August 30, 2020

Game On!

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

 Breathe easy, at last, ghosts of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Your presidential election battle of 1828 is about to lose its 192-year-old distinction as the dirtiest presidential campaign in American history. Heaven has no rage, nor hell a fury (apologies to long-gone British Playwright William Congreve) like the Presidential election campaign that is now officially on. It will be an all-out war with no Marquis of Queensberry rules to officiate the bloodletting. 

 The Democratic and Republican Party conventions were studies in contrast. The Democrats, for all of their Tinseltown and television extravaganza production connections, managed to produce a virtual convention with all of the pizzazz and excitement of The Great American Bake Off.

 Conversely, the Republicans voraciously misappropriated public property funded by Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated tax-payers. They used the White House, the National Gallery of Art, and Fort McHenry as stage props to showcase their convention electioneering. For sheer stagecraft, the Republicans ran circles around the Democrats. They also may have established a precedent for the political use of tax-payer funded facilities that will not serve our Democracy well.

 Both sides were less than meticulous in their fidelity to accuracy. Still, the Democratic transgressions from absolute candor paled in comparison to the whoppers laid on the public by the Republicans. Now, as a former life-long Republican who, early in his career, had a hand in strategizing a note-worthy political campaign or two, I give a lot of slack for reasonable rhetorical excess in electioneering. Soft fibs are liberally tolerated in political speechifying. The GOP’s Goebbelian-size whoppers, however, far transcend mere exaggeration and do need to be called out. Biden stretched credulity a bit too, and that will be addressed in this essay as well.

 The coming Republican re-election strategy will focus mightily on law and order. The unlawful and criminal civil mob disorder taking place in several cities must be strongly condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. Civil disorder and the failure to react to it is a legitimate political issue. The ghost of Nixon must be gleefully rubbing his hands together.

 President Trump continually says what he believes will play well with little, or no, consideration for the integrity of what he says. The serious disorders in pockets of far too many cities will be exploited for they are, indeed, appalling. The President has already brazenly announced that only he stands between our nation and complete anarchy. Only he can save us. Joe Biden is but a surrogate for the Marxist left, a trojan horse. Biden, Trump has proclaimed, isn’t all there. He (Biden) “would roll on the floor crying for mama” when he faces Trump or tough questioning, the President has taunted. What a civics lesson our kids are about to have.

 There will be a steady drumbeat of misinformation. For example, President Trump has claimed that under President Obama, the defense budget was gutted. That simply isn’t true. Expenses for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were indeed curtailed as combat was curtailed in those countries. The fact remains, however, that in 2016, the last year of the Obama Administration, the United States was still spending three times more than China, the world’s second-biggest military spender, with an even more significant gap over Russia, the world’s third-largest military spender.

 There’s more (with thanks to the well-respected and thorough Washington Post Fact Checker):

 “America has done more Coronavirus testing than every country in Europe put together, and more than every nation in the Western Hemisphere combined. We have conducted 40 million more tests than the next closest nation.” This is, of course, nonsense. The United States still lags behind other major countries, even Russia, and we are tied with Britain in the number of tests per million people.The equally major problem is that test results are still slow to be returned in the United States. Delays in getting test results back to the person tested results in excessive contagion while test results wend their way through the system.

“When I took bold action to issue a travel ban on China, very early indeed, Joe Biden called it hysterical and xenophobic. And then I introduced a ban on Europe, very early again.”

Nonsense again. As we have reported in prior essays, many airlines were canceling flights before the U.S. acted. At least 38 countries took similar action before or at the same time the U.S. restrictions were put in place.

“The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country in the world

This is, unarguably, false. Case Fatality Rate measures how many people known to have contracted COVID-19 eventually die of COVID-19, and the U.S. rate is currently 3.1 percent. Johns Hopkins University says that it puts the United States 11th among the 20 countries most affected by the disease; the United States ranks fourth for deaths per 100,000 population. Among “major countries” belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. rate is lower than the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, but higher than Australia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Israel, among others.

“I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president.”

Well, just plain ridiculous.

Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were truly landmark legislative accomplishments. Johnson built coalitions with moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats to defeat the, then, segregationist Southern Democrats. Johnson knew he was destroying the old, so-called Democratic “Solid South,” but he took the morally and historically correct action.

 “Our NATO partners…were far behind in their defense payments. But at my strong urging, they agreed to pay $130 billion more a year, the first time in over 20 years that they upped their payments.”

