The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump huffs and puffs, but his campaign is built of strawmen

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill on Aug. 24. (Pool New/Reuters)

My head I’d be a-scratchin'

While my thoughts are busy hatchin'

If I only had a brain.

— The Scarecrow

President Trump’s man at the post office, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, gives perverse new meaning to the old U.S. Postal Service slogan: We deliver for you.

Thanks to some brilliant reporting by The Post’s Aaron C. Davis, Amy Gardner and Jon Swaine, we now know that DeJoy appeared to use his former business, the felicitously named New Breed Logistics, as an exotic animal in the pay-to-play jungle of political influence peddling. He allegedly left employees feeling pressured to give donations to political candidates, reimbursed them with bonuses, then used the influence he gained to secure favors and appointments for his wife and himself. Now, DeJoy is abusing his new office to help Trump’s campaign.

It’s up to authorities to decide whether DeJoy did something illegal at his former company but, from appearances, DeJoy seems to have been running a classic straw-donor operation. As Davis et al. described the practice, “Known as a straw-donor scheme, the practice allows donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscures the true source of money used to influence elections.”

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Perfect! Of course Trump installed a guy allegedly versed in straw donations as his postmaster general. Now, DeJoy is contributing strawmen to a Trump reelection campaign that has all the heft of a house of straw. For it to work, Trump is counting on the electorate displaying a level of brainlessness not seen since Dorothy happened upon the Scarecrow.

Trump huffs and puffs about a mail-in ballot “scam” that is Democrats’ “only hope” in what “will be the most corrupt election in history, by far!” He says the widespread use of voting by mail will be “fraudulent,” in part because the USPS is “not equipped” for it.

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That’s a load of hay, of course: Voting has been done by mail for years with minimal trouble. And the USPS, which delivers 472.1 million pieces of mail per day, obviously can handle tens of millions of mail-in ballots. But DeJoy provided Trump with stuffing for the claim, ordering cuts to the postal service — and then warned states that he may have trouble processing all those ballots.

In debating, the straw man is a logical fallacy in which you attribute to your opponent something he hasn’t argued, then knock down the fake argument. In the current campaign, the straw man is Trump’s sole strategy — but he has deployed a barnyard full of them. Consider the policies Trump attributed to “stupid person” Joe Biden on Monday afternoon alone:

  • “The Biden plan begins with a $4 trillion tax hike.”
  • “Biden’s also pledged to demolish the U.S. energy industry.”
  • “Biden’s plan for the China virus is to shut down the entire U.S. economy.”
  • “Biden wants to surrender our country to the virus, he wants to surrender our families to the violent left-wing mob, and he wants to surrender our jobs to China.”
  • “Joe Biden (and) the radical socialist Democrats would immediately collapse the economy.”

Among the planks Trump previously placed in Biden’s platform:

  • “Joe Biden is just a Trojan horse for socialism.”
  • Biden “is against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy."
  • Democrats “want to destroy our country.”
  • “The violent rioters share Biden’s . . . same agenda for our nation.”
  • Biden’s policy “basically means no windows” in homes or offices.
  • And my favorite: “They’re going to destroy our suburbs.”

How? A tax on the pasta station at Olive Garden? Regulations limiting screen size at the multiplex? A ban on tall fescue lawn seed?

If you buy all this, you’re also likely to believe, as the Atlantic reported (and The Post and even a Fox News correspondent confirmed in part) that fallen soldiers are “losers” and “suckers,” and, as Trump said Monday, that the military brass are war profiteers. You’ll also believe any of the more than 20,000 falsehoods Trump has uttered as president, including recent claims about a plane “loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms,” about Biden being controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows” and about only 9,000 Americans having died from coronavirus.

You’ll also believe that Trump has “drained the swamp” even after the self-dealing, conflicts of interest or feeding at the public trough of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Ryan Zinke, Elaine Chao, Michael Cohen, Scott Pruitt, Wilbur Ross, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Elliott Broidy, Roger Stone, Steven Mnuchin, Jared Kushner, the Trump children and Trump himself.

And now, an ode to DeJoy. His shipping business flourished, The Post reported, thanks in part to contracts with the U.S. Postal Service. Now, he’s in the position to deliver for Trump.

Trump on Monday endorsed DeJoy’s removal if it “can be proven that he did something wrong.” Trump might realize the same logic demands his own removal on Nov. 3 — if he only had a brain.

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