Donald Trump as his state's greatest baseball player: When the New York Times reported on Tara Reade's apparent misstatement, they cited CNN as the original source of their report.
Reade had always claimed to be a graduate of Antioch University. But, as CNN had reported, the university has now said that it just isn't so.
As we noted yesterday, this is emerging as a rather familiar pattern. But when we read CNN's lengthy report, the problem seemed to be even worse:
LEE AND KAUFMAN (5/19/20): Reade has said that she changed her name to Alexandra McCabe and fled from her ex-husband [in 1996]. Some details of Reade's personal life are hazier after that.Oof! According to Antioch, Reade doesn't hold a degree from the school—and she was never a professor there!
Reade told CNN that she received a bachelor of arts degree from Antioch University in Seattle under the auspices of a "protected program," personally working with the former president of the school to ensure her identity was protected while she obtained credits for her degree. She also said that she was a visiting professor at the school, on and off for five years.
Presented with this, Karen Hamilton, an Antioch University spokesperson, told CNN that "Alexandra McCabe attended but did not graduate from Antioch University. She was never a faculty member. She did provide several hours of administrative work."
An Antioch University official told CNN that such a "protected program" does not exist and never has.
For whatever reason, CNN didn't start discussing these problems until paragraph 17 of its largely ho-hum report. When they did, they only said that the facts here seem to be "hazy."
We can't swear who's right about these matters, but in this morning's Washington Post, the story seems to get worser. In this passage, the reporters are discussing assertions by Reade in her work as an alleged "expert witness" in various court proceedings:
VISER AND SCHERER (5/23/20): While Reade told the court she had worked as a legislative assistant to Biden, she actually held the job of staff assistant, a more junior role, according to Senate records. And while her résumé, shared with the defense by the district attorney before she appeared in court, said she worked in Biden’s office from 1991 to 1994, records show she was there only eight months, from Dec. 2, 1992, until Aug. 6, 1993.Oof! According to the Post's report, Reade misstated the nature of her job with Biden. She misstated the length of time she worked for Biden, turning eight months into three or four years.
A spokeswoman for Antioch University said that, contrary to Reade’s claim, she did not graduate from the school, as first reported by CNN. The spokeswoman also said that Reade never worked as an “online visiting professor,” as she claimed on the résumé shared as part of the court proceedings.
In testimony that she gave in December 2018, she was asked if she was licensed to practice law in California, and she responded that she had not taken the bar exam.
But Reade herself published a blog in 2012 documenting her third attempt to pass the California bar exam. The blog was titled “California Bar Exam: Three Times A Charm.”
She falsely claimed to be a graduate of Antioch. She falsely claimed that she had been a professor at the school.
Beyond that, she claimed that she'd never taken the bar exam. Earlier, she'd apparently said that she had taken the exam three times.
We can't straighten out these various contradictions. But we can recall the headlines on Professor Manne's highly instructive essay:
I Believe Tara Reade. And You Should, Too.Professor Manne believed Tara Reade. She said that you should too.
We already knew that Biden is the type. Had we as voters and had the Democratic Party taken this seriously, we wouldn’t be in this mess now
Why did she believe Tara Reade? In part because, as the headline explained, Biden is "the type!"
Appallingly, Professor Manne is a ranking philosophy professor, at Cornell. Her essay appeared in The Nation.
Each of these facts should tell us something about the way our absurdly self-impressed tribe has been contributing to our failing nation's breakdown in intellectual order. Concerning Reade, the pattern which seems to be emerging is quite familiar.
As we tell you every time, none of this can possibly prove that Reade's claim about Biden is false. But, for whatever reason, some people do make false accusations of this type. At this point, does Reade really seem like someone you'd be inclined to trust?
(For the record: Natasha Korecki's report about Reade stressed her endless money problems. Could Reade be on the Putin payroll? Yes, of course she could! She's written at least one crazy essay about the sexy Russkie hunk. Also, everything's possible, and it always has been!)
Does Reade seem like someone you can trust? Instead, might she be a person who "has problems," as Emily Bazelon suggested at Slate way back in April, speaking to a pair of hopelessly scripted male colleagues?
In the the words of the embarrassing Manne, does Reade seem like someone you should believe? Sadly, Professor Manne is a real professor, and she's part of our own failing tribe!
This brings us to the question of President Trump, whose statements are generally semi-coherent but rarely seem to be accurate.