In 2014, NATO agreed to increase its spending in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region to reach 2 percent in each country by 2024. Trump’s $130 billion figure comes from a NATO estimate that its European members and Canada would spend $130 billion additionally on defense over the four years between 2016 and 2020. Trump mistakenly claims this is $130 billion a year, rather than over four years. The $400 billion figure is for eight years. Defense expenditures for NATO countries have been increasing since 2014, which is when NATO decided to boost spending in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says 2019 was “the fifth consecutive year of growth” for European NATO members and Canada.

“We will always and very strongly protect patients with pre-existing conditions. And that is a pledge from the entire Republican Party.”

Nothing the President nor the Republican party has done remotely supports this claim.

Trump took office and immediately began trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Now, his Administration is asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire law, including the preexisting condition coverage guarantee. Trump has not even offered a replacement plan. His claim that his Administration has done anything to provide for or plan for pre-existing conditions is pure prattle.

 “We have spent nearly $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office.”

Outrageously misleading. The military was never close to being depleted. U.S. military spending declined in the years before Trump took office as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, not because the military was “very badly depleted.”

“I then approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, ended the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord and secured, for the first time, American energy independence.”

Trump did sign executive orders to speed up construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, although it still has not been built. Trump did not approve the Dakota Access pipeline, which began construction during the Obama administration.

The Paris Climate Accord allows member nations to set their own targets, and Trump could have unilaterally changed the commitments offered by the Obama administration.

Trump and his allies often repeat the false claim that the United States is now energy independent, but the country continues to import millions of barrels of oil per day.

“In 2019, the United States imported about 9.10 million barrels per day of petroleum from nearly 90 countries,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration EIA).

The United States is expected to become a net energy exporter this year, according to the EIA, meaning it would sell more than it buys from other countries for the first time since 1952. Contrary to what Trump says, however, the United States still imports substantial oil.

“When asked if he supports cutting police funding, Joe Biden replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.”

This is a false claim that has earned Trump four Pinocchios from the Washington Post Fact Checker. Biden simply does not support “defunding police,” and has never said he does.  While Biden backs increased spending on social programs separate from local police budgets, he also has urged more funding for police reforms such as body cameras and more training.  When asked by CBS if he supported defunding the police, his answer was unequivocal. “No, I don’t support defunding the police.”  He has supported federal aid to police based constructive community policing standards. Some on the left have actually criticized Biden for his position and for proposing to spend an additional $300 million a year on the community policing program started in the Clinton administration.

“The Biden-Bernie manifesto calls for abolishing cash bail, immediately releasing 400,000 criminals onto the streets and into your neighborhoods.”

Again, ridiculous.  Defendants awaiting trial have not been automatically released in states that have moved to abolish cash bail. For example, in New Jersey, former governor Chris Christie, a Republican allied with Trump, led a coalition to abolish cash bail and replace it with a point-based system that assesses risk based on the nature of the charges, the defendant’s prior record and the risk to the public. Biden’s position is, essentially, the same as Governor Christie’s.

“Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale, and natural gas, laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico.”

False. Biden would not abolish fossil fuels. His plan on energy and the environment calls for “net-zero [carbon] emissions thirty years from now in 2050.” In the interim, Biden’s plan says, “we must look at all low- and zero-carbon technologies,” leaving the door open to carbon capture and other fossil-fuel-based sources. The “net-zero” language is a term of art, meaning that fossil fuels could continue to be used so long as their emissions are offset by other means. Biden also says he would allow existing fracking operations to continue.

“He [Biden] pledged to increase refugee admissions by 700 percent.”

Factually, the Trump administration has imposed new restrictions on asylum claims, and Biden would largely lift them. The United States previously had a ceiling of admitting 130,000 refugees a year, Trump slashed that to 18,000 and Biden would seek to increase it to 125,000.

“He [Biden] opposed the mission to take out Osama bin Laden.”

Biden didn’t oppose the mission, but he did urge taking the time to secure additional confirmation that bin Laden was at the Abbottabad, Pakistan location. President Obama’s decision to go ahead with the attack turned out to be the right decision.

“He [Biden] supported the Iraq War.”

So did Donald J. Trump (before he didn’t).

 “Rather than spending $1 billion on a new Jerusalem embassy building as planned, we took an already-owned existing building in a better location … and opened it at a cost of less than $500,000.”

This is partially true, but misleading. The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is a temporary location. It’s not a new building; the United States refurbished its existing consulate in Jerusalem for about $400,000, but U.S. government documents indicate the overall cost for the full conversion now totals more than $23 million.

 “In a new term as president, we will again build the greatest economy in history.”

