Alternative fact of the week: 'America has rarely seen such success'

Picking the alternative fact of the week presented a conundrum. For sheer strangeness, it would be hard to top President Donald Trump's remarks about the Civil War as having been avoidable, and that Andrew Jackson would have stopped it from happening if he hadn't been dead for 16 years before it started. But that presidential utterance (and follow-up tweet) is less notable for its outright falsity — indeed, as a historical counter-factual musing, that's baked in — than for its strange amorality, in that it suggests the tension over the existence of slavery was something that a better deal-maker could have resolved.

Instead, we focus on what surely must be the earliest re-election ad ever run by a sitting president: Mr. Trump's commercial touting his first 100 days' accomplishments (and paid for by his campaign committee). If you're a CNN watcher, you may have missed this, as the network refused to sell airtime for the ad on the grounds that it is false. In part, it shows images of several television news anchors, including CNN's Wolf Blitzer, under the banner "Fake News." The network released a statement saying, "CNN requested that the advertiser remove the false graphic that says the mainstream media is 'fake news.' The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false. Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted." This prompted the Trump campaign to issue a statement calling CNN "fake news" for refusing to air its fake fake-news claim, and the snake swallowed its tail.

But the overall message of the ad, that "America has rarely seen such success" in a president's first 100 days, is as alternative-facty as it comes, unless you measure "success" by the number of executive orders blocked by federal appeals courts, the number of Americans who disapprove of the president's job performance or the number of visits to Capitol Hill by the FBI director to discuss investigations into possible wrongdoing by members of the campaign and transition teams. He's killing it on the "most rounds of golf played" metric, too. None of those get mentioned in the ad, though.

We will grant the first claim, "a respected Supreme Court justice confirmed." That happened. True, it only happened because Republican senators engaged in unprecedented stalling of former President Barack Obama's equally respected nominee for the late Antonin Scalia's seat, but Mr. Trump certainly did select someone eminently qualified (if not our cup of tea politically), and he didn't screw it up when it came time to seek Senate confirmation for Neil Gorsuch. Senate Republicans had to exercise the so-called "nuclear option" and end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees, but given their treatment of Obama nominee Merrick Garland, that probably would have happened no matter who Mr. Trump picked.

Things go downhill from there. It is only a "fact" that 500,000 jobs have been created since the start of the Trump term if you count January data from before he was inaugurated. His average so far (admittedly, a small sample of February and March numbers; April won't come out until tomorrow morning) is about 30,000 fewer jobs per month than the nation created during the last year of Mr. Obama's term.

The ad touts the resurrection of the Keystone XL pipeline as the narrator says, "America becoming more energy independent." The Keystone would do no such thing; it is designed to bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, much of which would then be exported.

The ad brags about "regulations that kill American jobs eliminated." Mr. Trump has certainly been active in reversing Obama-era regulations, but is it a job-killer to use Social Security data to try to prevent mentally ill people from buying guns? Or to require that states weigh the academic achievement of students most heavily in evaluating whether a school is failing? Or to prevent companies that have a history of violating wage or workplace safety laws from getting federal contracts? Does it kill jobs to require that energy companies disclose any payouts they make to foreign governments?

Finally, the narrator trumpets the "biggest tax cut plan in history." Some might quibble with the fact that the text on the screen omits the word "plan," as if to suggest that Mr. Trump has actually cut taxes rather than just suggesting Congress do so. We would actually question whether you can call a "plan" something that proposes a massive overhaul of the federal tax code in a document that barely stretches to one bullet-pointed, double-spaced page.

We'll be the first to agree that the 100-day mark is a pretty artificial standard by which to measure a presidency. But if you're going to buy air time to tout your accomplishments, you ought to have some accomplishments to tout.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
77°