On the weekend leading up to the first presidential debate, four news organizations came to a similar and sweeping conclusion: Donald Trump lies more often than Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times, Washington Post and Politico each took a rigorous look at Trump’s recent statements, while the Los Angeles Times took more of a greatest hits approach, Laura Clawson noted at DailyKos.com (9/26).

According to the NY Times, “Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election,” and spotted a pattern: “Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction.” The Times’ look at Trump’s public statements from September 15-21 found “31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly” but excluded “dozens more” seen as less consequential.

Politico took a more inclusive approach, and found six speeches, one town hall meeting, seven TV interviews, zero press availabilities and 37 tweets, with a combined length of remarks (speeches and interviews) of four hours, 43 minutes.

Out of that, Politico found 87 misstatements, exaggerations and falsehoods, at a rate of one untruth every 3.25 minutes.

Politico also fact-checked Hillary Clinton, and concluded that “Trump’s mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration so greatly exceed Clinton’s as to make the comparison almost ludicrous.”

The Post describes Trump as “a candidate who at times seems uniquely undeterred by facts,” while the LA Times chimed in with the assessment that “Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has.”

Brian Stelter of CNN.com noted (9/25) the NY Times story — “A Week of Whoppers” — came out first on Saturday (9/24). Politico, the Washington Post and the LA Times all followed within hours.

Several of the editors who were involved told Stelter the timing was a coincidence. But there was clearly a desire to publish stories before the first debate, when Trump and Clinton’s truthfulness will surely be at issue.

“Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has,” the LA Times declared on page one of Sunday’s paper.

All four of the newsrooms distinguished between the kind of misstatements Clinton makes and the kind Trump makes.

“Clinton has made her share of questionable claims,” the Post said, but Trump “at times seems uniquely undeterred by facts.”

The Post said Trump “continues to rely heavily on thinly sourced or entirely unsubstantiated claims.”

Media critics detected an uptick in journalists accusing Trump of lying when the “birther” issue was revived earlier this month. Even while finally declaring that he knows President Obama was born in the United States, Trump invoked additional lies, falsely claiming that Clinton introduced “birtherism” in 2008 and that he put the conspiracy theory to rest in 2011.

The next day’s New York Times headline explicitly used the “L word” journalists are usually reluctant to use.

“I do think that our story on the day that Trump sought to reverse himself on birtherism — which said outright that Trump was ‘lying’ — sent ripples through the journalistic world,” Times political editor Carolyn Ryan told Stelter.

“Other news organizations are eager to capture what is clearly an unprecedented dynamic,” she said.

Some Trump critics responded to the coverage by saying, in essence, “What took you so long?,” Stelter noted

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted the LA Times front page and said “Congrats to LA Times for finally calling a lie a lie. (A year late).”

Politico editor Susan Glasser noted that her publication examined a week’s worth of Trump falsehoods during the primary season, with unflattering results for Trump.

Politico “thought it was the right time to do it again, given all the attention to the question of Trump’s relation to the facts,” she said, noting that Clinton’s words were also scrutinized this time.

Glasser suggested that Trump’s flouting of the truth has worsened since the primary season: The falsehoods went from “one every five minutes in that earlier piece to one every three in this one.”

Judd Legum of ThinkProgress took exception to the extreme lengths Politico went to create a sense of equivalency with Trump, as Legum noted (9/26) that one of Clinton’s eight “lies” was her claim that Trump’s plan to eliminate the estate tax would be a $4 bln tax cut for his family. Politico argues that this is a lie because it is based on Donald Trump’s own estimate of his net worth.

“In other words, Clinton is guilty of lying because she took Trump at his word about his own net worth. It’s not enough for Clinton to tell the truth and to accurately describe the impact of his estate tax plan. She also has to identify and correct Trump’s lies,” Legum noted.

Trump’s actual net worth cannot be independently determined because, among other things, Trump has not released his tax returns.

DEM WOMEN POISED FOR MAJOR GAINS IN CONGRESS. While America looks likely to elect Hillary Clinton as its first woman president, Democratic women are also positioned to make big gains in 2016’s races for the Senate and House, Stephen Wolf noted at DailyKos.com (9/26). Women now make up just one-fifth of Congress, with big disparities by party. Of the 46 senators in the Democratic caucus, 14 are women, or roughly 30%. By contrast, just six of 54 Republicans are women—a paltry 11%. The House is even starker: 62 of 186 Democrats are women, or 33%, while just 22 of the 246 Republicans are women, amounting to only 9% of the total.