The coronavirus pandemic did shutter businesses and sent unemployment soaring, and the President could and should brag about the state of the economy before the pandemic. It was not, however, the best economy ever, as the President has claimed.

The economy under Trump did not do as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, or Bill Clinton. The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent, and 4.7 percent, respectively. This is not to criticize the Trump economy, which was, indeed, strong. It simply was not historically strong. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In postwar 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. The unemployment rate did reach a low of 3.5 percent under Trump (continued progress from 4.9% under Obama, a significant improvement from the 10% Obama inherited from George Bush). Still, it had dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1953.

“Washington insiders asked me not to stand up to China. They pleaded with me to let China continue stealing our jobs, ripping us off, and robbing our country blind. But I kept my word to the American people. We took the toughest, boldest, strongest, and hardest-hitting action against China in American history.”

Studies by many leading economists have shown that American consumers primarily bear the cost of Trump’s China tariffs because companies pass down the added cost. While the two countries eventually resolved some sticking points in the first phase of a trade deal that took effect in February, China is lagging far behind in its commitment to purchase $200 billion in agricultural, manufactured, and energy products above 2017 levels. Yet Trump claims they are “more than living up to” their commitments under the deal. They are not.

“We also passed VA Accountability and VA Choice. We’re taking care of our veterans.”

Actually, Obama signed VA Choice into law in 2014. Trump merely signed an update of the law known as the Mission Act, which went into effect in 2019.

“We passed the decades-long-awaited right-to-try legislation.”

Trump signed “right-to-try” legislation in May 2018, allowing people with life-threatening illnesses to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to obtain experimental medication. But the legislation had not been waiting in the wings for “decades,” as Trump frequently claims. (He has repeated this statement more than 45 times, according to the Post’s ongoing database.) Moreover, the FDA already approved 99 percent of requests for access to unapproved drugs, but supporters still thought these policies were too restrictive. Contrary to Trump’s claims of lives saved, Alison Bateman-House, a medical ethicist at the New York University School of Medicine, has tracked the law’s application and says that fewer than ten people have used it to get treatments since it passed.

“We passed record-setting tax and regulation cuts, at a rate nobody had ever seen before.”

Trump’s tax cut was not “record-setting,” despite the more than 200 times he has claimed otherwise. Amounting to nearly 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, it is far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Overall, it is the eighth-largest — even smaller than two passed under Barack Obama.

“As part of Republican tax cuts, in 2019 alone, our child tax credit put over $2,000 into the pockets of 40 million American families.”

— Ivanka Trump

Daughter Trump gives too much credit to her father and his Republican colleagues.

The child tax credit has existed since 1997, and it’s been expanded since then, including in the recent tax law. In 2016, under Obama, 35 million American families took the tax credit, with an average benefit of over $1,500 a year.  So, there’s only been a modest increase (in part because of inflation).

“Joe Biden let ISIS terrorists rampage across the Middle East. President Trump eliminated ISIS’s leader — and destroyed its caliphate.”

— Senator Tom Cotton

The caliphate built by the Islamic State has been dismantled, but Trump cannot take all of the credit for its demise. Obama set up virtually all the structure of the campaign to fight ISIS.  Trump makes no mention of the now-abandoned Kurds in fighting ISIS.

“Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense said Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major national security decision over the past four decades.”

— Senator Tom Cotton

Cotton was referring to a famous quote by Robert Gates, a Republican who served as defense secretary under George W. Bush and Obama. But in a June interview with NPR, Gates indicated he was supporting Joe Biden for President, not Trump. “I wrote on the same page that I regarded Joe Biden as a man of great integrity, a very decent human being.  So, although I’ve got a lot of policy disagreements with the former vice president, he is a decent person. … I think what the country needs is somebody who will try to bring us together.”

Now, we also take issue with some of the remarks that have been made by Joe Biden.

 Concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, according to Biden, the United States has, “by far, the worst performance of any nation on earth.”

 Well, while our track record is quite poor, it is, simply, not the worst performance on earth. Here are the unadulterated facts. We do, unfortunately, lead the world in the number of Coronavirus cases and deaths. Nonetheless, given the size of the United States, we aren’t the absolute worst. We do, however, lag behind many other countries. The United States rates fifth in the number of deaths per 100,000 people. We rank among the highest nations testing positive — 16,430 per million residents, which is lower than Chile, but higher than any other large country. In summary, with a little over 4% of the world’s population, we have racked up 25% of the world’s coronavirus cases. Not a statistic consistent with the medical and scientific expertise we, as a nation, have at our disposal.

