If I hold a Red Delicious apple in my left hand, and in my right hand hold another Red Delicious apple, I can claim with confidence that I hold in my hands a total of two apples. This is not open to interpretation or opinion; I am gripping two apples. This is fact; this is objective truth. You can disagree with me; you claim that I have three apples, or one, or am holding Bosc pears. But you would be mistaken, factually incorrect, demonstrably wrong, definitively untied to reality. To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson, the good thing about reality is that is it true whether or not you believe in it.
A Misunderstanding of Bias
Any opinion that I hold something other than two apples does not warrant further discussion. My appeal to an objective truth is not open to mediation or interpretation. Submitting the fact of my two apples to negotiating a different number would give credibility to a position that is objectively and clearly untrue. Facts matter. Not every opinion becomes valid simply because somebody holds that opinion.
Third party support of my claim that I hold two apples is not bias; it is an acknowledgement of a widely accepted and verifiable truth. Rejecting the false assertion that I hold pears is not favoritism, but an appeal to reality. Giving air time to those who claim I'm holding pears is a misguided attempt to avoid bias with the odd consequence of introducing bias toward fantasy.
Not all arguments have two sides; not all claims warrant serious attention, not every argument is worthy of debate. This self-evident truth is what is missing from media coverage of the presidential election. Patently absurd, obviously false, clearly ridiculous statements are given air time in a naïve attempt to appear impartial or fair. Let's look at some real examples.
Not all arguments have two sides; not all claims warrant serious attention, not every argument is worthy of debate.
In the cable news echo chamber, panels of pundits and political commentators sit around debating that which cannot be debated. What is "shocking" about the Trump video is that anybody finds it shocking at all. What is astonishing is that this video is considered shocking, but not Trump's other many misdeeds.
Whenever Donald Trump's misogyny comes up, his rather creepy trolls Jeffrey Lord, Scottie Nell Hughes and Kayleigh McEnany quickly deflect by appealing to the idea that we need to focus on the issues that matter to voters, like terrorism, ISIS, borders, refugees, and the economy. Conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed said that Trump "is still the best candidate" even if Trump would seem to exhibit every behavior anathema to family values. Why?
"People of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal." Female Trump fans interviewed on CNN said "there are more important issues than a vulgar video."
In contrast, such diversions from the important issues are welcome and acceptable when it comes to talking about Hillary. The very next utterance from these folks seemingly so anxious to discuss ISIS or the economy is a complaint that Hillary is untrustworthy and a liar who deleted thousands of emails. Or the insane claim that in responding to Trump's video Hillary is running a campaign based on political correctness simply because she believes that Trump's language indicates a lack of respect for women. Hillary is supposed to "move on" from the video -- but Trump is not supposed to move on from emails.
Fine, these apologists for Trump's campaign of the absurd are doing their job, however grating and annoying their efforts may be -- but the media in giving them attention are not fulfilling their mandate. Not one time have I seen a news host ask the simple and terribly obvious question: "If you want to eschew any discussion of Trump celebrating sexual assault in order to focus on issues that concern voters most, how is it that you now bring up emails or political correctness instead of focusing on the economy and terrorism?"
We are meant to believe that any focus on Trump's behavior is a distraction from real issues, while attention to Hillary's behavior is fair game. The media report a twisted inversion of reality by airing without dispute the idea that Trump wants to emphasize issues and that Hillary deflects with salacious rumor. In fact the opposite is true with Trump's constant reference to Bill's sex life, email, Benghazi, and Hillary's "hate in her heart" rather than ISIS, border control or prosperity.
Should we not stop talking about email so we can vote on issues like growing the economy, which Reed and his ilk claim is more important than infidelity and dishonesty? How is it that no host has pointed out this evident hypocrisy? Because we operate with the inappropriate sense of false equivalency that all sides deserve equal time or equal consideration, no matter how biased or absurd or inconsistent or hypocritical a position may be.
We are meant to believe that any focus on Trump's behavior is a distraction from real issues, while attention to Hillary's behavior is fair game.
Newscasters and pundits have failed too to put Hillary's email trouble in context. I have not heard at any time in this election the fact that between 2003 and 2009 the George W. Bush White House deleted 22 million emails illegally stored on a private server run by the Republican Party. Worse, these emails were part of a congressional investigation into the period when Bush got us into the Iraq War, so the deletions were a clear and deliberate act of obstructing justice. Somehow this hypocritical double standard and odd sense of differential outrage is rarely if ever questioned on any cable news show.
