Journalism

Retreat From Electoral Vote Boast Shows Trump Can Be Forced to Acknowledge Reality

The president says he expects the press to challenge his alternative facts.

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C-SPAN

Donald Trump's rambling, whiny, narcissistic press conference last week was disturbing in several ways, but there was at least one encouraging sign: The president showed he is capable of taking correction—something that was very much in doubt given the long list of fantasies he has repeatedly peddled as truth. During his introductory remarks, appropos of nothing but his constant need to stroke his own ego, Trump called his election victory "the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan." It wasn't. While Trump's electoral vote total (304) beat George W. Bush's in 2000 (271) and 2004 (286), it was lower than Barack Obama's in 2008 (365) and 2012 (332), Bill Clinton's in 1992 (370) and 1996 (379), and George H.W. Bush's in 1988 (426). When NBC reporter Peter Alexander pointed out that Trump had his facts wrong, Trump retreated:

Alexander: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margins since Ronald Reagan with 304 or 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 in 2008.

Trump: Well, I'm talking about Republican. Yes.

Alexander: President Obama, 332. George H.W. Bush, 426 when he won as president. So why should Americans trust—

Trump: Well, no, I was told—I was given that information. I don't know. I was just given. We had a very, very big margin.

Alexander: I guess my question is, why should Americans trust you when you have accused the information they receive of being fake when you're providing information that's fake?

Trump: Well, I don't know. I was given that information. I was given—actually, I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?

Alexander: You're the president.

It is hard to imagine that anyone on Trump's staff gave him "that information," which a simple Google search would have revealed to be false. More likely, he saw the claim "around" and uncritically accepted it, as is his wont for anything that flatters him or fits his agenda. But rather than insisting on the accuracy of his alternative facts (as he did with his fanciful claim that thousands of Muslims in Jersey City publicly celebrated the collapse of the Twin Towers), Trump backed down, retreating to the statement that his victory was "very substantial" (which is also an improvement on the "landslide" he had previously claimed). That concession to reality counts as progress, I think, provided Trump does not repeat his electoral vote whopper now that it has been unambiguously refuted (as he did with his claim that the U.S. murder rate is higher than it has been in four or five decades).

Later in the press conference, Trump alluded to Alexander's correction in the process of asserting something else that is not true:

You [members of the press] have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that's right. I don't know, Peter, is that one right? Because you know, I think they have lower—I heard, lower than Congress.

As is often the case, what Trump heard (or thinks he heard) is not correct. According to Gallup's numbers, 9 percent of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress. The comparable figures for newspapers and TV news are 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Or to put it a different way, 55 percent of Americans have "very little" or no confidence in Congress, compared to 36 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for newspapers and TV news. Other surveys likewise find that Congress is less trusted than the press. But notice how Trump, now aware that people with actual facts might contradict him, hedged his statement about the relative approval ratings of legislators and journalists.

Trump, who on Friday identified "the FAKE NEWS media" as "the enemy of the American People," claimed at the press conference that he does not mind when journalists correct him:

I don't mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true. And over a course of time, I'll make mistakes and you'll write badly and I'm OK with that. But I'm not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN—it's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.

Trump's habit of calling accurate reports that reflect negatively on him "bad stories" is telling, and it is hard to believe that the notoriously thin-skinned bully "can handle a bad story better than anybody." But if Trump is willing to concede that Alexander was simply doing his job when he pointed out that the president was making shit up, that's a start.

NEXT: Brickbat: Premature Parking

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  1. See this is a good article. Compare and contrast it with steve’s boogeyman of russia…dear god

  2. I think the gotha games hurt the press more than their Republican targets. Makes them look petty. And their hyperbole and chicken little stories look like “fake” news to a lot of people who don’t even pay attention to Trump. If they were doing their jobs, they wouldn’t have to spend so much time worrying about what the President was saying about them.

    1. The proper response to someone acting like a 3 yo is not acting like 2 yos.

    2. My problem is they are on all board with hear say and blowing every minor detail out of proportion.

      Trump is a whiny blowhard but i have less respect for the press (sans reason of course except for steve)

      They boot lick the dems and take a vacation while the sky is falling with the gop

      1. Yeah, it’s not like they even need the hyperbole to make him look bad. Impartial factual reporting would make him look bad. In fact, he sctually looks less bad when people compare him to what the press reports. Like I’ve said before, compared to your average Joe, he’s an arrogant asshole toddler, but compared to Hitler, he’s not so bad. So stop comparing him to Hitler for God sakes.