 Biden also told the convention-viewing public that one-in-six small businesses had closed this year.

While this is technically true, it requires some further elaboration. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about 13% of small businesses had closed by the end of July, but only a tiny fraction, only 1%, are considered permanent. So, as of the end of July, about one-in-eight small businesses were probably permanent closures, not one-in-six. Interestingly, the Chamber found that 23% of small businesses reported having temporarily closed at some point. About half of those had, however, reopened by late July. Nonetheless, 65% were concerned that they might have to close their business if the pandemic worsens.

“We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask, not as a burden, but to protect each other.”

A nationwide mask mandate is easier said than done given current law. A mandate would most certainly run into legal problems with the Constitution and other laws, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires courts to grant certain religious exemptions.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 10th Amendment prevents the federal government from controlling or requiring states to carry out federal directives. Congress could incentivize states to enact mask mandates, as long as the incentives aren’t considered significant enough to coerce or force states into enacting the mandate, the Congressional Research Service opined.

So, the country is rushing toward the election in the midst of a public health and economic crisis and with greater divisiveness running rampant and being stoked than ever before in recent memory.

Election 2020: Many in the political class will be watching closely. So, will the rest of America, young and old. Many lessons will be learned during the next eight weeks. Whether they serve the country well remains to be seen.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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15 responses to “Game On!”

  1. Carol Frankel says:

    I am copying your outstanding fact-checking essay and putting it my purse to refer to when angry friends want to know why I, a longtime Republican who voted for Trump in 2016, will vote for Joe in 2020. Yes, Game on.
    Thank you, Hal

  2. Larry Feldman says:

    I hope you send this to all your silent Trump voters so perhaps they will see the light of day and vote for Biden

  3. judy allen says:

    I for one would like to know why one would vote for Biden? Am I the only one concerned about his mental soundness and having difficulty in locating a list of his accomplishments in the last 40/50 years….. I admit I am colored by his condoning the actions of his family members benefiting (his son little or no qualifications to do so, not to mention his brother) by his time in office. And, to do so without attacking the current president and his children…… which we’ve read enough of…….

  4. Stuart Goldfine says:

    I am with Judy Allen.

    These “peaceful?” demonstrations throughout our country have been led by paid anarchists and BLM has nothing to do with helping any black people. Has any of BLM policed the neighborhoods of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, NYC, Seattle, Portland to help the black people?

    And black, overpaid athletes are not helping the cause either. They can play ball in the Orlando Bubble Center forever and no one cares.

    Defunding the police is not an option; there are bad apples in every endeavor–bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad dentists, etc., but for the most, they are good people doing their best.

    Jewish people cannot deny that their party is tainted with vicious Anti-Semites besides the four in Congress. Allowing Linda Sarsour speak at the Democratic convention says a lot to me. Add Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Wright, and these seven are troublesome to any Jew, yet no Jewish leader will speak out about this issue for fear of being called, “racist”.

  5. qua says:

    While Trump and the Republicans put on a compelling
    Rally and the Democrats had little or nothing to say I will
    stay in the Republican column for voting for Biden is voting for
    pure Anarchy and decay and Democrat mismanagement and
    self enrichment.

    Yes, Trump boasts but remember he was speaking to his
    convention delegates and at conventions one has to be strong
    and a leader. While his tone was anything but strong his words did make an impact . He wasn’t speaking to the nation
    he was speaking to his crowd.
    Biden on the other hand is so weak and beholden to special
    interests and is no leader now or in the future.
    I can overlook Trump and his bravado, but cannot and will not
    overlook the obvious. The Democrat/Socialist agenda is the
    worst one for the country and especially Jews.

  6. Robert Diamond says:

    Hal, your fact checking is right on.

  7. sheila says:

    Judy Allen, Stuart Goldfine and qua — why don’t you ask the 100+ McCain and Bush aides who have now endorsed Biden and the 27 former Republican Congresspersons who have now endorsed Biden, just why they are voting for Biden:

    As I mentioned last week in my belated post, these people aren’t crazy or Marxist or Communist or anything else., and neither are Biden or Harris. Biden will bring this country back together, back from the brink of autocracy. He will secure Medicare (something this President wants to abolish) and our health care; he believes in science rather than insane conspiracy theories and he will take active steps to eradicate this virus (182,000 dead so far, and 6 million infections! — and going strong), he will restore the DOJ to its former place as a beacon of justice in this country. And that’s just for a start.

    I urge all of you to watch Fareed Zakaria’s show from this morning, in which Zakaria interviews several world leaders on how they view the United States under Trump. It is enlightening and heartbreaking at the same time to see how far we’ve fallen.

