Our chance to call a lie a lie!


When schoolchildren still liked Ike:
Within the political realm, when can a journalist safely "call a lie a lie?"

In Tuesday's New York Times,
Sheryl Gay Stolberg recalled one fairly clearcut situation. We were twelve when this lie was revealed. We recall being puzzled, surprised, disappointed:
STOLBERG (8/8/17): One of the first modern presidents to wrestle publicly with a lie was Dwight D. Eisenhower in May 1960, when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down while in Soviet airspace.

The Eisenhower administration lied to the public about the plane and its mission, claiming it was a weather aircraft. But when the Soviets announced that the pilot had been captured alive, Eisenhower reluctantly acknowledged that the plane had been on an intelligence mission—an admission that shook him badly, the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said.

“He just felt that his credibility was such an important part of his person and character, and to have that undermined by having to tell a lie was one of the deepest regrets of his presidency,” Ms. Goodwin said.

In the short run, Eisenhower was hurt; a summit meeting with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev collapsed in acrimony. But the public eventually forgave him, Ms. Goodwin said, because he owned up to his mistake.
Had Eisenhower made a "mistake?" More specifically, had he made a moral mistake? Was that the way the public came to view his behavior?

We don't know. For various geopolitical reasons, it made sense to issue a "cover story," until it turned out that the pilot had survived and was in Soviet custody.

At that point, the "cover story" fell apart, in a badly embarrassing way. But it seemed pretty clear that Ike had told, or commissioned, a lie.

We recall being surprised by the fact that an American president had lied. But it was pretty clear that he'd actually done so. No one believed that Eisenhower had been ignorant of the U-2 flights. No one thought that he really believed the initial "cover story," in which the United States denied conducting surveillance flights over the Soviet Union.

This was a fairly clearcut lie. No one thinks that Eisenhower was weirdly ignorant, out to lunch, out of his mind or delusional.

Our day-to-day situations today are much less clearcut. Presumably, some, many or all of Donald J. Trump's many misstatements are lies. But we're not sure why any reporter would think he can tell in any particular instance.

Eisenhower wasn't nuts, disordered or delusional; he didn't seem to be struggling with some form of early onset dementia. Such facts aren't clear about Donald J. Trump.

(Luckily, he had no chance to win last fall, barring a weather event!)

Such facts aren't clear about Donald J. Trump. That's why it's hard to score his endless list of weird misstatements. Kevin Drum asks a good question, and conducts an interesting analysis, in this new post, right here.

As we stated yesterday: Later, Stolberg wrote this:
STOLBERG: Many of Mr. Trump’s lies—like the time he boasted that he had made the “all-time record in the history of Time Magazine” for being on its cover so often—are somewhat trivial, and “basically about him polishing his ego,” said John Weaver, a prominent Republican strategist.
Trump's statement about the Time covers was wrong. But what made Stolberg, or perhaps some meddling editor, think this erroneous statement could be scored as a "lie?"

We don't have the slightest idea. Meanwhile, the concepts involved in this are about as complex as 2 + 2. When our reporters "reason" this way, we wonder about their origins, and about their ability to get anything right.

This is highly remedial work. But our press corps has shown, for many long years, that they tend to have an amazing lack of elementary, basic skills.

What explains their many misstatements? To this day, after nineteen years, we have no clear idea.


  1. Goodwin's 'narrative', as most of what she has to say most of the time, is pure unadulterated bullshit. 'Politician's character' (in the sence she's using the phrase here) an an oxymoron. Being a liar is basically their job description.

    1. "Ignorant ranting asshole" is the job description of a troll assigned to a Class D blog.

    2. Good to know, thanks. And may I ask who's assigning you?

  2. Trump, in the 'art of the deal', uses a technique he calls "truthful hyperbole." It is lying, pure and simple, and he uses it to manipulate people and situations. It is a conscious choice on his part. Maybe he is now partly delusional, but it has been a feature of his personality for decades. It seems, in your opinion Bob, that no one can ever be convicted of perjury, because we just can't know what's in their heart or possibly diseased brain. They may 'believe' the lies they're telling. That seems baloney to me, especially absent any diagnosis.

    1. This is pretty close to the explanation provided by Trump-supporter Scott Adams. Trump seems to have little interest in the accuracy of his statements. His interest is in how the statements help him achieve his goals.