        1. Yea my thought as well. Since they compare him to hitler so much when he doesnt end up being hitler people will think he did a good job as life is relative.

          If you have little to no expectations, then is easier bar to clear to be seen as good.

          Like in sports if say indiana cfb goes 10 and 3 it will be seen as great, alabama going 10 and 3 and off with nicks head!

          1. Bear Bryant famously bad-mouthed his teams early in the season to lower expectations. Trump is similarly being cast.

    3. Yeah, “don’t worry what the President says about you” doesn’t sound like a recipe for holding government accountable, unless you like playing in Hard Mode. I did worry when Obama said dumb things about guns, media, or anything else because unfortunately there was nothing he could say that was so dumb his followers wouldn’t buy it.

      When the guy saying dumb things about things you care about has the power of the State, it pays to pay attention.

      1. But there still harping on the electoral vote thing. He was wrong, report that he was wrong and move on. How long is everyone going to stick their tongues out at each other? Like I said, it’s petty and they reduce themselves to that pettiness when they play that game.

        1. If Obama said something similarly fact-challenged, we’d be (properly, in my view) poking fun the Emperor and his imaginary wardrobe. Indeed, exactly this has surely happened many times in those eight years. When politicians who think they should run our lives set themselves up as larger than life, it’s good to remind everybody that our Top Men are just people who make mistakes, like the people they insist they should rule.

          And when his fans doubled-down on it and called us “deranged” or “racist” or whatever, we’d mock them too.

          I will grant that the mainstream media did a fine job squandering their own credibility by fluffing the last guy. That doesn’t mean we should demand they do the same derpy cheerleading for Trump just to make it even.

          1. I not expecting nor do I want cheerleading. Just adult coverage of the news. Fuck Trump, but like I said, the guy is bad enough without the hyperbole and without beating dead dog’s which is what this seems to be. I just think they’ve been sucked into playing his game which helps him and hurts them.

            1. Agree totally. The constant negative coverage from the media during the campaign is probably a good portion of what won him the election. Continually bashing President Trump in the media only plays to the hard left, a contingency that hardly needs to be told constantly that Trump is bad.

              It’s like the old saying that arguing with an idiot never works because they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

            2. Yeah, probably. He’s not the first though, Obama managed to spin most criticism of him as nitpicking, say when a gaffe like “the government is us” or “you didn’t build that” revealed some pretty horrifying things about his mindset. But his supporters just didn’t get it, so to them it was nitpicking over words. Even though they built their whole base out of nitpicking everything anybody said as a “dog whistle”.

              The point is it’s not good for liberty when anybody does it, or when the political equivalent of “leave Britney alone!” is the default response for every criticism big and small. I can certainly see why it’s tempting now, I’m just saying it’s helping normalize the same attitude towards power we’re against.

        2. “He was wrong, report that he was wrong and move on.”
          Yeah, that’s what happens.

          And then Trump (or one of his surrogates/staff/etc.) goes and repeats the lie again. Do you really expect the media to just ignore blatant lies from the Office of the President simply because they’ve rebuffed that same lie before? To say “well, I pointed out that was a lie last week, so this week when he says it I’ll just keep my mouth shut”?

          That’s… not reasonable.

    4. I don’t see how it makes them look petty. If he lies, call him out on it.

      I know, I know, people will say “but Obama…”, and rightfully so. He should have been called out on his bullshit too. That’s the point. The function of journalism is to hold these people accountable whenever called for. So I say call him out EVERY TIME.

      1. Agreed. “Whataboutism” is never a good look for anybody.

        Sadly, I think most have forgotten how to do actual Journalism since they’ve spent eight years in Public Relations.

      2. I agree on calling him out but they’ve been sniping back and forth about these election results for 3 months! Move on. Same with this Sweden stuff. Yeah, ask him what he meant by it. But if your still harping on it 3 months from now, that’s when you look petty.

    5. Pointing out when the president says something flatly untrue is not a “gotcha game”. You say the press should do their job. That is part of their job.

