Election 2020: Donald Trump’s dishonest campaign is entirely on-brand

That makes his re-election campaign entirely on-brand. In ways large and small, in targeted advertising and public remarks, Trump has made deceit the hallmark of his bid for a second term.

All presidential candidates depict opponents in the worst possible light. Trump uses outright fabrications against Democratic rival Joe Biden.

All candidates buff their own records. Trump falsely describes the conditions he inherited and presides over today.

All candidates frame campaign arguments to their advantage. On the core 2020 campaign issues — coronavirus, the economy, and racial justice protests — he offers fables.
This may sound unsurprising for someone who launched his political career with lies about the circumstances of President Barack Obama’s birth and who, by CNN’s count, has made more than 8,500 false claims as President. Amid a public health crisis that has killed more than 186,000 Americans, ravaged the economy and upended daily life, Trump has few good options.

Yet Trump’s dishonesty is both comprehensive and routine. And it represents a heavy burden for him to carry in the campaign’s final two months.

Familiar falsehoods

Some falsehoods have grown as familiar as kitchen wallpaper. Trump says his border wall with Mexico “will soon be complete” (just five miles of all-new border barriers have been built), that his tariffs bring billions into the US Treasury from China (American purchasers of Chinese imports pay them) and that he “essentially” kept his promise to kill Obamacare (seven states have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare provisions during his presidency).

Some campaign deceptions involve digital manipulation. A Trump Facebook post purporting to show “chaos and violence” used an old image from pro-democracy protests in Ukraine; a Republican convention video purporting to depict disorder in “Biden’s America” used 2019 images from Spain.

After last month’s Republican National Convention, three Black tenants of public housing units said they were misled about participating in a conversation later shown on television. Similarly, participants in a naturalization ceremony said they hadn’t known their moment of attaining American citizenship would become convention programming.

This past summer, Trump tweeted a campaign ad using an 2018 statement on a different subject from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to create the false impression she encourages violent protests now. White House social media director Dan Scavino fabricated a video purporting to show Biden sleeping by altering old TV footage involving the singer Harry Belafonte.

Before the 2020 Democratic primaries, Trump feared the politically-moderate Biden enough that he pressured Ukraine’s government to smear the former vice president. The House impeached him for it.

Now he invents wild claims that Biden would “confiscate your guns,” “demolish the suburbs,” and enact a “socialist agenda.” He made up the suggestion that Biden took performance-enhancing drugs for debates.

He absurdly called Biden, a devout Catholic, “against God.” His campaign cropped a picture of Biden bowed in prayer to make him appear “defeated.”

The pandemic looms over every other issue. Trump paints a picture of success through bold early action and reliance on scientific expertise. America’s world-leading infection and death counts belie those claims.

He compounds that deceit by falsely ascribing increases in cases to improved testing, falsely claiming success for unproven therapeutic treatment, and falsely minimizing health damage from coronavirus. He mocked Biden last week for wearing a mask, which public health officials call the best way to limit community spread.

Trump claims that, before coronavirus hit, he built the strongest economy in American history after taking office under deteriorating conditions. In fact, he inherited a record-breaking streak of job growth from Obama; on growth as well as unemployment, the Trump economy has been nowhere near the strongest-ever.

Nor is the economy now racing up what he calls a “Super-V” recovery. Job growth slowed as the virus resurged this summer. For 24 straight weeks, the number of Americans filing new unemployment claims has exceeded the highest single week ever previously recorded.

Law and order

Trump runs as the “law-and-order” president. But the cloud of criminality surrounding him, and his behavior as president, render that an empty slogan.

His former 2016 campaign chair and personal lawyer have been convicted of felony charges, and his first national security adviser pleaded guilty to federal crimes — though the Department of Justice is now pushing to drop the case. His former White House strategist was recently indicted, though he’s pleaded not guilty. The Mueller report, which found Trump’s 2016 campaign welcomed Russian assistance, documented presidential behavior meeting the legal standard for obstruction of justice.

Trump defends armed vigilantes entering cities to confront…

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