      I find this pretty ugly. But, there's nothing diseased or delusional. He's continuing to use a technique that worked for him for many years. I hope and (pretty much) believe that he's now using "truthful hyperbole" for the benefit of all Americans, not just for selfish purposes.

    2. "Trump seems to have little interest in the accuracy of his statements. His interest is in how the statements help him achieve his goals."

      Is there anyone still clinging to the delusion that Trump isn't a Republican?

    3. "Listen you ignorant little shitstain."

      No one listens to irrational foul mouthed invective.

    4. Except when it is true and represents a loss of patience with our relentless trolls.

    5. I hope and (pretty much) believe that he's now using "truthful hyperbole" for the benefit of all Americans, not just for selfish purposes.

      You can't make this shit up. Comrade DinC "believes" the pussygrabbing pervert lying fraud flimflam traitor tRump is using his powers of being a lying sack of shit for good rather than evil.

      You know what Comrade? In addition to being a lying troll, you're fucking crazy as a loon also.

      Here is the orange lying sack of shit telling the truth to the Mexican president and begging him to lie to save his sorry ass from the lies he told the American people.

      "Because you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. From a political standpoint, that is what we will say. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about. But in terms of dollars – or pesos – it is the least important thing. I know how to build very inexpensively, so it will be much lower than these numbers I am being presented with, and it will be a better wall and it will look nice. And it will do the job."

      Congratulations, Comrade. You voted for an abomination the likes of which this country has never seen before.

    6. Dear TDR sufferer (or paid Clinton troll?),
      Perhaps you're unaware, but those with sound mind tend to pay attention to the actual economic conditions, rather than silly rhetoric and bullshit propagated by the corrupt establishment media.

      And the current economic conditions - thanks (perhaps) to the new administration, concentrating more on the domestic economy and less on globalist abomination (to use your term) - are getting better: 1.3 million jobs added this year.

      Trumpism works, so far at least. Life is getting better.

    7. Dear Russian/Paid Trump Troll

      Why would you be concerned with what those with sound mind think ? After all, you've already established yourself to be a complete Trump worshipper incapable of a thought that does not involve worshipping your orange god.

    8. Dear Russian bot/troll,

      You attack the media and call it corrupt. You say that they write narratives. You are a fucking hypocrite. You don't mind narratives, as long as they come from Wingnutistan.

      You tout 1.3 million jobs added this year as though the monkey in the WH had anything to do with it. Hint, he hasn't passed a single piece of economic legislation since he and his criminal family took up residence in my WH.

      With July's jobs report, employers have added a total of 1,074,000 jobs during Trump's first six full months in office.

      That essentially matches the 1,084,000 jobs created during President Barack Obama's last six months in office. Both round to 1.1 million, and the 10,000 difference is well within the margin of error of the Labor Department estimate.

      You don't

    9. At 8:20

      I do. It get a kick out of mm. Not my style, but completely honest and on point. Just hope he never has to point that gun at me. :)


    10. " Hint, he hasn't passed a single piece of economic legislation "

      Hint: the congress pass legislations. The executives use different tools.

      Just outta curiocity: do I understand correctly that you credit the previous monkey with the jobs created under his rule, while denying any credit to the current monkey? Did I get that right? And you call ME hypocrite? Nice. Thanks for the laughs.

    11. 猫城记: You forget, Obama submitted legislative proposals (like the ACA) to Congress, and used all the persuasion he had to get them through, despite the GOP’s declaring on literally Day One of his first term that they would oppose him on everything.

      Before that, W certainly submitted proposals — his Patriot Act, as you may recall, had to be approved by Congress before Congress could even read it!

      Trump, to the contrary, has said he’s sitting in the Oval Office waiting to sign stuff... and that is all he’s doing about legislation, as he’s submitted no proposals at all.

    12. 猫城记: As to jobs record... we just passed the six-months mark. It generally takes longer than that for a President’s actions to make a dent in nationwide employment stats. Taking credit for corporate decisions that were made before his term started isn’t quite the same thing.

    13. "It generally takes longer than that for a President’s actions tO make a dent"

      Maybe so, but for this one it didn't take long. Everyone knew from the beginning that NAFTA is going to be renegotiated (also promised during the 2008 campaign by the previous King - and down to the memory hole as soon as he got elected - here's a real lie for ya all; one lie, among many, really affecting people), that tariffs will be imposed on imports (some have been already). The dollar is lower this year. All this creates a business climate favorable to domestic industries, domestic blue collar jobs.