  3. This article is a dangerous mix of anger, hatred, and just the hatred.

  4. Keep splitting those hairs and burning article space

    1. The fake news is saying I have split ends, but everybody knows I have the best hair, it’s yuge, you’re gonna love it.

      1. BIG LEAGUE

    2. Splitting hairs? Huh? You think correcting the president when he tells giant, transparent lies is “splitting hairs”?

  5. “whining, narcissistic press conference”.

    Yeh, see, you virtue signaled in the first sentence. Gotta keep up that anti-Trump street cred.

    What is far more interesting is the continued polling that shows Trump looking good in the eyes of the public. Why would that be? Perhaps the Media and the outrage industry like HuffPo are not as in tune with the viewing, voting public as they think they are. Perhaps most people don’t see it as “whining, narcissistic”.

    1. Looking good in the eyes of the *republican* public. His overall numbers are horrific.

      1. That is not true. Rasmussen has him consistently at a 50-55% approval. That is better than Obama was for the bulk of his two terms where he hovered in the mid-high 40s.

        1. And Pew has him at 39%, on the other end of the spread. The Rasmussen poll is a positive (for Trump) outlier, 6 points different than the next one below it. Taking an average of all polls gives him a 45% approval rating, and 50% disapproval.

          Further, even if you accept the polls showing a higher approval rating as the correct ones, his numbers do not compare favorably to other presidents at a similar point in term.

          Source

          1. “His overall numbers are horrific”

            Your statement is simply not true and you haven’t refuted that.

            Looking within the same poll, Trumps numbers are in-line with the bulk of Obama’s two terms. The are not “horrific”. The only thing that is different is a comparison of first-months polling when president’s typically enjoy a grace period. It is inarguable that the media have given Trump any grace period whatsoever, so polling like he is should be expected.

            I stand by my initial statement. “Perhaps the Media and the outrage industry like HuffPo are not as in tune with the viewing, voting public as they think they are. Perhaps most people don’t see it as “whining, narcissistic”.”

            1. If you want to make an argument that the “grace period” of presidencies is over, and that explains Trump’s poor historical numbers, fine – it’s not a great argument though, since Trump would be the only example of it. Every president up until now has enjoyed a grace period, and now when one president seemingly doesn’t, it seems foolish to chalk it up to grace periods no longer being a thing as opposed to that president being unpopular.

              And yes, I did support my statement. The orange type that says “Source”? That’s it. It lists all of the major polls, and as I said, Rasmussen is not only the absolute upper bound of the spread, it’s significantly removed from the others.

              1. it’s not a great argument though, since Trump would be the only example of it

                Trump is also the only example of a complete outsider and political novice coming to office and actually keeping up his disregard for the press and the bureaucracy. So, yeah, I think that actually is a good argument.

                That is, the MSM and public sector unions will do anything they can to obstruct his presidency and turn public opinion against him.

              2. it’s not a great argument though, since Trump would be the only example of it

                Trump is also the only example of a complete outsider and political novice coming to office and actually keeping up his disregard for the press and the bureaucracy. So, yeah, I think that actually is a good argument.

                That is, the MSM and public sector unions will do anything they can to obstruct his presidency and turn public opinion against him.

              3. MikeP2 doesn’t seem to have argued that the “grace period” of presidencies is over – his argument seems to be that unlike previous presidents, for whatever reason, Trump didn’t get one.

                1. And I submit that the “whatever reason” is that he’s unpopular. It’s possible for something else to be the cause, but Occum’s Razor suggests it’s just him.

            2. Curiosity drove me to take a look to see why Rasmussen number are well, weird. This quote from Wikipedia gives a clue (if true). “Phone surveys by the company are conducted via the use of automated public opinion polling involving pre-recorded telephone inquiries”. I received one of the back when I still used a land line and I quickly hung up. I have to ask who would, and would not hang around to answer a pre-recorded telephone recorded. Certainly not most younger people, which leaves retirees, people with land lines, etc. If these assumptions are accurate (which I believe so) this should be enough to throw Rasmussen deep into right field.

          2. Given all the polling that showed him losing the election, I think it’s reasonable to consider that polling might also be susceptible in some way to TDS.

          3. Further, even if you accept the polls showing a higher approval rating as the correct ones, his numbers do not compare favorably to other presidents at a similar point in term.