Here is what is shocking: That nobody raises the 22 million emails whenever Trump or his supporters bring up the 30,000 missing from Hillary's server, if for no other reason than to put the issue in its proper historic framework. Of course one wrong cannot be used to justify another wrong, but context and magnitude are important in presidential elections. The media have a duty to create this context and they have failed.
With release of the video that shows Trump bragging about sexual assault, high-profile members of the GOP have abandoned ship with astonishing speed. It would seem that in the strange world of conservatives, boasting about grabbing pussy is an offense worse than all of Trump's other gross transgressions. Step back and consider for a moment what Trump has done and said about women prior to the video coming out, including his public fat-shaming of beauty contestant Alicia Machado, and calling women fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. None of this was enough for GOP to withhold support for Trump.
He implied that Megyn Kelly's questions during a debate resulted from her menstruating: "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her whatever." Trump believes the normal human act of going to the bathroom is too uncivilized to be mentionable. He has denigrated Hillary Clinton for taking a bathroom break during a debate saying that "I know where she went. It's disgusting." None of that is a deal breaker for the GOP. Hey, it's just locker room banter.
But, really, this is just the tip of the iceberg, because misogyny and fear of normal body function are by no means Trump's only disturbing personality characteristics. He mocked a disabled reporter. He blatantly lied about seeing thousands of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks. He won't release his tax returns; he has questionable business deals with Russia. He praises dictators like Putin and Assad. In the second debate with Clinton he confused the constitutional constraints of powers of a president by threatening Hillary with jail by ordering a special prosecutor to investigate her. Still, the GOP remains supportive.
Trump's policies reflect a worldview that should have long ago caused concern enough to withdraw even provision backing. But no matter how outrageous his policy proclamations, the GOP remains in Trump's camp. For example:
Trump proposes that the U.S. Government should shut down mosques; yes, just like Nazi Germany closed synagogues. Should we have our own version of Kristallnacht now? Worse, if there can be a worse, pining for the good old days of internment camps for the Japanese during World War II, Trump suggests that the government create a database to track Muslims -- much like the Nazis tracked Jews. Perhaps we should require that all Muslims wear yellow crescent moons to make them easier to identify. If it was good enough for the Nazis, it is good enough for us, no?
Trump's policies reflect a worldview that should have long ago caused concern enough to withdraw even provision backing.
Trump describes immigrants as rapists and criminals. "But you have people coming in and I'm not just saying Mexicans, I'm talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they're coming into this country." Never mind the pesky fact that there is no evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than people born in the country. Here is the conclusion from a Congressional Research Service report from 2012: "The overall proportion of noncitizens in federal and state prisons and local jails corresponds closely to the proportion of noncitizens in the total U.S. population."
With this dark but factually incorrect perspective on the influx of criminals, Trump not surprisingly has a solution when he says all undocumented workers "have to go." This means that a candidate for the presidency of our country is proposing, seriously, that we locate, round up, arrest and then forcibly deport a population of 11 million people.
To find these undesirables in our midst, would we create a secret police like the Stasi in East Germany, so neighbors would rat on neighbors? Who would take care of the children left behind? Do we perhaps create camps in which we concentrate these populations prior to expelling them?
Perhaps the most extreme proclamation from Trump is that he would kill the families of terrorists. He would order our military to kill innocent non-combatants. He has proposed that we kill the family members of ISIS terrorists because they "know what is going on" because they are related to the terrorists.
There is yet another pesky fact that intentionally killing civilians in wartime is a crime against humanity under two international treaties signed by the United States: the Hague Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But the GOP is horrified, absolutely horrified, that Trump thinks he can grab pussy at will. For that they withdraw support, shocked, just shocked that Trump denigrates women in light of a lifetime of doing so. However, mass deportations, killing innocents as policy, violating international law, trampling upon religious freedom -- all that and more are perfectly OK. Can we imaging a worse case of bizarrely misplaced priorities?
Bill Clinton is Not the Candidate
We are told forebodingly that as an attorney Hillary defended someone accused of rape. Unlike the lie told about this tale, she did not volunteer to this task, she was assigned to the case by a judge. This duty under our constitution to defend a client is now highlighted as a character flaw. When talking about the case years later she laughed when asked about the inaccuracy of lie detector tests and breakdown in the prosecutor's case, but her opponents falsely claim she laughed at the victim. She did not. Hillary presented the best defense she could, which was precisely her obligation.
Trump voters lightly condemn and then forgive a crude video, but have no issues with his destructive policies, racism, bigotry, or casual support for nuclear war.