The number of Democratic women in Congress could go up considerably in 2016. Democrats could add six women to the Senate if they win every competitive race. While Democrats some of these contests are longer shots, there’s at least an even chance that four new women senators will join the Democratic caucus next year.

Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth is currently favored to beat Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois, and three other races with Democratic women are rated as Tossups: Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is seeking to replace retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid (D); New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is running against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R); and former Pennsylvania state cabinet official Katie McGinty (R) is facing off against Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

However, even if all four win, retiring Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski will likely be replaced by a man (and fellow Democrat), Rep. Chris Van Hollen, so it would mean a net gain of three seats for Democratic women. But if former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) beats Sen. Ron Johnson (R) in Wisconsin, as expected, it would put Democrats in line to regain the majority if Tim Kaine (D) is the vice president, presiding over the Senate.

Another three races favor Republicans incumbents, but are somewhat competitive for the Democratic women challenging them. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) squares off against Sen. John McCain (R) in Arizona; former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge (D) is challenging Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) in Iowa; and former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) is running against Republican Sen. Richard Burr in North Carolina.

All told, Senate Democrats are poised to add more women and possibly surpass their all-time high-water mark of 16, which they reached after the 2012 elections.

The number of Democratic women in the House could also increase from the current 62, which is a record. If women Democrats win all races we’ve rated as Tossup or more favorable to their party, then they could increase their ranks by three. And if Trump causes downballot Republicans to suffer greatly, a further 12 races that currently favor Team Red might swing toward the Democratic women running there. Democrats need to gain 30 seats to regain the House majority.

MEDIA BLACKOUT ON TRUMP CAMPAIGN SCANDAL WITH RUSSIA. On 9/23, investigative reporter Michael Isikoff dropped a bombshell story at Yahoo News: US officials are investigating secret meetings between a Trump campaign advisor and Russian officials suspected of trying to influence the presidential election.

US intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.

The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said.

Reps from the Trump campaign — Vice Presidential Nominee Mike Pence, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn  —  appeared on all five major Sunday shows, but Judd Legum of ThinkProgress.org noted (9/25) that only CNN’s Jake Tapper asked about Isikoff’s report, directing several questions to Conway.

Conway denied that Page was part of the campaign. In March, Trump listed Page as one of his five top foreign policy advisers. His actual influence in the campaign is in dispute.

The failure to ask Flynn, who appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press, about the report was particularly notable to Legum, since Flynn’s relationship with Russia is a controversy unto itself. He traveled to Russia last year and gave a speech celebrating state-owned Russian media company RT. Flynn will not reveal who paid for his trip.

Former campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned after allegations emerged that he received millions in illegal payments from a pro-Russian party in Ukraine.

Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on the trail. At Trump’s last press conference, in July, he brazenly encouraged Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s email. Russia is suspected of hacking the the DNC’s email and other hacks that appear intended to swing the election to Trump. He has also said that, if elected, he would consider lifting economic sanctions on Russia.

Advisers representing Trump were asked repeatedly Sunday (9/25) about a tweet Trump sent threatening to invite Gennifer Flowers, who had an extramarital affair with Bill Clinton in the 1970s, to the debate. Flowers accepted, but the campaign later decided not to invite her.

CONGRESS FACES SHUTDOWN FIGHT OVER HELP FOR FLINT. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up a fight with Democrats when he announced he would charge ahead with a must-pass spending bill without money to address the lead-water crisis in Flint, Mich.

After weeks of negotiations, McConnell’s proposal to fund the government until 12/9 included a lot of things Democrats could claim victory on. There was a bipartisan deal to fight Zika in the US and no mention of blocking the transfer of ICANN — an obscure internet domain naming agency – from the US to an international body, Lauren Fox wrote at TalkingPointsMemo.com (9/26).

But while McConnell’s proposal included money to help flood victims in Louisiana, there was nothing for residents of Flint, Mich., where a lead crisis in the water has left an estimated 9,000 children under the age of 6 with lead poisoning and people are still drinking bottled water out of fear their tap is still unsafe.

“It helps you understand some of the frustration in this country when the Republican-led Congress singles out the poisoned children of Flint for exclusion in its disaster aid proposal,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman and senior policy adviser for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), who represents Flint, was shocked and angered (9/22) when he saw Flint had been left behind in the spending bill. “It sends a pretty strong message,” Kildee said. “What is it about Flint that distinguishes it from these other places that rightfully qualify for help? I support helping the people of Louisiana. I am all in. What I cannot accept is a bunch of excuses, a bunch of irrelevant excuses that again leave Flint behind. It is a poor community. It is a majority African American community. It is very difficult to believe that if the conditions in Flint had occurred in a much more affluent community. … I have no doubt in my mind that the response would have been different.”

