Rhetorical Recap: Lies, Damned Lies, and Government Statistics

During his immigration policy address in Arizona Aug. 31, Donald Trump dismissed the legitimacy of government statistics, and by extension government itself.

Yesterday was a great day for those who believe in Donald Trump. He gulled the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, into behaving as though he was at an actual summit with a potential head of state. In fact, EPN (as he is known) was not getting a seat at a negotiating table, he was on the menu for Trump’s speech hours after the meeting.  And he was a mere appetizer at that, the first serving in a ten-course immigration reform meal:

TRUMP: “Number one. Are you ready? Are you ready?  We will build a great wall along the southern border.  And Mexico will pay for the wall. 100%. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall. And they’re great people. And great leaders. But they’re going to pay for the wall.    

Adios amigo.  @EPN’s beg-to-differ-we’re-not-paying tweet was just that, a beg for attention that garnered 13K retweets as of 9 am eastern the next day.

Here’s what El Presidente wins for hosting The Donald: a “Make Mexico Great Again Also” cap, just like the one former Mayor Giuliani and Senator Sessions wore when they opened for the star. Maybe EPN will get a promotional code entitling him to a 10% discount in the Trump campaign store once the caps arrive.

Continuing with the great dayness that was yesterday for Trumpites: the media were taken (at their own expense?) for several long rides.  Crooked Hillary Esq., whose speech had been relegated to a sidebar, was threatened with deportation, only joking hahaha. Most important, at the end of Trump’s address the Angel Moms were called to the stage to receive the blessings of the high priest and congregation for their suffering.  Earlier, Trump had recounted details about their lost loved ones at the hands of illegal immigrants, adding that “They (the Obama/Clinton government) “knew it was going to happen” in each case. A few of the Moms (there were a couple of men, too) said Trump would have prevented the tragedy had he been president at the time.  Trump gave them hugs, handshakes, kisses.

Much of the speech’s power depended on his use Trump of government statistics. Speaking about the number of undocumented immigrants, he said:

TRUMP: “Frankly, our government has no idea what they’re doing on many, many fronts, folks.  But whatever the number, that’s never really been the central issue. It will never be a central issue.  It doesn’t matter from that standpoint.

“…the biggest thing, and you know this, is not nuclear, it’s not ISIS, it’s not Russia, it’s not China, it’s not global warming [which is a hoax, he suggested later].

“To all the politicians, donors, and special interests, hear these words from me and all of you today.  There is only one core issue in the immigration debate, and that issue is the well-being of the American people.”

This denigration of government statistics set up his subsequent mentions of the numbers of dangerous refugees, violent criminals, and needless victims in America today as more reliable than what “they” tell you.  Trump implied as well that these figures were probable undercounts.

You have to hand it to him, the man knows how to build and focalize the reality show that is his campaign upon his issue as the nation’s top priority and himself as the hero.

For those who do not believe in Donald Trump, boy, he sure did yell last night.  He yelled as though yelling makes an assertion more true and urgent.

Non-government numbers, like their official counterparts, have shortcomings.  That said, most of the best polls and related data available today suggest that a majority not only of politicians, donors, and special interests, but also of campaign workers and likely voters, do not believe in Trump. Given the fervor and counter-factual perspectives of those who do, the hours after the election result becomes clear, when “countless Americans” must accept a certified count from an allegedly clueless and rigged government as legitimate, shapes up as a time when a couple of very important speeches will be delivered.  If believers do not exceed disbelievers, the nation may enter a succession crisis more familiar to nations such as, well, Mexico.

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