Huckabee-Sanders calls Trump 2016 Win “an overwhelming majority”; That is not True

Is it too much to ask for truth about basic facts from the White House Press Secretary?

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said the following at a press briefing yesterday:  “He got elected by an overwhelming majority of 63 million Americans who came out and supported him and wanted to see his policies enacted. ”

The problem, of course, is that while Trump did win just under 63 million votes, that number was not a majority of the votes cast in the election (let alone an “overwhelming” one).  Indeed, it was not even the most vote won by a candidate in that election.

Of course, his opponent won the plurality of the vote.  She won just under 3 million more votes.

Source:  The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Studies

This is a well known fact.  It is not debatable.  Trump himself usually focuses on his Electoral College victory (wherein he claims the unofficial total of 306).  His general insecurity about his victory is obvious every time it comes up.

For the official spokesperson of the president to use exaggerated language to promote a factually incorrect narrative to make that president look good is the stuff of tin-pot dictators.  It should not be acceptable.

Yes, it is one small fact.  But is a fact, and it is not an unimportant one.

This isn’t a mistake, or spin.  It is a lie.  It is a lie just like the recent promises by the president of new tax cut before the elections. It is a lie like the lie that there are Middle Easterners in the caravan.  These are lies to manipulate the population.

If we observed this kind of behavior, constantly repeated by a foreign government, we would see it as alarming.  We would see it as an erosion of democracy.

But, of course, many will say: “all politicians lie.”  First, I don’t think that is true.  Not like this. Politicians interpret, spin, dissemble, omit, interpret, and so on, but straight-up bold statements about demonstrabl falsities are not that common (they happen, but they are not normal, everyday actions).

All of the brings to mind a quote from Hannah Arendt’s On Totalitarianism that I have seen several times of late (most recently in the comment section here at OTB):

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

I expect spin from a White House Press Secretary.  I expect a selective focus on interpretations that favor the political goals of the administration.  I do not expect bold declarations of falsehoods.  I do not expect pure propaganda.  And yet, here we are.

Read that paragraph and it is a frighteningly accurate description of how Trump and his allies talk about the caravan of migrants, to pick one current example.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The preacher’s daughter bearing false witness.
    Who’da thunk it?

    21
  2. MarkedMan says:

    This is just a sign that Trump’s toadies have given up on anyone but their base.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The best part of that briefing (the first one in a month) was when Jim Acosta told SHS that she should have the guts to name the journalists, and the media outlets, that are “the enemy of the people”.
    Of course she didn’t have the guts, and instead chose to spout another lie.

    13
  4. It’s not just “not true,” it’s a lie. And a knowing lie at that.

    We need to stop pussy-footing around and just be blunt about this Administration. Politicians have always been known to shave the truth, to spin, or even to mislead or misdirect. But this Administration lies as easily as the rest of us put on our shoes before walking out of the house in the morning.

    23
  5. MarkedMan says:

    You need look no farther than our own resident Trumpers. They will accept Sanders lie as true, or at least their warped and broken idea of what “true” means. Trumper Truth = Anything that makes never Trumpers mad.

  6. Kathy says:

    If politicians were like Pinocchio and their noses grew when they lied, the average politician might have a nose a yard long. Trump’s would reach all the way to Pluto.

  7. Jen says:

    I will never, ever understand how they are getting away with just flat-out lying like this. It is certainly causing me to look at friends and relatives who just shrug this stuff off in a whole new light.

    The damage that is being done by these dishonest and malicious clowns is considerable.

    11
  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    OT: did anyone happen to catch Pence’s latest?

    They opened a campaign appearance yesterday, two days after the worst incident of anti-Semitic hatred in US history, by inviting a Messianic “rabbi” – wearing a tallit no less – to speak.

    Yes. Jews for Jesus … 🙄

    In any other administration it would be so tone deaf as to beggar belief. In this one it’s just par for the course.

    21
  9. @Doug Mataconis: In fairness, I did say “This isn’t a mistake, or spin. It is a lie.”

  10. mattbernius says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Yeah, the entire thing kinda brings back memories of Ann Coulter’s talk about “perfecting Jews” from back in 2007.

    There’s also the question about how today’s appearance in Pittsburgh fits into honoring practices like sitting shiva and other Torah mandated burial practices.

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattbernius:

    No saying Kaddish, no mention of the names of the dead so as to bless their memories, no words of comfort for the suffering, but he did somehow remember to pray for GOP victories.

    It’s a shonde. Frankly, speaking as a Jew, it’s a slap across the face.

    16
  12. @HarvardLaw92:

    That was embarressing and stupid.

  13. Add in the attempt by Conway to spin this as “anti-religion” rather than anti-Semitic.

  14. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yea you did. I suppose I was reacting mostly to the headline. Although I will admit I often struggle exactly how to phrase things about this Administration in post titles.

    This is really more of an issue with the news media in general. Even some of the journalists who have been most critical of Trump seem reluctant to use the “l-word.” Perhaps that’s due to advise from editors or their organization’s legal department but it strikes me that treating this President with kid gloves while he’s calling the media the “enemy of the people” doesn’t make much sense to me.

  15. @Doug Mataconis: No, I agree that the word “lie” is underused. I am reluctant to use it myself as a general matter.

