, of course—another reason to consult the alt-media.)

3. The Times does make a perceptive comment about Trump: "He seems virtually indifferent to reality, often saying whatever helps him make the case he’s trying to make." Absolutely true, and perfectly in line with Scott Adams's analysis of Trump: Trump doesn’t care about facts; he seeks only to persuade. But the Times, and other news outlets, seems invested in immediately forgetting this assessment and in analyzing Trump through a now-outdated lens. As I think you wrote earlier in some form, Trump has indeed been a most disruptive president. He's flipped the chessboard over and rearranged the game to suit his own notion of the rules. Even if we grant that Trump is a much bigger liar than his predecessors, this needs to be considered in the context of his ultimate aims. I’m not sure the left has any clear idea as to what Trump’s ultimate aims are, which is why that bloc is destined to lose, badly, in 2020, and why the so-called “blue wave” will be little more than a “blue slosh” this coming November, during the midterm elections.

Kevin Kim said...

Part 2

4. The Times article says this:

"Trump is trying to make truth irrelevant. It is extremely damaging to democracy, and it’s not an accident. It’s core to his political strategy."

This is uproariously hypocritical, coming from a leftist rag. The left, taken as a whole, has done much, especially over the past two years, to kneecap democracy. The fruitless Trump/Russia probe is an attempt at undermining democracy by trying to force Trump out despite a kosher election—“kosher” being a claim the left itself had made right up to election night. The constant talk of impeachment—which didn't work against Bill Clinton despite the Republicans' best efforts in the 90s—is another attempt at undermining democracy. The continued harassment of Trump-admin officials by leftists on the street (Maxine Waters essentially incited violence against these folks with her recent "push back" rhetoric) is another example. The fascist actions of the ironically named Antifa ("anti-fascist"/"anti-fascism"), which burned part of UC Berkeley's campus, is another example. Before the US left gets self-righteous and shakes a finger at the right and/or Trump for being anti-democratic, it needs to take a good, long look in the mirror, then change its fundamental orientation, before it has the right to say anything about the erosion of democracy. Conservatives have long held that every leftist has an "inner totalitarian," and most totalitarian nations have sprung from leftist ideologies: witness the workers' paradises of Cuba, Venezuela, Cambodia, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, etc. Witness, too, the American left's PC culture, which aims to undermine free speech: politically incorrect jokes are verboten; masculinity is now viewed as "toxic" and fueling a largely fictitious "rape culture"; due process for campus sexual harassment has been rejected in favor of on-campus show trials that exclude the local police... the list of anti-democratic actions, trends, and thought-streams on the left goes on and on.

Sorry. I'll stop here before I get more rant-y.

I think we gravitate to the political worldview that is most in tune with our basic personalities and personal proclivities. On a cartoonish, caricatured level, people often say that conservatives are the cold, hard thinkers while liberals are the touchy-feely ones. There are obvious exceptions to this; I think I already mentioned Bill Whittle and Charles Krauthammer, both of whom have been known to let their feelings get the better of them. Kevin Drum, for the liberals, is a good example of someone on the left who is generally measured and fair. The Young Turks, on YouTube, are not. But exceptions like Drum aside, I think the caricature actually contains some truth. I've always been more of a thinker than a sentimental type, and while I did go through a liberal phase in college, I eventually outgrew it. There's an often-misquoted utterance, sometimes attributed to Churchill (I'm misquoting it, too!), which says something to the effect of "If you're young and not a liberal, you have no heart; if you're old and not conservative, you have no brain."

Well... neither of us qualifies as old quite yet, but we're both getting there!

Kevin Kim said...

Part 3

Quick addendum: despite what I said about right/left temperaments above, I still don't consider myself a full-on rightie, especially now that I'm on the social-network site Gab. Unfortunately, Gab showcases pretty much everything that liberals claim to be wrong and rotten about the right: all the liberal nightmares are reified on Gab. As I've noted in a few blog posts about this alternative to Twitter, I'm guaranteed to see, every single day, the words "kike," "nigger," and "faggot" on the "popular" pages of the site. Racism and antisemitism are both on full display on Gab, and that vitriol isn't coming from liberal commentators on the site. While I'd like to dismiss these assholes as a lunatic fringe, their posts appear with such disheartening frequency, and to such a degree of emotional intensity, that I think the right does have a problem that it needs, desperately, to contend with. (Oh, did I mention the blatantly pro-Nazi, Holocaust-denying posts? Great fun, that.) So, no: I reject much that is on the right, just as I reject much that is on the left. Racism and bigotry take different forms on different sides of the aisle,* but they're there on both sides, and Gab is a reminder that the right, just as much as the left, also needs to take a good, long look in the mirror, taking responsibility for, and actively policing, extreme rhetoric and behavior.


*A good example of leftie racism is many leftists' inability to imagine that a black conservative can exist. (Same goes for gay conservatives.) Anyway, some black conservatives have begun referring to this leftie tendency as an attempt to "keep blacks on the plantation," i.e., keep blacks thinking and voting Democrat. There are many black conservatives on YouTube and in the halls of political power who declare otherwise, and I utterly sympathize with them. (I mentioned Thomas Sowell before; he's a great example of a black conservative.)