Littwin: The truth, the whole truth, the Trump truth

If there’s anyone who appreciated Mike Pence’s performance last night, it had to be Colorado’s own Cory Gardner.

It was about 15 minutes into the debate that I wrote a note to myself that Pence is pulling a Cory. It was about 15 minutes later that I underlined it. At some point, I’m pretty sure I added an exclamation point or maybe even two. And now you know how punditry gets done.

To pull a Cory, when you’re presented with something that is obviously but inconveniently true,  you either straight-facedly deny that it’s true or, if pressed, deny that the questioner has the facts right or, if pressed harder, simply answer a different question.

It’s how Cory got to be Sen. Cory Gardner. It was brilliant, in its way, so long as truthfulness isn’t a big issue for you.

But, to be fair, it was a slightly tougher haul for Pence, who didn’t have to defend himself (I mean, at this point, what does it matter which disturbingly anti-gay bills Pence has signed as governor of Indiana?) but did have to defend his indefensible running mate and the long list of Trump’s many absurdities and petty insults and cases of crowd-pleasing bigotry and cases of full-on misogyny. And that’s before we even get to taxes.

Pence did his best. He calmly parried as Tim Kaine consistently interrupted. And he handled much of what Trump had said by shaking his head at the accusation, smiling incredulously and saying, in effect, in his best talk-radio voice, you’d have to think Trump was an idiot to believe he’d say things like that.

But, of course, it’s all provable. And Trump is not an idiot. He’s a demagogue, which is far worse. No one paying any attention at all doubted that Trump had said all those things – about abortion, about Miss Piggy, about nukes, about Putin – but if there were doubts, the Clinton campaign has already put out a pretty devastating fact-checking video matching every Pence denial with the relevant Trump utterance.

My favorite Pence move came when Kaine said that Trump was running an insult-driven campaign. “Ours is an insult-driven campaign?” Pence said, as if shocked by the notion. “I mean, to be honest with you, if Donald Trump had said all of the things that you’ve said he said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said that half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables.”

Clinton did make a mistake – never insult the voters – but she also apologized. Meanwhile, Trump did say all the things that Kaine had charged him with saying. And if you’re wondering how one candidate can get away with so much, check The New York Times’s Upshot feature, which keeps a running list of people, places and things that Trump has insulted. Last I checked, it was 273.

And I wonder if The Times list included Trump’s email sent during the debate, which, in Trump’s trademark gratuitous style, said that “Kaine looks like an evil crook out of the Batman movies.”

The conventional wisdom is that Pence won the debate – and if you use the turn-off-the-volume test, it wasn’t close – but it doesn’t really matter. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it’s a vice-presidential debate, and they never matter. Not even Dan Quayle’s I-knew-Jack-Kennedy debate mattered. Second, Pence may have helped himself in 2020, but he didn’t do much for Trump in 2016. I mean, Pence called Putin “small and bullying,” and said the United States should meet Russian provocations with strength. Trump must have fallen out of his chair when he heard that about his favorite bare-chested dictator.

Further, Pence invented foreign policy for Syria that Trump had never mentioned before. Some were saying on Twitter – where you can trust everything you read – that Trump was upset that Pence spent less time defending Trump than he did in inventing a whole new running mate. The funniest thought is that Pence showed Trump how to attack Hillary Clinton on policy, on the foundation, on corruption. Does anyone – I mean, anyone – really think that Trump was taking notes on Pence’s debate style?

If Pence contributed anything, it was, as some commentators noted, a pathway to a post-Trump GOP, in which the most obvious way forward is to pretend that the Trump interlude never actually happened. I’m sure Gardner would be glad to help lead the way there. We’re only about five weeks away from Gardner denying that he ever supported Trump. And it may take a little longer, but Pence will soon be saying that he saw his role as someone to counter Trump on the off chance that the country would be crazy enough to elect him.

Kaine obviously had a terrible debate. He was supposed to be the attack dog, but that’s not his strength, and talking over your opponent isn’t the way to make the case. Just ask Trump, who, you may recall, constantly interrupted Clinton in their debate.

Actually, you don’t have to ask Trump. All you had to do was be one of Trump’s millions of Twitter followers. Here’s what he actually tweeted the morning after the debate:

“The constant interruptions last night by Tim Kaine should not have been allowed. Mike Pence won big!”

Maybe he did. And yet, Trump still lost.

Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


  1. Buried in paragraph 11 is Mr. Littwin’s sole concession to reality:
    “The conventional wisdom is that Pence won the debate… “. The remainder of the column is devoted to the usual mix of fantasy, frustration and, of course,—-what column would be complete without it—-fear of Donald J. Trump.

    What makes that noteworthy is Mr. Littwin’s longstanding and extremely vocal opposition to fear-mongering. You could look it up but let me save you the trouble:

    – “But it was successful enough for Trump to fear-monger. It’s what he does. It’s what he would do as president. You don’t have to imagine it at all” Mike Littwin September 20, 2016

    – “…(Donald Trump) promised to deport maybe only 6 million at a time, those millions roaming the street under Obama/Clinton encouragement threatening to kill every last one of us, and just the(sic) keep the rest in a state of frustration and fear.” Mike Littwin September 01, 2016

    – “Trump, the gold-plated salesman, used his acceptance speech to sell fear to America,” Mike Littwin July 22, 2016

    – “In a time when America remains the richest and most powerful country in the world, Trump said the thing to fear is everything.” Mike Littwin July 22, 2016

    – “The timing is sadly perfect for playing on people’s fears.” Mike Littwin July 19, 2016

