Friday, January 06, 2017


Donald Trump spoke to Michael Shear of The New York Times this morning about Russia's sabotage of the presidential election. Let's watch how nimbly Trump dances around the relevant facts.

Trump says we shouldn't focus on Russia because other countries hack:
“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” he said, referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management in late 2014 and early 2015. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”
He says inadequate attention has been paid to other political hacks:
On the issue of Russia’s hacking, Mr. Trump noted that there have been prior successful hackings of the White House and Congress, suggesting it was unfair that those attacks on American institutions have not received the attention that the Russians have....

“With all that being said, I don’t want countries to be hacking our country,” Mr. Trump said. “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world.”
He blames the victims:
The president-elect also noted the news this week, first reported by BuzzFeed News, that the D.N.C. had refused to give the F.B.I. access to its computer servers after it was hacked.

“The D.N.C. wouldn’t let them see the servers,” Mr. Trump said. “How can you be sure about hacking when you can’t even get to the servers?”
He says that Democrats leaked secrets:
He also said that the hacking of emails from the D.N.C. and top campaign officials for Mrs. Clinton had revealed that Mrs. Clinton received advance notice of debate questions and “many, many other things that were horrible.”

“How come nobody complains about that?” Mr. Trump said, referring to a tip that a CNN commentator and Clinton supporter, Donna Brazile, gave to Mr. Podesta ahead of a Democratic Party presidential debate in Flint, Mich.
He cites previous errors he ascribes to the intelligence community:
... he said that “a lot of mistakes were made” by the intelligence community in the past, noting in particular the attacks on the World Trade Center and saying that “weapons of mass destruction was one of the great mistakes of all time.”
And he says the attention being paid to the Russian hack is the result of Democratic shame:
Asked why he thought there was so much attention being given to the Russian cyberattacks, the president-elect said the motivation was political.

“They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Trump said during an eight-minute telephone conversation. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”
Did you notice the time readout on this call? Trump got in all these irrelevant, distracting points in eight minutes. He's really a wizard at this.

To be fair, he's made a lot of these points before. And he was doing this on the phone, so he could have been reading from notes. (Or, given his aversion to reading, he could have been repeating lines fed to him by aides. He's president-elect now, so he has a lot of aides to do that sort of thing for him.)

Still, that's a lot of bamboozlement in eight minutes. Should we call this a Gish Gallop?
Duane Gish is a famous scientist known as a staunch Creationist. His debate style was so remarkable that it eventually got its own name: “The Gish Gallop”. Here’s how Wikipedia explains it:
His debating opponents said that Gish used a rapid-fire approach during a debate, presenting arguments and changing topics quickly. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, dubbed this approach the Gish Gallop, describing it as “where the creationist is allowed to run on for 45 minutes or an hour, spewing forth torrents of error that the evolutionist hasn’t a prayer of refuting in the format of a debate.”
The Urban Dictionary is a bit more direct:
Named for the debate tactic created by creationist shill Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it. To make matters worse a Gish Gallop will often have one or more ‘talking points’ that has a tiny core of truth to it, making the person rebutting it spend even more time debunking it in order to explain that, yes, it’s not totally false but the Galloper is distorting/misusing/misstating the actual situation. A true Gish Gallop generally has two traits.
The difference here is that many of Trump's points have some truth to them -- the China hack really happened; the FBI did say that the DNC refused to give the Bureau access to its servers (but only after the DNC said the FBI never asked for access); and Donna Brazile did inform the Clinton campaign about debate questions (though this happened during the primaries, long before Clinton was running against Trump). However, none of this is relevant to the question of whether the Russians did serious damage to electoral democracy in the U.S. It's like trying to get out of a speeding ticket by saying your next-door neighbor is a drunk and your cousin is having an affair. Even if both assertions are true, you were still speeding.

So this isn't exactly a Gish Gallop. Let's call it the Trump Trot instead. Trump lies incessantly, as we know, but he's deceitful even when he's not lying. He bombards the media with truths and half-truths that are irrelevant and meant to confuse. And he's going to keep doing this for the next four years.


Steve said...

Come on, Donald Trump is an ignorant fool and an asshole. Why even pay any attention to what he has to say? Yes, I know, I know. We have no fucking choice for the next four years. Maybe eight, if the voting morons have an effect.

Procopius said...

"However, none of this is relevant to the question of whether the Russians did serious damage to electoral democracy in the U.S."
If this is the question, then the answer is, "No," and we can go on to discussing chocolate chip cookie recipes. The whole thing is making a mountain out of a teacup. Even if the Russians were the ones who gave the DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks, it is not proven and does not seem plausible that the effect was nearly as significant as Comey's bizarre letters to Congress or the media's daily reporting of fake scandals about Clinton. Also, too, the DNC and Podesta emails were authentically embarrassing, and they have not denied any of them.

Ken_L said...

Steve I'm stunned that you of all people have fallen for the MSM "US intelligence official, requesting anonymity to discuss the investigation" trick.

There was NO "FBI statement" claiming the DNC refused access to its server/s. CNN reported that old favorite, the "senior law enforcement official", made that assertion, which was promptly denied by a named official of the DNC.

Over and over in recent years, I see progressives falling into the trap of playing defense against facts which aren't even proven and may well be totally fabricated. If the never-ending saga of the-FBI's-about-to-indict-Hillary didn't teach them never to believe anything that's not verified by named, trustworthy sources, nothing will. Yet still they do it. It's very depressing.

Jimbo said...

I keep reading that we are stuck with Trump for 4 or even 8 years. Aside from those being the terms of the Presidency, does anyone seriously think he would last even 4 years much less 8? I certainly don't. Granted, the GOP Congress won't be inclined to impeach him even if he does something outrageously illegal so long as he is willing to sign whatever bill they put in front of him because it would signal yet another failed GOP Presidency and also inflame the base. (But it's clear they would far prefer the reliable and pliable Pence as their robopen.) However, Trump himself is going to be a constantly very angry and frustrated man, humiliated everyday by his complete lack of interest in actual governance or even learning how the job works. Not to mention that his bizarre policy ideas and campaign promises will run up against continual roadblocks not to mention the chaos that his Cabinet will produce. If he doesn't actually stroke out or otherwise walk away from the job within a year, I will be surprised.

Yastreblyansky said...

Even when it's a Gish distraction, there's time to remember that the CIA was right about the possibility of attacks of of the 9/11 type and but a poorly informed and intellectually lazy president refused to pay attention to the briefing, and the CIA was right about the fact that Iraq's WMD program was defunct until the president's war-hungry cronies strong-armed the agency to come up with an alternative view. An administration that rejected the CIA's best work without any evidence of its own was responsible for the disasters, not the CIA.

Mart said...

Digby had a post noting that Trump spoke about Wikileak's about 150 times from October 10th till the election. At rallies, with Billo, to reporters. Trump roared along the lines that you need to see these Wikileaks, you won't believe em, they prove that crooked Hillary should be in jail. That's right, lock her up. She is so crooked.

So Trump's team would heavily campaign on a topic that would have no impact on the election by having Trump himself scream about it five times a day?

Swear people have a two minute attention span.