Whatever President Donald Trump may or may not be accomplishing on the U.S. trade front, the one-man export of high-level prevarication remains singularly robust. From tariffs to Crimea, from China to Iran, there was nary a topic that the alleged leader of the free world could not address with a strong, loudly proclaimed opinion wholly unrelated to reality. One can only wonder whether these proclamations drew bewilderment from fellow world leaders or merely a scramble to translate the words “dementia," "mania” and “brain atrophy” into German, French, Japanese and Chinese. We’d like the think the former but, well, here we are.
Still, it falls upon the humble staff of Alternative Fact of the Week department to choose the top seven (or eight if they’d just let that darn Russia back in) obvious, yet insistent misstatements of circumstances offered by President Trump during his time in Biarritz, France. They are, in no particular order, as follows:
1. “President [Vladimir] Putin outsmarted President [Barack] Obama.” This was Mr. Trump’s peculiar view of Russia’s invasion of Crimea and that country’s ouster from what was then the G-8. And while it’s certainly true that Russia invaded Ukraine during the Obama presidency (in 2014), where is the “outsmarted” part? The U.S. had no control over the countries involved. Most every country strongly protested the annexation of Crimea, including everyone in the G-7. Should President Obama have launched World War III? And yet, oddly, it’s Mr. Trump who wants to relax the resulting sanctions the U.S. and its allies have taken against Russia, including inviting the unrepentant Mr. Putin to the next summit.
2. “We gave [Iran] $150 billion ... and we got nothing.” This was the president’s familiar mischaracterization of the Iran nuclear deal. While the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action did result in the release of Iran’s own frozen assets, it was not anywhere near $150 billion (estimates vary but most are less than one-third that amount) and, in return, Iran agreed not to build a nuclear bomb — ever. That was kind of a big deal.
3. “I’ve spent — and I think I will, in a combination of loss and opportunity, probably it’ll cost me anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion to be president.” Mr. Trump’s claim of $3 billion or more in personal losses, a response to his flagrant effort to drum up G-7 business at his Florida resort next year, is especially laughable given estimates of his net worth hover around $3 billion. Of course, he’s welcome to release his tax returns and prove everyone wrong.
4. “China called last night our top trade people and said, ‘Let’s get back to the table.’ So we will be getting back to the table and I think they want to do something." President Trump’s insistence that China blinked first and asked for a return to the trade negotiation table can’t easily be disproven. After all, we’d have to take the word of an authoritarian regime over that of a chronic liar who has misrepresented most every aspect of his China strategy down to who pays for tariffs. But, seriously, given the track record here, who do you think restarted talks? The folks who have consistently denied the call ever happened or the liar-in-chief who initially claimed it did but subsequently declined to offer further details? Thought so.
5. “The first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong Un and I think she would agree with me he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential." What made this one especially memorable was how the White House had to issue a statement acknowledging that Melania Trump has never met the North Korean leader. It was a lie with no real political value, and that’s instructive all by itself.
6. U.S. trade deficits with China and Europe stand at “$500 billion” and “$180 billion,” respectively. No, they don’t. They stood at $381 billion and $114 billion last year. Neither has ever been that high, but then numbers always seem to get rounded way, way up in Mr. Trump’s talking points.
7. “The United States, which has never collected 10 cents from China, will in a fairly short period of time be over $100 billion in tariffs.” Once again, Mr. Trump sticks to the fantasy that Chinese producers pay tariffs when it’s U.S. consumers who ultimately bear that burden. One suspects this isn’t a matter of not understanding economics, as he comprehended this reality well enough two weeks ago when he decided to hold back certain China-related tariffs until Dec. 15 so they would not affect holiday shopping.