The government’s jobs report that came out today—227,000 jobs added last month—is, after years of being attacked by right-wingers and Tr-mp, suddenly gospel. No more talk of “phony numbers” and total “fiction” that should not be believed (all things Tr-mp said about the reports during the campaign). Those once-phony numbers were designed to make Obama’s economic “failures” look like they weren’t failing, we were told again and again. Now, with a new reality in town, Tr-mp, after only two weeks in office, gets the credit because, as he said, there’s a “great spirit in the country right now.” Yeah, I know, it makes you want to puke. Me, too.
Of course those numbers still are credited to Obama’s record. The data for last month was assembled before the middle of January while Tr-mp was still trying to get someone of stature to perform at his tiny inauguration celebrations. The Obama administration ended with about a gazillion months of consecutive job growth, after coming into office with jobs hemorrhaging and GDP growth tanking. So, as everyone on the good side is saying this morning, “Thanks, Obama!”
But the suddenness with which the new administration embraces the jobs numbers as truth is just further evidence of how selectively its members embrace what most of us know as reality. Really, though, it is worse than that. It’s evidence that these folks are willing to create a new reality they try to sell to the public. We all know how pathologically incapable Tr-mp is of telling a truth, any truth. He just can’t do it. And he largely can’t do it because of how distorted is his view of what reality is. We’ve all seen that play out time and again. Any news that runs counter to the news in his head is “fake news.”
But it’s not just Tr-mp we have to worry about. I can’t think of anyone around him, of those who have been at his side for some time now, who doesn’t have the same inability to apprehend the real or the same problem with telling the truth about a reality they can apprehend.
The latest example involves “alternative facts” queen, Kellyanne Conway, a close adviser to the man she once called out as a phony and a liar. Last night, while trying to defend Tr-mp’s Muslim ban, she talked to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about something she called “the Bowling Green massacre.” By now, every news media outlet this side of Breitbart has debunked that nonsense, which was either a delusion or a whopper. But some pundits on mainstream outlets gave her the benefit of the doubt, saying she might just have “made a mistake,” as opposed to just flat-out lying. Conway herself said she misspoke and meant to say something else. Oh, okay. How many times does this pattern need to be repeated before we all admit what is going on here?
These are not misstatements. These are not mistakes. Not at this point. Not after all we have witnessed for months and months. These things are either delusions or lies. Take your pick. Maybe it’s a combination of both, depending on the day or issue. That’s the way it is from Tr-mp on down. We have to choose between believing these people are hallucinating or lying. The statute of limitations on getting any benefit of the doubt for mistakes or misstatements has long run out.
And the hallucinations and-or lies aren’t just confined to Tr-mp advisers or staffers or friends. I listened to a stunning segment on CNN this morning about how Republicans in Congress are going after an Obama initiative to keep mentally ill folks from buying weapons. The initiative involved having the Social Security Administration inform the FBI about people receiving disability benefits because of some kind of mental issue. The L.A. Times described it this way:
The push is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others.
A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”
Now, who on God’s warming planet could be opposed to this? Well, how about House Republicans? Among their first actions this term was to stop this initiative. The vote yesterday was 235-180, with all but 2 Republicans voting in favor of making it easier for people who are mentally ill or have other defined mental issues to have access to guns just like everyone else. The measure is going to the Senate next, which is why CNN segment’s featured an interview with Senator John Barrasso this morning.
I watched as Alisyn Camerota tried several times to get Barrasso of Wyoming to answer a reasonable question about why anyone would oppose Obama’s action. Thanks to Media Matters, a transcript of this exchange is available. I will post it below in its entirety. What you will see is Barasso lying three times about Obama’s initiative being a “midnight recommendation”—when he knew damned well it was first proposed in June of 2015 and not finalized until December of last year because the Social Security Administration went through the normal process of formulating rules on how to make it work.
Besides the repeated lie, what you will also see, and perhaps it is more important than Barasso’s lie, is his inability to answer what Camerota finally synthesized into a rather simple question: “Senator, are you comfortable with somebody having a mental disability and having a gun?” As you read the entire exchange below, you can see it is not just Tr-mp and Conway and other strange people now occupying the White’s House we have to worry about, it is people like John Barrasso, people who live in a reality most of us simply can’t recognize:
ALISYN CAMEROTA: What’s going on with gun control in the House. There’s just been this measure to lift a gun control restriction that will now allow people with severe mental illness to get their hands on guns. How does that make sense?
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: I don’t look at it this way. I’m a strong proponent of our Second Amendment rights. You know, it’s interesting. This was a rule that President Obama came out with in December, long after he was a lame duck president. If this is something he was so committed to, you would have thought sometime in the previous eight years he might have come out with such a regulation. He just came out with it in December —
CAMEROTA: Forget the timing. But what about the substance of it? I mean why allow — if there’s one point of agreement, bipartisan point of agreement that everyone has said from gun enthusiasts to gun control activists, it’s keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. This sounds like it would make it easier for them to get their hands on guns.
BARRASSO: Well I don’t view it that way at all. I look at this from the stand point, this is going against Social Security, and people who get Social Security checks, people who make financial decisions and it’s putting the Social Security Administration in a point where they would then be determining who is reported in ways in terms of our Second Amendment rights.
CAMEROTA: As I understand it, it involves 75,000 people with mental disorders so severe that they cannot work and that they have someone else manage their Social Security benefits. How does it make sense to let them have guns?
BARRASSO: Well, this is a new change by President Obama, a midnight regulation on his way out the door. It should be subject to a full debate, discussion, and the House has voted on it yesterday and voted to repeal that rule.
CAMEROTA: If someone has a mental illness so severe that they cannot work, should they be able to have a gun?
BARRASSO: The question is somebody able to have a gun at the same time they’re receiving Social Security disability benefits. You can take a look at how those decisions are being made. So up until last month, for —
CAMEROTA: Disability for a mental illness.
BARRASSO: — Seven, eight years of President Obama’s term, it was fine. And to come out with a midnight regulation at this point that maybe even members of his own party don’t support, seems like just another thing that President Obama has done while leaving the White House to try to gum up the works as he leaves.
CAMEROTA: Senator, are you comfortable with somebody having a mental disability and having a gun?
BARRASSO: You can take a look at what the Constitution says which is what I do as a physician who spent lots of time working with patients with all different backgrounds. They’re clearly people who have been labeled one way or another, and I’m not comfortable with this late midnight recommendation by the president as he’s leaving office.
A United States Senator could not tell us whether he’s comfortable with mentally disabled people having guns. He couldn’t get himself to say it. He lied to keep from saying it. The only conclusion is that, for whatever reason, he is comfortable with it. It’s either because he so hates Obama, or so loves the NRA and its money, or just thinks mentally disabled people who lack the ability to manage their own affairs nevertheless possess the ability to own not just one firearm, but an entire arsenal.
Journalists will have to, very quickly, learn to adjust to the delusions and lies that are coming at them, and us, faster than anyone can process them using normal methods. Besides not challenging Barrasso’s lie, Camerota’s problem here, which this transcript doesn’t show, is that despite sticking with the line of questioning for some time, Barrasso just kept repeating himself until she moved on to something else. That has to stop. Whether it is Tr-mp’s people or people in Congress, when they act this way, when they lie or share their delusions with us, journalists can’t just move on to the next question. Ask and ask and ask and ask. If they still don’t answer such an important question, ask again.
For journalists to move on to something else without getting an answer only encourages the Barrassos and discourages the rest of us.