    – “Working class people are getting the shaft in a globalized world, making the market just right for a politician/demagogue to come along selling anger and fear”. Mike Littwin June 24, 2016

    – “It’s fear-mongering at a historic level. You’ve seen and heard this stuff before, from back-bench Republicans, on Fox News or talk radio, on the conspiracy-infected internet fringes, but Trump has become Trump by saying these things aloud,…” Mike Littwin June 17, 2016

    – “The conventional wisdom is that Trumpism is a violent strain of the Republican Party that its leaders have let loose. But the question now is whether Trumpism will spread. He won’t pivot. He won’t change. He’ll play the fear card until he’s used every card in the deck, and then he’ll just reshuffle. Fear has always sold well, and there’s never been a media platform so conducive to making the sale.” Mike Littwin June 17, 2016

    And that’s just within the past five months! I could go back further but even Mr. Littwin’s most devout acolytes probably get the point by now. Although, that’s no slam dunk.

    There’s a word that describes a person who claims to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. (hint: rhymes with “full of it”)

    So how does Mr. Littwin reconcile his fear-mongering with his opposition to its use? That’s a trick question, he doesn’t. He simply ignores it like he ignores every other inconvenient fact (e.g. Laquan McDonald). It helps, too, that his “We take the role of journalism as a public trust very seriously” employer is also his enabler.

    The Colorado Independent is to journalism what Mr. Littwin is to Seal Team 6.

    Here’s how Mr. Littwin described Donald Trump last May:

    “You can call Trump a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party..”

    Since then he’s become a one-trick phony. All of his columns are simply a variation on that theme. That approach has helped him avoid talking about:

    – The fact that he had once labeled Mrs. Clinton’s presidential nomination a “lack of imagination” on the part of Democrats.

    – The issues that are important to voters in 2016: the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, health care, guns, immigration. Non-stop vilification of Mr. Trump adds nothing to the discussion of those issues. Of course, maybe Mr. Littwin has nothing to add.

    – What a dismal candidate Mrs. Clinton is. If Mr. Trump is only half of what Mr. Littwin claims she should have a double-digit lead. But she doesn’t. Remove her last name and she’s chasing ambulances.

    – Why Mrs. Clinton should be president. Mr. Littwin has yet to devote any column space to explaining why voters should vote for her other than, well, the implied reason: she’s not Donald Trump.

    On September 30th Mr. Littwin said “polls are only a snapshot.” Four days later polls apparently became far more important.

    “(Donald Trump) told the crowd he was up in the polls in Colorado even thought(sic) that morning, a Monmouth poll had him losing by 11 points.” and “polls show (Trump) slipping badly after his terrible debate night and the Miss Piggy/Miss Universe fiasco.”

    Since I’m unsure of whether polls should be taken seriously today I don’t know how much importance Mr. Littwin will attach to this:

    “The latest Rasmussen Reports White House Watch telephone and online survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds Trump with a 43% to 41% lead over Clinton. Yesterday, he was ahead 42% to 41%. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson again earns eight percent (8%) of the vote, while three percent (3%) prefer the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.”

    But there’s plenty of time for the polls (and, of course, the importance Mr. Littwin attaches to them) to change. Stay tuned.


    “Bill Clinton seemingly went off-script Monday evening, slamming President Obama’s signature health-care law as “the craziest thing in the world.” While stumping in Flint, Mich., for his wife, Hillary Clinton, the former president slammed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for causing a rise in insurance premiums: “So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world.” “ – The Daily Beast

    “A CNN/ORC poll this month found that by a margin of 15 percentage points, voters thought Donald Trump was “more honest and trustworthy” than Hillary Clinton. Let’s be frank: This public perception is completely at odds with all evidence.” – Nicholas Kristof New York Times

    “(Mrs. Clinton’s) dismal public standing on questions of candor, combined with decades of conspiracy theories about her health, had already produced an uncommon challenge for aides and supporters seeking to tamp down speculation about her physical condition.
    More substantively, among Democrats worried that Mrs. Clinton has failed to make a more forceful case for her candidacy since the party’s convention, her illness has reinforced the danger of a Trump-centric strategy — leaving the Clinton side without a memorable affirmative message to hammer home, especially when its chief messenger is on the mend.
    The focus on Mr. Trump has done little to remedy Mrs. Clinton’s trust deficit with voters. And despite volumes of policy proposals, even Clinton supporters often strain to identify cohesive themes, independent of Mr. Trump, in her campaign.” – New York Times

    “The NFL was done no favors by the matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers dominating the Kansas City Chiefs in a sleep-inducing 43-14 rout, but the league is accustomed to being quality proof. In years past, it wouldn’t matter if it was a blowout or a nail biter, SNF was TV’s king. Since 2011-12, Sunday Night Football has finished as TV’s top offering in the 18-49 demo and total viewership. While football is on pace to repeat that feat again, the margin of victory is shrinking rapidly.
    Many point to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the root cause of the NFL’s ratings problem. Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest has continued to spread across the league, prompting #BoycottNFL campaigns online and fan outrage. As of now, the league has not made any attempts to block these protests.” –

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

  2. One tactical win for Kaine was he managed to interrupt nearly every statement that could have been used as a advertising soundbite for the Trump campaign.

    The strategic win for Kaine came in the next day fact checks – showing Pence lying consistently in order to have a defensible position.

    The strategic losses for the Trump/Pence scampaign came from (1) Pence being better prepared and more able to debate than the top of the ticket and (2) the wide gaps between Pence’s positions of the debate and what had been said before.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.