This morning, perusing the Washington Post, we were struck by the headline above Colbert King's weekly column. We became even more intrigued when we saw the way King began:
KING (5/23/20): All the president's liesAs a general matter, it's certainly true that President Trump's "word cannot be trusted." President Trump emits bogus, false and misleading statements in much the way dark storm clouds will toss off showers of rain.
When President Trump announced this week that he is taking the drug hydroxychloroquine, I was working my way through The Post’s new book, “Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth,” written by the newspaper’s Fact Checker staff.
The thought that Trump would ignore warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and deliberately ingest a drug that could have serious side effects was disturbing. Equally upsetting, however, was the thought that the president may have taken to the airwaves to tell a flat-out lie. Why should we believe he’s taking the drug? After all, America has come to this: a president of the United States whose word cannot be trusted.
If Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, that would seem to indicate that he actually hasn't been lying when he's said that he thinks it's safe. If he thought the drug was going to kill him, we'll guess that he wouldn't be taking it.
Is he actually taking the drug? There's no way to be sure. But that headline talks about the president's "lies," and the Washington Post's Fact-Checker site has never used that term.
Playing by older, sounder rules, the site continues to tabulate the president's "false or misleading claims." And, as everyone used to know, a false statement isn't a lie if the speaker believes the statement is true.
The Fact-Checker site has bowed to that old understanding. Until today, when King proceeds to quote Glenn Kessler, the site's major player:
KING (continuing directly): Fact Checker editor and chief writer Glenn Kessler labels Trump “the most mendacious president in U.S. history.” And the 344-page book backs up that charge.Mendacity is a form of lying. It may be that Kessler is held to one set of rules in the Post itself, but has been able to state a different judgment in this new book.
We haven't seen the new book. We do recommend the possibility that Trump is disturbed and disordered—that the fellow "has problems."
Consider two apparent misstatements by Trump. Just this week, at a public event, he claimed, apparently falsely, that he was honored as Michigan's "Man of the Year" a few short years ago.
It seems quite clear that there is no such prize, and that Trump wasn't so honored. But was Trump lying when he said that? Is it possible that he's so delusional that he believes that claim?
In asking that question, we refer you to another absurdly swollen claim Trump has made down through the years. Linking to a fascinating report in Slate, Tyler Lauletta summarized the lunacy here:
LAULETTA (5/6/20): President Trump's recollections of his career as a high school baseball player have come under scrutiny.Actually, Trump only said in that 2013 tweet that he was said to be the best player in the state. Exaggerations and misstatements are part of the human condition!
Trump has claimed that he was a standout player, capable of making the big leagues had he desired.
"I was captain of the baseball team," Trump said in a 2010 interview with MTV. "I was supposed to be a professional baseball player. Fortunately, I decided to go into real estate instead. I played first base and I also played catcher. I was a good hitter. I just had a good time."
In a 2013 tweet, Trump went as far as to say that he was the best player in the state of New York in his high school days.
That said, was Trump the best baseball player in the state of New York during his high school days? Asking a slightly different question, was he any darn good at all?
Wonderfully, Leander Schaerlaeckens decided to check it out! In his lengthy, detailed report for Slate, it becomes fairly clear that Trump wasn't an especially good high school player at all, let long the best player in the state.
Question: When Trump made this ridiculous claim, was he actually lying? Or could it be that he's so disordered that he thought his false claim was true?
If he knew his claim was false, he was lying. If he actually thought it was true, does some larger problem exist?
Is Donald J. Trump a liar, or might he simply "have problems?" We think that question is worth exploration. This seems to put us in the minority in our own infallible tribe.
Like all tribes in all of human history, our tribe likes to make the sweeping moral denunciation. We tend to opt for the simplest accusation against the other or others.
You can't believe a thing Trump says, but how often is he actually lying? We'd like to see medical specialists tease that question out, if they can be nonpartisan in their discussions.
Concerning Reade, it seems that a certain familiar pattern has emerged. Our big news orgs are actually discussing that pattern this time. They were never willing to do so in the history-altering cases of Gennifer Flowers and Kathleen Willey, who never stopped being regarded as the most credible people on earth.
An unfortunate pattern has also emerged among some of our tribe's professors. Recent essays by Professors Hirshman and Manne constitute an embarrassing indictment of one branch of our own failing tribe.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our self-impressed species is deeply tribal. At times like these, we aren't inclined to be real bright—and that cab even be true Over Here, among our most brilliant sachems.