When such attacks prove ineffective, Trump goes after Hillary's husband. Mysteriously the GOP and Trump campaign have decided that a path to the White House is to attack Bill and his well-documented sexual transgressions. This strategy of smearing Hillary with Bill's sins exposes a number of important inconsistencies and hypocrisies in the GOP and Trump camp. Trump recently held a surrealistically weird press event in which Bill Clinton's accusers held forth immediately prior to the second presidential debate.
This was absurd at many levels, starting with the obvious that Bill is not the candidate. Nobody explained how these women relate in any way to Hillary's fitness to serve in the Oval Office. The only link in a generous interpretation could be that somehow in defending her husband over the years Hillary exhibited dishonest and disingenuous behavior by supporting a cheating spouse. The right wing never considers the idea she was a loyal wife struggling to save the home in which her child would be raised.
So we have inconsistency number one: Family value conservatives disparaging a woman devoted to saving her marriage. On what basis, what theory of personal responsibility, would a voter reject Hillary because of Bill's past behavior? Would not those who support family values celebrate her commitment to her marriage and faith and child, working through troubled times, sticking by her man? Even if not, how do Bill's sins taint Hillary in any way?
The second inconsistency/hypocrisy is this odd attack on Hillary for behavior by others for which she suffered. But hypocrisy does not end there; the third egregious double standard concerns differential tolerance of sin in others. Trump's running mate, Mike Pence dismisses the video as old news because Trump apologized for his boorish behavior. But more importantly, he dismissed the video because he "believes in forgiveness."
Here is what he said: "I believe in grace and I believe in forgiveness. And last night my running mate showed the American people what was in his heart. He showed humility." This would be the first time anyone ever accused Trump of exhibiting humility. Pence has a strange definition of that term.
Yet decades later, Pence won't offer that same grace and forgiveness to Bill Clinton, who also apologized and admitted that with his infidelity he had "sinned."
On the contrary, Pence refuses to forgive Bill as he forgives Donald. And in this election Pence does not offer that same grace and forgiveness when it comes to Hillary's email. Like Trump apologizing for his celebration of groping women by their genitals, Hillary has apologized for using personal email for government business, including classified material.
But Pence does not forgive. So Pence only forgives certain sins when committed by people he supports. This is the transparently cynical use of religion, not a belief in grace and forgiveness.
So let's see: Trump supporters absolve their candidate of his transgressions, but do not provide the same forbearance and grace to Hillary. They are horrified by her loss of 30,000 emails but not by the 22 million deleted by Bush and Cheney.
Trump voters lightly condemn and then forgive a crude video, but have no issues with his destructive policies, racism, bigotry, casual support for nuclear war, disregard for the constitution or disdain for international law. They however are outraged, outraged, that Clinton called Trump supporters "deplorables" but dismiss as a distraction Trump calling women pigs, having a history of infidelity, multiple marriages, and denigrating women for being overweight.
Only grabbing pussy seemed to be too much, until of course everything was OK again with a strained apology. Trump supporters pivot to the call for a focus on "more important issue" when faced with inconvenient truths about Trump, but immediate forget that plea when talking about Hillary. Yes indeed, hard to talk about ISIS when Trump occupies the media by rolling out Bill's victims and accusers. Deplorable.
Undecided Voters: Really? Really?
I have more respect for someone voting for Trump than I do for any citizen undecided at this late stage of the election. The distinction between the two candidates could not possibly be more extreme, perhaps offering us the greatest disparity in our nation's history.
I have more respect for someone voting for Trump than I do for any citizen undecided at this late stage of the election.
Nobody can possibly be so vacant of conviction that both of these candidates hold potentially equal allure. They represent radically different worldviews, opposing philosophies on the role of government, opposite takes on what is our greatest threat: there is no overlap between the candidates, no gray area open to ambiguity about where they stand.
Waiting for more information over the next 30 days will never change that reality. An undecided voter is undecided about what is important, not about what candidate to elect. Being undecided must reveal a complete lack of principle because with even basic ideals a voter would be compelled to support only one candidate given how extraordinarily far apart Clinton and Trump are on all matters of any import.
Any voter with core values would be drawn to one candidate or the other who most closely is aligned with those values. The candidates offer a starkly clear choice. You can be undecided if you like pecans more than walnuts or undecided about Obamacare or undecided about military spending because these are open to taste and opinion, interpretation, changing values, shifting circumstances.
But you cannot possibly be undecided between Trump and Clinton any more than you can be undecided between good and evil or right and wrong -- however you personally define those. Choose. These concepts are not interchangeable any more than are the two candidates. For crying out loud, choose.