A big part of the pushback over President Trump's controversial travel ban is the idea that it's a solution in search of a problem — that terrorism caused by refugees and immigrants is oversold, and especially from the seven majority-Muslim countries that were singled out.
Kellyanne Conway on Thursday did nothing to rebut that line of argument, citing a nonexistent “Bowling Green massacre” as an example of the kind of attacks Trump's executive order would root out.
Here's the exchange with MSNBC's Chris Matthews:
CONWAY: It's the seven countries that were previously identified by President Obama as being high risk as being states that either harbor, train or export — and/or export terrorism. These are nations very narrowly proscribed and also temporary.
CONWAY: I bet there was very little coverage — I bet — I bet it's brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.
MATTHEWS: Let's …
CONWAY: (INAUDIBLE) don't know that because it didn't get covered.
Well, it didn't get covered because it didn't happen; there was no Bowling Green massacre. As The Post's Samantha Schmidt writes, there were Iraqi citizens, living in Bowling Green, Ky., who were attempting to send weapons to al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2011, but it never came to fruition. They were arrested, and their arrests were covered plenty.
Perhaps it could be excused as a slip of the tongue. But in context, it's just more evidence of a White House messaging operation that doesn't have its shoes on the right feet. Time and again in the last two weeks, Trump's top messengers have gotten their facts wrong, mixed their messages and struggled to defend their boss. There simply doesn't seem to be any plan.
- On his first full day as press secretary, Sean Spicer delivered easily disprovable and baseless claims about Trump's inauguration crowd. He later acknowledged his estimate of how many people used Washington's subway system was errant, despite the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority having tweeted out the vastly different numbers — for all to see — on Inauguration Day. Spicer said he relied on numbers from the Inauguration Committee, for some reason. They were apparently too good to check.
- In response to the furor over Spicer having delivered incorrect information, Conway argued on NBC's “Meet the Press” that he was merely presenting “alternative facts.” Spicer later likened “alternative facts” to conflicting weather reports.
- After the widely panned implementation of the travel ban over the weekend, Spicer on Tuesday took issue with the media describing Trump's ban as a “ban" — despite his having used the word the day before. And Trump having used it multiple times. And Conway having used it on a Sunday show. Spicer argued that as long as most people were allowed to enter the United States, it couldn't be called a “ban,” even though it clearly banned people from specific countries. By Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he didn't actually care if people called it a “ban.”
- After the press wondered aloud why Trump wasn't pushing for an investigation into his baseless allegation of 3-5 million illegal votes in the 2016 election, Spicer had no good answer for why Trump hadn't and used data that say nothing about actual fraud to back up Trump's claims. Then Trump said he would pursue an investigation. It still hasn't happened, and now CNN reports the probe “is no longer a top priority for the president” and won't happen anytime soon.
- Trump made some, well, awkward comments about Frederick Douglass at a Black History Month event on Wednesday morning — which some saw as him thinking Douglass may be a living person. Later in the day, Spicer struggled through his own explanation of what had just happened.
There have been plenty of theories out there about why Trump spouts untrue information. Perhaps it's just an effort to muddy the waters, some say. Perhaps it's part of some Machiavellian effort to distract from the “real issues.”
Or perhaps it's just that that the White House doesn't really have any plan in place — that their talking points about a major and controversial travel ban still haven't been nailed down a week later.
Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most likely one.