© Josh Sager – January 2016
Every year, the non-partisan fact-checking organization Politifact.com decides upon a single false statement by a politician that is declared the ‘lie of the year.” In 2015 however, they were unable to isolate a single statement to give this dishonor and, instead, decided to declare “the campaign of Donald Trump” as the lie of the year. 76% of Trump’s statements which they looked at were either ‘mostly false” or “pants on fire,” making him the most prolific liar of the year according to their metrics.
Amazing as it may seem, I am about to defend Donald Trump from this accusation. Don’t get me wrong, Donald Trump is a bloviating racist who spouts fact-free talking points whenever he opens his mouth, but this doesn’t make him an outlier in the GOP. He is being targeted for this dishonor because it is easier to declare him an extreme liar than to face the fact that the Republican Party has lost its mind.
Ironically, the best analogy to this situation comes from big-Pharma and their criticisms of Martin Shkreli, the price-gouging CEO who became one of the most hated people on the internet this year. After he decided to raise the price of a life-saving component to the anti-HIV cocktail by 6000%, drawing the outrage of millions, Shkreli was lambasted by the industry and even kicked out of PhRMA, the largest big-Pharma trade group. He was declared the outlier that defied the norm. Unfortunately, Shkreli is not the outlier and his rampant profiteering is simply the most extreme example of price inflation coming from a relatively small producer. He was singled out by the large manufacturers because he was too small to fight back and his blatant profiteering—6000% overnight rather than 61% annually—exposed unjustifiable price increases to public scrutiny.
Trump is the GOP’s Shkreli, and Politifact only feels safe declaring him the liar of the year because he is hated by the establishment and thus an easy target. Politifact is non-partisan, but it has a heavy establishment bias, and it would be inconvenient for them to point out the obvious fact that the entire GOP is living in a fantasy world.
If you actually look at the statements which have been made during GOP primary contest, EVERY contender has based their major policy ideals on complete nonsense. There is wide agreement that US industry is hugely overregulated and that taxes are higher than they have ever been; that Obama is a weak leader and has refused to fight against terrorism; that Planned Parenthood is an evil entity which kills children and sells their bodies; that refugees and undocumented immigrants to the USA are an existential threat to our nation; and that entitlements are bankrupting the country and just need to be cut or privatized.
All of these major foundational pillars to the Republican Party platform are simply false. Parsing levels of falsehood between the positions of each candidate is an interesting intellectual exercise, but it does nothing to mitigate the fact that we are trying to differentiate between lies. To demonstrate this, you can do a simple exercise. Watch any of the Republican debates and randomly select a couple questions to fact-check yourself. Regardless of the topic, you will find that basically everything that every candidate says is either deceptive, half-true, or a blatant lie.
If Politifact wanted to accurately describe this year in political lies, they would declare the entire Republican Primary contest the “lie of the year” and lament the fact that half of the political establishment has become politically psychotic. They wouldn’t take the easy way out be singling out the candidate that the establishment hates most and declaring him the lying outlier.
Final note—while the Republicans are obviously deserving of the liar of the year crown, I need to point out a clear Democratic runner-up. During the November Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton gave what had to be the most offensively dishonest and disgusting defense for accepting Wall Street money ever uttered in a political race. When called out on her reliance on Wall Street donations by Bernie Sanders, she responded as such:
“So I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”
In short, she is saying that her acceptance of Wall Street money (much of which happened before 9/11) was to “rebuke” terrorists and shouldn’t be criticized—basically, her corruption is okay because of 9/11. This makes my head hurt whenever I hear it and, in a sane political climate (where an entire political party hasn’t gone insane), should have been the lie of the year.