In the House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the Louisiana flooding money and Flint “two separate issues.” He argued that Flint may be able to be addressed when the House deals with a separate water bill and said it was more of a local government issue (despite the fact that the House Oversight Committee held hearings and concluded that the lead crisis in Flint was “a failure at every level of government.”)

JUDGE THREATENS KANSAS VOTER SUPPRESSOR WITH CONTEMPT CITATION. A federal judge on 9/26 ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobac to explain on 9/30 why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to register eligible voters who haven’t provided proof of citizenship, as the court ordered, Kira Lerner reported at ThinkProgress.org (9/26).

A May court order by US District Judge Julie Robinson required Kansas to register all eligible citizens who apply at the Department of Motor Vehicles, regardless of whether they can provide a proof of citizenship document.

Kobach has suspended or cancelled more than 30,000 would-be voters’ registrations because they were unable to provide proof of citizenship when they registered to vote at the DMV.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Lawrence, Kansas, resident Wayne Fish, who tried to register to vote at the DMV but was denied because he doesn’t have a passport and could not locate his birth certificate.

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in February when the suit was filed that “what’s happening in Kansas is outrageous.”

“Thousands of Kansans, including military veterans who have valiantly served our country, are blocked from voting by unnecessary bureaucratic roadblocks imposed by state officials,” he told MSNBC. “These shameful actions have made Kansas an epicenter of voter suppression.”

Currently, somewhere between 18,000 to 50,000 voters are on Kobach’s purge list. Unless the appeals court rules in his favor before November, those voters will be permitted to vote in the upcoming general election.

The current lawsuit is just the latest challenging Kobach’s multi-year crusade against what he calls the problem of “voter fraud” and the potential for immigrants to illegally vote in US elections. Kobach also crafted his state’s voter ID law, and he is the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute voter fraud.

HEALTH INSURANCE LOBBYISTS FIRE VOLLEY IN NEW FIGHT OVER PUBLIC OPTION. When Senate Democrats announced a new push for a public option in Obamacare in mid-September, the private insurance industry swung into action. And it did so quickly.

The industry’s main trade group sent out an “action alert” to members (9/15), asking them to call Senate offices and offering a set of talking points critical of the public option ― that is, a government-run insurance plan for people buying coverage through one of Obamacare’s exchanges, Jonathan Cohn reported at HuffingtonPost.com (9/20).

“We need proven solutions that will make healthcare more affordable for everyone,” Marilyn Tavenner, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement accompanying the action alert obtained by HuffPost. “A public option is not one of those solutions – not for consumers, for doctors, for hospitals, or for taxpayers. We need to solve problems, not make them worse.”

The alert came hours after Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced he’d recruited 32 co-sponsors for a new bill expressing support for a public option ― a position that both President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have publicly endorsed in the last few weeks.

Merkley’s resolution is nonbinding and unlikely to pass, since Republicans have a majority and unanimously oppose the public option. But the insurance industry’s vigorous reaction suggests it considers the prospect of a public option becoming law to be real ― and dangerous.

SKYROCKETING OBAMACARE PREMIUMS? NOT IN COMPARISON TO EMPLOYER PLANS. A new analysis from the Urban Institute found that the average unsubsidized premiums in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, commonly known as Obamacare, are actually 10% lower than the full premiums in the average employer plan nationally in 2016.

Nationally, the average employer-sponsored premium was $516 a month, while the unsubsidized marketplace premium was $464. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, the researchers adjusted marketplace premiums to account for the age of enrollees and the different value of the health coverage provided by the marketplace plans, the Washington Post reported (9/19).

Joan McCarter noted at DailyKos.com (9/20) that’s the unsubsidized Obamacare premiums, meaning that only a little more than 10% of the people with Obamacare plans are paying that full premium. The vast majority of Obamacare subscribers qualify for the subsidy that helps pay premiums. In some areas, the savings between the Obamacare plans and employer-sponsored plans are huge — Obamacare premiums are 35% cheaper in Boston and 26% cheaper in New York City. In more than three-quarters of the states, and more than 80% of major metropolitan areas, employer-sponsored premiums are higher.

Those premium increases in the employer-based market are one of the reasons healthcare costs are shifting as much as they are to consumers: Employers who have to pay a portion of premiums are looking for plans they can afford and increasingly, that means high-deductibles and high-copays for the employees, McCarter wrote.