    14. "favorable to...domestic blue collar jobs"

      Trickle-down bullshit? Like racism, some terrible ideas will never die.

    15. It's good that you heard about 'trickle down economics', but now you need to find out what it actually means.

    16. Will Rogers coined the term:

      “This election was lost four and five and six years ago, not this year. They didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands. They saved the big banks, but the little ones went up the flue.”
           — Column #518, “And Here’s How It All Happened”, Tulsa Daily World, December 5, 1932.

  3. ...as for the time mag, i just watched the video, and he said he's been on the cover "15 times this year" and that this might be the record. Not even close to a lie, and, in fact, for all I know, it could actually be accurate. They say Nixon was 44 times on the cover, but was all in one year?

    But the most important question here is: why would any motherfucking journo pay any attention to this at all? The economy is great, and he hasn't started any new wars yet (and the one in Syria seems to winding down). He seems to be moving, albeit very slowly and unsurely, into the right direction: away from neoliberalism, globalization, imperialism. Tariffs are being imposed on various imports, jobs are coming back. Three cheers to the bullshitter in chief! Stay the course, Donald, fight the bustards.

    1. If we wanted some war-hawk to hand the economy over to Wall Street, we'd have elected the right-wing caricature of Hillary Clinton.

    2. bustard: a large, heavily built, swift-running bird, found in open country in the Old World. The males of most bustards have a spectacular courtship display.

    3. "we'd have elected the right-wing caricature of Hillary Clinton"

      There is no left-right dimension in the US politics. Had the neocon-backed candidate (Clinton) been elected, we would've been, probably, hiding in bomb shelters now.

    4. That is some misleading and inaccurate information.

      Trump is plain awful on world peace, he has escalated tensions dramatically with North Korea, talking tough while acting weak, bringing us ever closer to nuclear war.


      Trump has abdicated Syrian policy to the Pentagon which has led to a dramatic increase in US-caused civilian deaths, "winding down" is Assad propaganda, Trump has waffled his take on Assad, likely haven given it very little thought.



      The only tariff Trump has imposed....is on Canada! The tariff on Canadian wood will only result in higher home prices for US citizens, thanks! Canada's tariffs on US dairy remains the same, so a complete failure of a policy.



      Job rate trend is the same as under Obama, a continuation of Obama's policies, has nothing to do with Trump. Trump is terrible on job growth:


    5. Everyone sane backed Hillary. That blurred the labels a bit.

      You forget that Hillary was Sec of State for 4 years. We know what the world was like then.

    6. Oh yes, we certainly do know what the world looked like: a neocon paradise. "We came, we saw, he died, he-he-he". She is an obvious psycho.

      And in addition to Libya, multiple other peaceful societies destroyed by the same gang: Syria, Yemen, Ukraine. The coup attempt in Turkey. Demonizing and antagonizing Russia, to the point where total nuclear destruction becomes a real possibility.

      Thank you very much, dear well-meaning liberals...

    7. Savushkina Street SergeiAugust 10, 2017 at 11:19 PM

      You have promise at portraying a fatuous troll, but you need to work more on concealing your Dunning-Kruger tendencies to be convincing.

    8. "That is some misleading and inaccurate information."

      Who could've guessed - fake facts from a fake-Chinese troll?

    9. "Had the neocon-backed candidate (Clinton) been elected, we would've been, probably, hiding in bomb shelters now."

      The funny part is the Trump fans who support his bluster about using our military might, would be the ones the AM radio Gods like, Hannity and Limbaugh, would sucker into hiding under their beds in irrational fear.
      It's all part of Conservative logic, or what the rest of us call "illogic".

    10. Thanks for reading, everybody. I should probably tell y'all that I enjoy reading your replies, your squirming and spewing your hatred. Beautiful and extremely generous reward - for a coupla dozen words I type here every day. Again, thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.

    11. No one is writing anything for you. The replies here are aimed at lurkers.

    12. Anonymous 8/10 11:54pm: “fake-Chinese troll” — The 1933 novel Māo Chéng Jì 貓城記 (“Cat Country”), by Lao She, is a satire against the Nationalist Party which then governed China, since the overthrow of the Empire and the establishment of a republic. Sixteen years later, Mao Zedong’s Communist Party took control.

      That’s not a name. But it is a political statement.