    But I am stuck how this was a straight up lie. And I am especially struck about the blatant lying by the president about his middle class tax plan, and the fact-free BS about the caravan that really can’t be called anything other than lies.

    Plus, I often find headlines awkward. I almost called it “Tell me Lies, Tell me Sweet Little Lies” but that sounded way too flippant.

  16. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    I will never, ever understand how they are getting away with just flat-out lying like this.

    People want to be fooled.

    Then there’s the unwavering, irrational loyalty to prejudice. I’ve heard some in the Cult 45 claim video of the inauguration crowd was taken hours before the actual ceremony, to make it look as though fewer people showed up.

    Having a larger crowd confers prestige on their idol, and their not going to admit it was smaller than some lousy n****r’s who wasn’t even an American citizen.

  17. Pylon says:

    Steven/Doug: Maybe BS (fully spelled out) is the best word for this.

    It’s not an insignificant lie either, because it speaks to his mandate and approval for his platform.

  18. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor & @Doug Mataconis:
    The “lies” discussion really demonstrates how illequipped present reportage/commentary practices are in dealing with this particular administration. It’s been telling to watch this morning how different outlets are stuggling with how to report the President’s proposal to end birth right citizenship via executive action. As part of that he made yet another false claim that no other modern countries have birthright citizenship.

    Multiple organizations circulated that false claim without question or comment in headlines and tweets.

  19. Michael says:

    Most disheartening to me was the utter lack of reaction by the White House Press. She stood there, said it, and moved on. Not a one of them in the room said, “Uh, wait a second.”

  20. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:

    As part of that he made yet another false claim that no other modern countries have birthright citizenship.

    Actually not many do, according to Wikipedia. In particular not many developed countries. And if you look at the map, it seems largely a new world practice.

    In Mexico, as far as I know, citizenship is granted to anyone born in the country, in a Mexican-flagged ship or airplane, or in a Mexican foreign mission. Also to anyone with one Mexican parent, regardless of place of birth.

  21. @Pylon:

    Maybe BS (fully spelled out) is the best word for this.

    I think most of Trump’s rhetoric (and SHS’s) fit into the Frankfurt notion of bullshit. But this is just a straight up lie.

  22. @mattbernius: Agreed.

  23. mattbernius says:

    @Kathy:
    Understood, but there is a critical difference between “no” and “few.” It’s even more problematic that the two nations that border us both do — unless Canada is no longer a modern nation.

  24. al Ameda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    OT: did anyone happen to catch Pence’s latest?
    They opened a campaign appearance yesterday, two days after the worst incident of anti-Semitic hatred in US history, by inviting a Messianic “rabbi” – wearing a tallit no less – to speak.
    Yes. Jews for Jesus …
    In any other administration it would be so tone deaf as to beggar belief. In this one it’s just par for the course.

    A very close friend, who is Jewish, texted me a ‘mazel tov’ when he saw that. Dark humor.
    This administration was – flat out, in every sense of the term – a hostile take over of the federal government.

  25. Kathy says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Coming from the administration that left Jews out of a Holocaust commemoration, does this surprise you in the least?

  26. Jen says:

    And, Sen. Lindsey Graham has announced he will be introducing legislation to end birthright citizenship. His transformation to full-out Trump enabler is complete. These people are just sickening in their depravity to troll for votes.

  27. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:

    Oh, no argument here.

    It’s not widely known, but most countries in the Western Hemisphere modeled their governments after America, including states, separation of powers,a presidency, bicameral legislatures, a supreme court, a constitution, etc. If there was a big difference, it was that most of these latter countries abolished slavery upon independence.

    Granted the law was not adhered to, and the constitutions were not durable (Mexico is on at least its third Constitution), but they copied many laws and practices from America as well. That’s why most countries in this Hemisphere have things like birthright citizenship.

  28. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    Coming from the administration that left Jews out of a Holocaust commemoration, does this surprise you in the least?

    Not at all. In fact I found the Holocaust thing, when it happened, a lot more surprising. That’s truly something that could only have happened in the Trump era. In contrast, Republicans have been getting in bed with “Messianic Jews” for years. In 2008 it was discovered (in a controversy that got somewhat drowned out by other matters) that Sarah Palin’s church had a close relationship with Jews for Jesus, including repeatedly featuring its leader (David Brickner) as a speaker, where he said things like that the victims of suicide bombings in Israel were being punished for their failure to accept Christ. After the Rev. Wright controversy earlier that year, it seemed more than a touch hypocritical for Republicans to rally around a candidate who belonged to a church featuring similarly incendiary rhetoric. But Palin was being heavily shielded from the press at the time, so the McCain campaign simply sent out a spokesperson to assure everyone Palin didn’t share Brickner’s views, and that was the end of it.

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Michael: Do you expect the press to ask her why she is lying?

    I mean, I would love it, but I don’t think it would do anything useful. There would be a big round of “the press isn’t being civil”.

  30. Pylon says:

    @mattbernius:

    We have now emerged from our igloos and have most of the modern conveniences.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    There would be a big round of “the press isn’t being civil”.

    Unfortunately that it far too frequent these days, with so many in the press backing off from pointing out lies when the liars have the gall to talk about civility…whenever the preacher’s daughter tells obvious lies, the press people should all get up and leave and not come back until the president’s henchwoman starts telling the truth on a consistent basis…of course, at this rate, that would mean they would never come back…