    I also urge all of you to watch this clip from CNN Reliable Sources, in which Jason Stanley (Professor at Yale) is interviewed on book entitled ‘How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them”.

    We are on the brink right now, and we need Biden to pull us back.

  8. sheila says:

    Judy Allen, Stuart Goldfine and qua — why don’t you ask the 100+ McCain and Bush aides who have now endorsed Biden and the 27 former Republican Congresspersons who have now endorsed Biden, just why they are voting for Biden: 

    As I mentioned last week in my belated post, these people aren’t crazy or Marxist or Communist or anything else., and neither are Biden or Harris. Biden will bring this country back together, back from the brink of autocracy. He will secure Medicare (something this President wants to abolish) and our health care; he believes in science rather than insane conspiracy theories and he will take active steps to eradicate this virus (182,000 dead so far, and 6 million infections! — and going strong); he will restore the DOJ to its former place as a beacon of justice in this country. And that’s just for a start. 

    I urge all of you to watch Fareed Zakaria’s show from this morning, in which Zakaria interviews several world leaders on how they view the United States under Trump. It is enlightening and heartbreaking at the same time to see how far we’ve fallen. 

    I also urge all of you to watch this clip from CNN Reliable Sources, in which Jason Stanley (Professor at Yale) is interviewed on his book entitled ‘How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them”. 

    We are on the brink right now, and we need Biden to pull us back.

  9. Steve Prover says:

    Stuart and Judy: Did either of you even read the author’s outstanding essay. If so your ability to attend to a given topic is as impaired as Trump’s.
    Do the words hyper partisan strike a familiar note?

  10. Gail Sehler says:

    Hal, this comprehensive essay was well worth the wait! I’m following Carols lead and keeping a copy with me at all times. Great job!

  11. Mike says:

    Interesting essay and comments

    You have overlooked some important issues

    For example, would I rather have Trump or Biden pick Supreme Court Justices. The next President will likely pick two. Personally, I would rather have Gorsuch and Kavanaugh than Kagen, Ginsburg and Sotamayor.

    Second, you ignore one of the most important aspects of the Tax Cuts. The corporate tax rate was cut to repatriate in excess of $1 trillion that was parked out of this country. This was a significant boost to the economy.

    Third, Biden has promised to end fracking And he will look for ways to attack fossil-based fuels. As you look at the brown outs affecting California, do you think that is a good idea?

    Fourth, at the Democratic debates, Biden raised his hand in response to the question about whether illegal immigrants should be afforded free healthcare. Again, do you think that is a good idea?

    Fifth, in his acceptance speech, Biden laid out his plan to spend $4 trillion on various energy ideas trumpeted by AOC and the green deal proponents. Again, do you think that is a good idea?

    Overall, while I have several concerns about Trump’s tweeting and personal foibles, to overlook the fact that Biden is clearly cognitively impaired would suggest that you have already made up your mind about who you’ll be voting for in the 2020 presidential election. So while you obsess about the cost of the Embassy in Jerusalem, you overlook the fact that no other president had the stones to actually move the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. You also overlook the malaise associated with the Obama administration’s assault on small businesses.

    I am concerned that in a country as great as the United States, this is the best that both parties can offer as we choose which president will leave this great country.

  12. Joanne says:

    I am with judy as well!

  13. Chris Haedt says:

    Hal, thank you for time and efforts with your fact checking. I always look forward to your essays. While I believe that both choices for pushing the lever on Election Day are not mine, I am extremely concerned of Biden’s capabilities of running the greatest country in the world, and he will quickly (possibly within his first year) fall as a puppet to Harris and her agenda with Sanders, AOC, Pelosi, etc.,.. leading to Socialism. This certainly is not my agenda, and terribly saddens and scares me for my children and grandchildren.

  14. Steve says:

    Having followed the “con artist” career of Donald Trump for almost 50 years nothing he does or says actually shocks me very much. Especially knowing that he learned the most important of his “skills” of deception from one of the all time great bully’s, Roy Cohn (of Joe McCarthy fame). I must confess however that I never understood how otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people could be so blinded by him that they would forget most of the principles (not in Trump’s vocabulary according to his own sister) underlying our Constitution….like freedom of speech, rule of law, etc. not to mention human decency, or even truth. That is until I read John Dean’s book “Authoritarian Nightmare…Trump and His Followers”. Very sad.

  15. susan duman says:

    After some essays I feel smarter. After today’s I feel concerned all the way around. It’s been a depressing week if you are a political junkie.

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