    13. "Mao" -- I enjoy reading your posts too, since they indicate the extent to which paid Russian trolls will go to defend their hero. Kinda fun, and hope you're able to scratch out a living in your Moscow apartment.

    14. Anonymous 11:21am: Now now, that’s a wholly unwarranted assumption!

      Many Russian trolls live in St. Petersburg, rather than Moscow.

    15. Thing is we don't need Mao. We have the actions of the entire modern Conservative movement to show us they are an amoral dumpster fire.
      Mao's schtick to make them look even worse is a waste of time.

    16. Thanks, Savushkina , for mentioning Dunning-Kruger. Interesting human phenomenon, and it would appear the "leader of the free world" suffers from this affliction.

      Not to mention the trolls who inhabit this place, which I have, and will again, counsel "us" to ignore.

      Unless you're mm, who is known to criticize Bob from time to time. I enjoy the epic takedowns. Alas, much as I enjoy them, he's a feeder. (I take license in assuming gender.) DinC has never gone away, but at least his arguments have the _appearance_ of coherence. You can have a civil discussion with "him," but I've given up. (Right, who the hell am I?)

      As 11:50 stated. Mao's postings are a waste of time.


  4. If you claim, or honest don't see the distinction between Trump's approach to truth telling and anyone else whoever got near the office of the Presidency, you need a course in remedial humanity.

    1. This is one of the truest things someone has said here.

    2. Yeah... Have to admit, the hairsplitting is sometimes maddening. But that's what Bob has _always_ done. He makes the attempt to critique his targets with classical reasoning and logic. And those criticisms aren't always palatable, and certainly arguable.

      That's okay. I like this blog, it's made me think ever since I linked to it from the now defunct MediaWhoresOnline, all those years ago.

      It's his opinion. And I don't think where he stands on Trump is a mystery.



  5. Khrushchev could have handled the U-2 incident differently. Why not laugh at the weather-plane cover story and let Frank Powers off with a warning?

  6. Living out a conscious strategy of avoiding facts and using fabricating realities and responses along with bullying, bluster, and cheating as coping methods in life makes you a lying and delusional scoundrel like Donald Trump. The inability to recognize that is the Somerby Syndrome.

    1. It does appear Bob Somerby is determined to remain an excuser and enabler for America's own National, Presidential, Daily Howler.

      How very sad, and ironic.

  7. Bob Somerby: “Presumably, some, many or all of Donald J. Trump's many misstatements are lies. But we’re not sure why any reporter would think he can tell in any particular instance.”

    Take for instance his rewriting his son and namesake’s statement about meeting with the Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, a statement his staff had urged him to make truthful, advice he did not follow. He had all the facts; he even had staff there playing the part of angels on his shoulder urging the right course of action. So he chose, Bob, he consciously and deliberately chose to override his staff and craft a deceptive statement instead.

    You may if you like blame long-entrenched habit, as it is entirely plausible that Trump is an habitual liar who reaches for a lie before the truth as the easiest, most familiar tool in his mental toolbox; but there’s no warrant to call that “early-onset dementia”, as the behavior pattern dates back decades, appears to have been learned strategically, including from the tutelage of Joe McCarthy’s old buddy Roy Cohn, and has had the mentally competent, professionally proficient help of other lawyers since then, for instance in drawing up contracts with fine print carefully and subtly designed to let Trump later disavow responsibility the other parties might reasonably have thought he would bear.

    Deception has been a successful business and now political strategy for Trump: he has become rich; he has become President. There is, after all, a practical reason why liars lie.

    1. Slate's Jamelle Bouie points out that even where Trump most appears to dwell in a sheer wish-fulfillment fantasy-world, he is still enabled in this (and his hateful rhetoric) by his staff and supporters.

      Alas, in Trump’s battle with the critical coverage he calls “fake news” — such as MSNBC or CNN — he has supporters right here in Bob Somerby, David in Cal, and Mao Cheng Ji.

  8. Kevin Drum's post yesterday about the Mao manifesto is pretty interesting. It would explain our own Mao's activities, if he thinks he is fighting some culture war. Cheng Ji means "results". Once again, they seem to be projecting onto liberals the same motives they are using themselves, apparently as a justification for their own actions. So our own troll may be believe he is fighting a war here to defend Trump by using social media and internet propaganda to fight the left (which is characterized as Marxist no matter who they actually are). I hope he is a Russian bot and not a real person because the degree of distance from reality is pretty dismaying if a human being is involved.

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