Some prominent conservatives met in Washington yesterday to strategize ways to stop Donald Trump. They were stymied on solutions (natch), but they crafted a great statement:
The Trump threat, they said, “is greater than an issue of party. It is an issue of morals and character that all Americans, not just those of us in the conservative movement, must confront.”
An issue of morals and character — they got that right. It’s not sufficient to point out that Trump is a serial liar; far more importantly, his serial lies potentially imperil our national security. As president, this guy could literally heighten world tensions by typing an ignorant tweet. Shame on us if we give him that opportunity. Shame on us if we don’t heed the current warning signs.
Case in point: The dangerous lie that he uttered at the start of this week, on “Fox News Sunday.” It has been woefully underreported, probably because he lies so much that it’s impossible to keep pace. But let’s turn back the clock and give this particular piece of crock the attention it deserves.
Host Chris Wallace challenged Trump’s recent remark that “Islam hates us.” He basically said that Trump’s claim was wildly over the top. He pointed out that there are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, and that “according to the best experts, think tanks around the world, they say that, at most, 100,000 people are fighting for jihadist causes. That’s less than — it’s a tiny fraction of 1 percent.”
Der Leader didn’t like that. His key response:
“Whoever did that survey was about as wrong as you can get. It’s 27 percent, could be 35 percent, would go to war [with America]. Why don’t you take a look at the Pew poll that came out very recently or fairly recently, where I think the number — I mean, I could be corrected, it’s whatever it is — but it’s something like 27 percent …. And you’ll have to look at it. They did a very strong study.”
Well, guess what. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center has done no such study. Ever. Trump conconcted those stats out of thin air, and dragged Pew into his lie.
We know this because the truth sleuths at factcheck.org phoned Pew and asked. A spokeswoman responded by email: “The Center has not issued a survey saying that 27 percent of Muslims would go to war with the U.S., nor has the Center asked a question of Muslims about ‘going to war.'”
Did another polling firm come up with that stat? Nope. Angel Rabasa, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation emailed factcheck.org: “I don’t know where Mr. Trump got the figure of 27 or 35 percent of Muslims that want to go to war with the U.S. As far as I know, there is no scientific basis for that statement.”
Actually, Trump tipped us off to his fiction when he said “it’s 27 percent, could be 35 percent,” and when he said “it’s whatever it is.” Reckless imprecision was also the hallmark of another serial liar, ’50s demagogue Joe McCarthy. The right-wing senatorial red-baiter could never quite decide how many communists were infesting the State Department. In one speech he said, “I have here in my hand a list of 205.” Within weeks, at various times, it was 57 or 10 or 81. But Joe thrived in the limelight for years, because he knew how to feed the news cycle.
Back then, a joker like Joe couldn’t get anywhere near the presidency. Our era is different — thanks to the fusing of politics and entertainment, thanks to the GOP’s intramural chaos. As a result, we’re saddled with Joe 2.0 — who says that roughly 500 million Muslims want to wage war against America, and cites, as proof, a national security poll that doesn’t exist. As David Brooks wrote today, Trump “doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.”
Yeah yeah, I know, all politicians sling the bull. But this guy is different. Even if many Americans are too numb or too oblivious or simply too stupid to disqualify Trump on the basis of his serial lies, rest assured that other nations on this planet — particularly the Muslim nations that we badly need as allies — would take his lies very seriously indeed. And therein lies the clear and present danger.