As I've noted before, one of the big challenges the media faces as it attempts to cover the policy positions of presumptive GOP nominee and seething ham planet Donald Trump is that those policy positions are in a constant state of flux. He'll take one side in the morning, erase it entirely by mid-afternoon, and spend the evening insisting he never said anything at all. Trump has, in the past, stated that all of his "positions" are but ethereal suggestions -- which makes him more difficult to pin down by design.
But if journalists are alert enough, this tactic will have a short shelf life. On Thursday, HuffPost video producer Liz Martinez caught a segment on CNN that demonstrated that whoever is writing the network's chyrons is up for the challenge.
This is a pretty fun example of the cack-handed way Trump attempts to paper over his previous statements whenever the need to do so arises. Later on Thursday, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton will deliver a foreign policy speech, in which she'll make the super obvious case that Trump is way too dangerously incompetent to represent America on the world stage. Among the things she will criticize: Trump's previous call for Japan to develop a nuclear arsenal -- an idea that is, to say the least, a complete non-starter from the point of view of the Japanese.
Trump caught wind of this criticism and is now insisting that he never ever said that Japan should acquire nuclear weapons. As Vox's Matt Yglesias reports, Trump told attendees at a Sacramento rally that Clinton's charge is false: "She made a speech, she’s making another one tomorrow, and they sent me a copy of the speech ... And it was such lies about my foreign policy, that they said I want Japan to get nuclear weapons. Give me a break."
Fun fact, however: this is not a lie about Trump's foreign policy. Per Yglesias:
In fact, Trump very explicitly said this. Here he is in an April interview with Chris Wallace:
TRUMP: It’s not like, gee whiz, nobody has them. So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea.
WALLACE: With nukes?
TRUMP: Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.
Some anonymous hero at CNN, charged with creating text on the lower third of the screen, heard about this and decided, "Nah, son." The brief and eloquent parenthetical "(HE DID)" added to the chyron is a short, sharp, and effective means of conveying Trump's rather mercurial relationship with the truth.
It's actually very important for the media to be awake to Trump's tendency to radically switch positions and deny previous statements, because left untended, it can spawn errata by the metric ton. Here, for example, is an excerpt from a Wednesday piece in The New York Times by Amy Chozick, which also covers the pending Clinton foreign policy speech, and Trump's reaction to it:
In an interview Wednesday night, Mr. Trump criticized Mrs. Clinton’s early support for the Iraq war, which he said he opposed, and questioned her judgment in Libya. “Bernie Sanders said it and I’m going to use it all over the place because it’s true,” Mr. Trump said. “She is a woman who is ill-suited to be president because she has bad judgment.”
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.