            No other president ever was “at a similar point in term”. Trump started out on war footing with the press and the bureaucracy, and they are fighting him tooth and nail.

            Obama at this point was busy getting his brain transplant, turning him from someone who ran on restoring constitutionality and reducing the debt into one of the worst war mongers, biggest spenders, and most unconstitutional presidents in US history.

            1. Similar point in term = inaugurated 32 days ago. The point is, it’s very early in his term and his favorability numbers are already well under water. That’s unprecedented in the history of polling. Maybe it’s a sign of what’s to come, maybe it’s not, but it’s hard to argue that he’s somehow popular among “real voters” (whatever the hell that means).

              1. Which part of “No other president ever was “at a similar point in term”. Trump started out on war footing with the press and the bureaucracy, and they are fighting him tooth and nail.” did you not understand?

                Your analysis and criteria are bogus. And that’s assuming that the polls are even remotely accurate.

                1. So you’re saying that if we remove Trump from the very conditions that he created, like starting a “war” with the media, he’d be popular? How’s that not the same as saying “if he was more popular, he wouldn’t be so unpopular”?

    2. He has the lowest approval rating of any new president in the history of polling.
      And mocking the whiny little snot is not “virtue signaling”. It’s just common sense.

  6. Even Reason is falling for his tricks.

    Hey media, keep obsessing over his flippant remarks about his margin of victory in the electoral college, or the size of the inauguration crowds! It’s SOOOOOOO important.

    1. Thank you Chipper me timbers!!! Well stated!!

      HOWEVER, this crap will not stop with some of the media, their baseless agenda will not allow it.

    2. How else can Republicans posing as libertarians appear to be neutral? Obsess over flippant remarks, and let the important stuff go unmentioned if it disparages Drumpf in anyway

    3. I agree it’s not important. So why does Trump keep bringing it up and lying about it?

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  8. but there was at least one encouraging sign: The president showed he is capable of taking correction?something that was very much in doubt

    Are you so naive that you believe Trump didn’t know what the electoral vote was all along?

    Trump’s habit of calling accurate reports that reflect negatively on him “bad stories” is telling

    Telling of what?

    1. Are you so naive that you believe Trump didn’t know what the electoral vote was all along?

      Did he know what the other electoral votes were?

      Telling of what?

      His willingness of trying to put a cheap spin on them, implying that they’re bad stories because of the “storytellers” are “bad”?

      1. I would say the story tellers are pretty bad, Trump gets something wrong and it’s the apocalypse. The MSM gets something wrong and they print a retraction on page 30 or better yet double down. Honestly, it was a waste of a question as the whole nonsense about Russians hacking the election.

      2. His willingness of trying to put a cheap spin on them

        Yes,Trump puts “cheap spins” on things. He even tells you so in his books. It’s the way he operates, and it seems to work.

        Look who he was running against and look at who he is dealing with in Congress: people who denounce their opponents as Nazis and pedophiles with zero basis in reality. The occasional “my schlong is 1ft long, do you want to come over here and measure it?” statement from Trump is necessary just to distract from that nonsense.

        Perhaps you’re simply unaware of the left’s playbook?

  9. Wow real objective journalism here calling his awesome pimpslap-o-rama of the press whiney! I heard somewhere that Trump’s toilet paper roll flows the wrong way, over instead of under. I have written my congressman so he can call for an immediate congressional investigation. I have also heard that Putin’s toilet paper roll flows the same way, coincidence, I think not! Hitler drank water, Trump drinks water, Hitler breathed air, Trump breathes air, there are just to many coincidences. Thanks Reason and MSM, you have gotten my mind right!

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  12. Trump loves the media, and he certainly doesn’t care whether they’re bias or not. In fact, he’d be perfectly fine with the media being 100% dishonest, so long as they were bias in his favor. That doesn’t make him different than most other politicians really, even though he takes a step or two further and labels the press an enemy. Truth is though, politicians wouldn’t know how to behave if there was a honest and aggressive media…they’d probably have an emotional meltdown and wonder why everyone was suddenly being so mean to them.

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  14. He’s out to drag anybody down who doesn’t support him in his folly, and even blame them for his failures (If we have a terrorist attack (which we will), blame the 9th circuit court.) I wonder what he’s going to do when he runs out of people to blame for his failures. I guess there is always Obama. His fans will believe anything about Obama.

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