With pointed language, Cooper corrected Trump on his suggestion — “A lot of people say yes,” said the president — that philanthropist George Soros could well be orchestrating the caravan. He corrected Trump’s claim that there could be as many as 20 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (There are 12 million, a number that Trump also mentioned). He corrected Trump’s claim that he was merely continuing the Obama administration’s policy of separating children from their families at the border (not true: Trump routinized the practice before an outcry forced him to retreat). He corrected Trump’s claim that 3 percent of asylum seekers appear for court hearings. (It’s actually 75 percent, according to Trump’s own Justice Department).
And he chided Trump for bragging of his expertise at judging crowd size: “I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size, and [the caravans] look a lot bigger than people would think,” said Trump. Countered Cooper: “Of all the claims for this president to make, do we need to get into the whole crowd size thing with this president? I mean, do we?”
It’s a template. Each day there are any number of topics floating around in the news: immigration, the economy, the climate, trade and so on. The one thing they all have in common is the falsehoods and the lies that the president peddles in talking about these topics. Mendacity is the cross-cutting issue of contemporary America, the fissile material that’s blasting our political process to shreds. Coverage of the “issues,” therefore, is impossible without first addressing this issue.
There’s no reason why any cable-news show, any nightly news broadcast shouldn’t start with just the sort of factual pat-down that Cooper did on Thursday night. As previously discussed in this space, there’s a surfeit of material along these lines, as Trump’s lying loquacity is racing ahead of the country’s fact-checking corps. As the country heads around the corner to the 2020 presidential campaign, this particular mismatch promises to become more lopsided.
The problem multiplies with the assistance of Trump’s lieutenants. Speaking of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, CNN’s Chris Cuomo told Vanity Fair, “She’ll say three things in a row that need a correction. She’s really, really good.”
Asked by ABC News’s Jonathan Karl if he’s always been truthful, Trump actually had trouble lying: “I do try, and I always want to tell the truth when I can. I tell the truth. I mean, sometimes it turns out to be, where something happens, it’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.”
Cooper asked, “That is the president of the United States telling ABC News’s Jonathan Karl that he tells the truth when he can, which raises the obvious question: When can he not tell the truth? For most presidents, the answer is very, very rarely, usually [to] safeguard some greater secret which might compromise national security if it got out.”
HBO’s Bill Maher put it well when he interviewed Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera about his buddy Trump. “But just — the lying. It doesn’t bother you — the lying on a scale we’ve never seen?”