Donald Trump on Tuesday called for the cancellation of a Defense Department contract with Boeing to build the next generation of presidential aircraft, decrying the deal as too expensive.And you probably know that the $4 billion figure was pulled out of Trump's keister:
“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” the president-elect wrote on Twitter.
“The plane is totally out of control. It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program and I think it’s ridiculous," Trump elaborated in brief comments to reporters at Trump Tower. "I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.”
Boeing on Tuesday responded to President-elect Donald Trump's criticism over the cost of a new Air Force One plane, saying the contract is actually for $170 million....So there's no basis for Trump's $4 billion figure -- I couldn't find a claim of this kind even in the wingnuttosphere, nor could Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald.
"We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serves the unique requirements of the President of the United States," Boeing said in a statement....
The Pentagon announced in January that Boeing had won the contract to replace the current Air Force One planes.... the Air Force planned on spending as much as $1.65 billion on the project, according to Reuters.
But isn't even $1.65 billion a lot for a plane? Here's Eichenwald:
Commercial plane costs $370 mill. Air Force 1, cause of comms, security and added requirements, $1 bill. Contract new. $4 bill is fictional.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 6, 2016
As I watch this story unfold, I find myself thinking of an idea about Trump that became increasingly popular in certain circles over the past few months. The Atlantic's Selena Zito seems to have been the first to articulate it:
“Fifty-eight percent of black youth cannot get a job, cannot work,” [Trump] says. “Fifty-eight percent. If you are not going to bring jobs back, it is just going to continue to get worse and worse.”(Emphasis added.)
It’s a claim that drives fact-checkers to distraction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 at 20.6 percent. Trump prefers to use its employment-population ratio, a figure that shows only 41.5 percent of blacks in that age bracket are working. But that means he includes full time high-school and college students among the jobless.
It’s a familiar split. When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
Vindictive zillionaire Peter Thiel later picked up on this:
... I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media is always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. So when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment, or things like that, the question is not are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China, or how exactly are you going to enforce these tests. What they hear is we're going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy. We're going to try to figure out how do we strike the right balance between cost and benefits.But what never gets explained is why Trump doesn't just go with the truth. $1.65 billion is a big number. You could easily imagine the Trump base recoiling at horror at that much tax revenue being spent on a plane, even if it turns out that the price tag is reasonable, given the communications and security extras that have to be built into Air Force One.
The point is that Trump has an intuition about the degree of falsehood that will make his intended audience believe him. It's not enough to be against undocumented immigrants -- you have to round all of them up, and build a wall, and get Mexico to pay for it. It's not enough that a new Air Force One will be expensive -- the taxpayers have to think they're on the hook for more than twice the actual projected cost.
Yes, when you ask voters, they seem to know that Trump isn't telling the truth -- a poll out today says that 55% of Americans say it's "not very or not at all likely" that Trump will actually get the wall built.
But at some level -- in some part of their brains -- Trumpers need these specifics. They delight in them. During the campaign, Trump sometimes hedges on his promises in interviews, but then he'd go right back to rallying the faithful at campaign stops with the uncut stuff.
What I'm saying is that there's an area in every Trump fan's cranium where these falsehoods and exaggerations are taken literally, and wouldn't be as effective if they weren't hyperbolic. Zito and Thiel -- an elite journalist and a billionaire -- romanticize the great unwashed Trumpers, ascribing to them a sage wisdom the establishment lacks. But on some level the Trumpers believe. $1.65 billion wouldn't have rallied them to Trump today. Maybe $2 billion or $3 billion wouldn't have, either. Trump's instinct was that the number had to be $4 billion -- and if he has any area of expertise, it's in dishonesty. He's an excellent liar.
This stuff works. It works because it's taken at face value in some region of the average Tumper's brain. I bet the faithful will be repeating that $4 billion figure as if it's gospel for a long time to come.