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In Fairness to Donald Trump

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Preston Coleman

As a critic of President Trump for the last four years, I've never pulled my punches, and with his combative style, I'm sure he doesn't expect anyone to treat him with kid gloves. Recently, however, it seems that criticism of the president has reached some new lows. With the one-two punch of Covid and the George Floyd protests, plus the Tulsa rally debacle, we're seeing Mr. Trump at the lowest point of his presidency.

Trump returns home after Tulsa rally
Trump returns home after Tulsa rally
(Image by Public domain)
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Even a schoolyard bully knows it's not right to kick a man while he's down. In the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play, I'd like to offer a defense of President Trump refuting some of the more unfounded attacks he's suffered. I hope it will be taken with all the seriousness the subject deserves.

First, much has been said and written about the "Zero Tolerance" policy of separating children from their parents at our southern border and putting the children in cages as a deterrent to future immigrants. While the merits of the policy can certainly be questioned, it's very unfair to the president to claim that these children are being held in cages. The image the use of the word "cages" evokes of treating people like wild animals is simply not accurate.

President Trump isn't holding children in cages; he's holding them in pens. The difference cannot be denied-a cage has a roof; a pen doesn't. The chain-link structures in which these children are being held simply do not have roofs. Granted, they often have razor wire at the top, but that's not a roof. Wild animals may be kept in cages, but domesticated animals are generally kept in pens. So, to be fair to Mr. Trump, he's not responsible for caging children like wild animals; he's responsible for penning children, like cattle. (Let's not forget that for a time, even the Virgin Mary kept the baby Jesus in a manger.)

Second, it's become common for critics to compare President Trump to Adolph Hitler. While that makes for a powerful meme on social media, it's neither fair nor historically accurate. Hitler was responsible for the violent deaths of tens of millions of people. At worst, President Trump's delayed response to Covid is only responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, none of whom died violently.

A much more fair and accurate comparison should be sought. Both ideologically and physically, Mr. Trump more closely resembles Benito Mussolini than Adolph Hitler. Granted, Mussolini served in the army, was a talented writer, and was highly successful in consolidating his power. Despite these differences, Trump and Mussolini share much in common, most especially their respective speaking styles, which are so close one might almost suspect that Mr. Trump models his public persona after Mussolini's. So, to be fair to Mr. Trump, we should all acknowledge that Donald Trump shares far more in common with Benito Mussolini than with Adolph Hitler.

Third, many have accused President Trump of telling nearly 20,000 lies since beginning his campaign in 2016. Indeed, several fact-checking organizations have spent the last four years cataloguing what they call "false or misleading statements" made by the president, and these organizations do document nearly 20,000 such statements.

The total of 20,000 is almost surely inflated by several factors, however. For one, a statement can be false without being a lie; we all make mistakes, and we can assume that some of the president's false statements were just that--honest mistakes. Also, a statement can be misleading without being a lie; we all fudge some things, and we can assume that some of the president's misleading statements were not outright lies. Finally, fact-checking organizations are not infallible; we can assume that some of their conclusions are incorrect. The conservative-leaning audits the work of the fact checkers and finds that their conclusions are incorrect about 10-20% of the time. Taking all of this into consideration, I analyzed a sample of the alleged lies documented by the four leading fact checking organizations, and my results are exactly in line with those of only 80-90% of the purported lies were actually lies. So, to be fair to Mr. Trump, he's probably only told between 16,000 and 18,000 lies.

Lastly, it has been claimed that Mr. Trump used to regularly read a book of Adolph Hitler's speeches called My New Order, which he kept beside his bed. Trump's first wife, Ivana, confirms this. Trump associate Marty Davis confirms that it was he who gave the book to Trump, and in a 2015 article in Vanity Fair, Trump himself admitted to having once owned the book.

However, Mr. Trump apparently didn't read the book, as his ex-wife Ivana alleges he did, and he apparently didn't purchase the book, either. Owning a book that was given to you and reading a book that you purchased for yourself are two very different things. As the president told Vanity Fair, "Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me " a copy, and he's a Jew." Granted, Davis denies being a Jew, but if we assume that Mr. Trump thought he was a Jew, it would have been very rude to refuse such a gift. Moreover, the president later said, "If I had these speeches, and I'm not saying I do, I would never read them." So, to be fair to Mr. Trump, we can assume that he kept the book beside his bed for reasons other than reading or emulating it; he probably just looked at the pictures when he went to bed.

To sum up, to be perfectly fair to Mr. Trump:

  1. Donald Trump keeps children locked up in pens like cattle, not in cages like wild animals.
  2. Donald Trump is more like Benito Mussolini than Adolph Hitler.
  3. Donald Trump has told closer to 16,000 lies than 20,000.
  4. Donald Trump probably didn't read Adolph Hitler's speeches; he just looked at the pictures in bed.

We should all strive to be more fair to the president. I'm sure he'd give the same consideration to each and every one of us.

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Preston Coleman is an author known as The King of Satire and a professor of communication at Chesapeake College. His latest work is The Lost Gospel of Donald.
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