“The Affordable Care Act did a great job with the uninsured, it has come in at a much lower cost than predicted, and it’s saving Medicare a lot of money. But it can’t really tamp down rising costs across the whole system  Now it’s time to look at larger, more systemic reforms. That should start with something like expanded Medicare—the public option—on the exchanges, and move on from there.”

CAL IS MOST BUSINESS-FRIENDLY STATE. Conservative think tanks like to claim that California is a state “burdened with a high tax rate, significant regulations and extreme housing costs,” Markos Moulitsas Zúniga noted at DailyKos.com (9/24). But, as Steven Davidoff Solomon reported in the New York Times (9/20), California, with 12% of the nation’s population, now accounts for a fifth of all public companies. That’s up from the 1970s, when California had about 10% of the US population and 10.07% of public companies were based there.

“To be clear, the cost of housing in my adopted home state are definitely burdensome, trailing only those of Hawaii and Washington, D.C.,” Moulitsas wrote. “… But those supposedly burdensome regulations and taxes? They buy something. They buy a social safety net, security, the best public university system in the country (if not the world), culture and arts, sensible urban growth, a world-feeding agricultural sector, and a business climate that encourages not just the world’s entertainment center, but the world’s most innovative technology incubator. All the while, those regulations and taxes protect some of the world’s great natural wonders (Monterey Bay, Yosemite, Death Valley, Lake Tahoe, the Sierras, Redwood National Park) amidst great challenges, like massive population growth and drought.”

He added, “Massachusetts and New York also do pretty well. Even Texas is in the picture, benefiting from a consolidation of energy and health care companies — but the Lone Star State has only half the public companies California does. So stats like this should put a lie to the notion that having regulations and taxes makes a state ‘business unfriendly.’ If that were the case, places like Alabama, with their hostility toward workers and the most basic rules, would lead the way, and California would be left a barren wasteland. And it’s very clear: that’s not about to happen.”

TRUMP WANTS FEWER FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS. Donald Trump has identified another very important form of big government that needs to be stamped out: food safety. Trump is pledging to roll back Food and Drug Administration regulations:

“The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food,” it read.

“The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when,” the statement continued. “It also greatly increased inspections of food ‘facilities,’ and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.”

Laura Clawson noted at DailyKos.com (9/15, “Damn them for monitoring food production hygiene! Who gave the government the right to come between the citizens and the E. coli that should be rightfully theirs? Consider this a firm campaign pledge by Donald Trump: more food poisoning for all.”

By the way, Clawson noted that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that more than 3,000 people are killed each year and another 127,000 are hospitalized by foodborne illness. But Trump would probably do away with the CDC, too, so we wouldn’t know how many were killed under his new no-food-police policy.

STEIN: TRUMP IS LESSER EVIL. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein considers Hillary Clinton a greater threat to the US if elected president because she might get things done. In an interview with Politico, Glenn Thrush wrote, “her contempt has a more cutting quality when she talks about Clinton. She mocks Trump as braying menace; Stein thinks he’s, at heart, a bumbler who will be neutered by his own party after being elected. But it’s Clinton who poses the greater threat, in Stein’s estimation, because she knows how to move the levers of Washington. ‘Donald Trump, I think, will have a lot of trouble moving things through Congress,’ Stein explains. ‘Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, won’t … Hillary has the potential to do a whole lot more damage, get us into more wars, faster to pass her fracking disastrous climate program, much more easily than Donald Trump could do his.’”

Charles P. Pierce noted at esquire.com (9/19), “Dr. Jill Stein’s knowledge of How Things Really Work is getting another serious airing, this time on a podcast put together by the gang at Tiger Beat On The Potomac. After making a fairly strong case that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a flawed vessel for a progressive, but that Donald Trump is eight kinds of dangerous crazy, Dr. Jill’s civics train left the rails once again. … I am sorry, but this is just as nutty as anything that has emerged from the piehole of El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago. On what does she base her conclusion that a President Trump will be neutered by the Republicans in Congress? (We must stipulate that, if he were to win the presidency, the Republicans also would maintain their majorities in both houses of Congress and that means, hello, Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown!) They would pass the bills and he would sign just about anything they wanted him to sign.”

Stein also took a few punches at Bernie Sanders, who has endorsed Clinton, calling him a Washington insider. “I’ve tried to talk with Bernie, but, you know, Bernie is — he is a team player,” she said, saying he refuses to speak to her. “I think he’s on the wrong team, perhaps because he’s been in Washington, D.C., too long, because he used to really understand independent politics and why we cannot have a viable political system unless we have independent political parties.” She concludes that it could be “a generational thing.”

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2016


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