Also, that fourth accuser: Incomparably, we were watching when the exchange occurred, near the end of yesterday's press event.
In typical scattershot, imprecise ways, journalists had been asking Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the tone of Donald J. Trump's ongoing remarks. Now the topic was raised again.
We'll show you the full exchange as recorded by CQ Transcriptions. We'll highlight a truly remarkable statement. We've eliminated one CROSSTALK:
QUESTION (10/29/18): He and you have also acknowledged that, in the next breath, after he calls for unity, he does talk about division in what you described as "drawing contrasts."The answer went on a bit, after which Sanders departed. That said, we've highlighted the part of Sanders' statement which helps define an age.
Is he incapable of, in the words of some, "toning it down" and toning down the rhetoric?
SANDERS: Again, I think the president has had a number of moments of bringing the country together. Once again, I'll remind you that the very first thing the president did was condemn the attacker. And the very first thing—
The second thing he did was—
—the media did was blame the president. You guys have a huge responsibility to play in the divisive nature of this country. When 90 percent of the coverage of everything this president does is negative, despite the fact that the country is doing extremely well, despite the fact that the president is delivering on exactly what he said he was going to do if elected.
And he got elected by an overwhelming majority of 63 million Americans, who came out and supported him and wanted to see his policies enacted. He's delivered on that. He's delivered on the promises he's made.
And if anything, I think it is sad and divisive, the way that every single thing that comes out of the media—90 percent of what comes out of the media's mouth—is negative about this president.
Imagine! According to the White House press secretary, Donald J. Trump "got elected by an overwhelming majority of 63 million Americans."
Closely parsed, that statement doesn't exactly make technical sense. That said, a naive observer would surely assume that those 63 millions voters had given Trump an "overwhelming majority" of the popular vote.
By any normal measure, that's what Sanders seemed to assert. But a simple look at the record shows us these vote totals:
Popular vote, 2016 presidential electionAs it turns out, Trump was elected by an overwhelming majority of minus 2.9 million votes! As everyone knows (or possibly not), Trump did get 63 million votes—but Clinton got three million more.
Donald J. Trump: 62,984,828
Hillary Clinton: 65,853,514
That very peculiar statement by Sanders helps define an age. It's true that people can make mistakes in extemporaneous speech. But that statement was so absurd that it helps define an age—an age in which many public figures seem to believe that any statement, no matter how crazy/absurd, will be believed by The Tribe and, in that sense, will stand.
This wasn't Sanders' only remarkable statement. Consider this earlier question concerning "the tone question"—concerning the president's tone:
QUESTION: I want to go back to the tone question. The President said he was planning to tone down his rhetoric this week, but in his rallies since the suspicious packages began being mailed, the President has called out Maxine Waters by name at his rallies, he's stood there as his supporters chant "Lock her up" in reference to Hillary Clinton, whom he continues to call Crooked Hillary Clinton.Playing by the scattershot rules of the corps, John asked about something completely different. But note what Sanders seems to have said:
Will the President stop using that kind of language in light of the fact that these individuals were targeted by [INAUDIBLE]?
SANDERS: The President's going to continue to draw contrasts. Let's not forget that these same Democrats have repeatedly attacked the President, whether it was Eric Holder saying kick them when they're down, whether it was Hillary Clinton saying you can't be civil until Democrats have control of Congress, or whether it was Maxine Waters who, who encouraged her supporters to get up not just in the President's face, but all administration officials faces.
Those actions are from those Democrats, the President's going to continue to fight back when these individuals not only attack him but attack members of his administration and supporters of his administration. John?
When the president participates in cries of "Lock her up," he's engaged in "drawing contrasts!" That's what Sanders seems to have said—and there will be no follow-up from any major news org.
Would follow-up make any difference? Or have expectations for American discourse fallen completely apart?
Granting the fact that people make mistakes in extemporaneous speech, Sanders seemed to think that members of The Tribe will accept her ludicrous apparent claim about Trump's "overwhelming majority" of votes. She seemed to believe that her characterization of those cries would be permitted to stand.
Almost surely, such thoughts would be right. Meanwhile, in another location, one guy seemed to think that members of The Tribe were going to swallow this remark about the caravan:
WARD (10/29/18): We have these individuals coming in from all over the world that have some of the most extreme medical care [sic] in the world. And they're coming in with diseases such as smallpox and leprosy and TB that are going to infect our people in the United States.That was David Ward, a seemingly haunted former ICE agent, speaking to Charles Payne on Fox during the 4 PM Eastern hour.
Liberals have tended to mock the smallpox warning; that disease was declared extinct in 1980. For our money, the leprosy warning felt more inane, since it seemed to come live and direct from the feature film Ben Hur.
But, within the current context, the assumption seemed to be that these claims will be believed, at least within The Tribe. Also, Ward may believe these claims. There's no proof that he doesn't.
"The American people are pretty sharp!" For decades, this has been a standard talking point of major American pundits. Joe Scarborough finished this morning's Morning Joe with a version of this scripted blather. This has long been a standard way in which pundits flatter and curry favor with viewers.
In truth, we the people were never especially sharp—but we were always protected by major media gatekeepers. Gatekeepers restricted the claims we would be allowed to hear. In this way, we were protected from our credulous natures.
That system has broken down. Today, Ludicrous Tribal Presentation has become a major big business. This business operates through talk radio, "cable news" and the Net, but it even operates on a daily basis through major legacy media.
Sanders made a ludicrous statement about Trump's overwhelming win. That said, under current arrangements, her ludicrous statement was close enough for tribal herd management work.
Sanders made a ludicrous statement. By this morning, it had us thinking about the recent night when we liberals were pleasured with the pimping of our fourth accuser. Then too, have you read today's columns by Goldberg and Krugman? Is there any obvious way to escape these extremely dangerous times?
"May you live in interesting times!" According to an old urban legend, it's an old Chinese curse.
In fact, it seems to track to RFK. Of course, given the way we rational animals work, that could be bullsh*t too.
Tomorrow: The tale of the fourth accuser