Today’s Droit du Seigneur

Just how far does Donald Trump’s sense of privilege go?

Stormy Daniels, source: Apatow Productions, via Variety

Breathless announcers on CNN clued me in on the latest permutations of the Trump trial as I was assembling a desk we ordered on Wayfair. And it got me to thinking: did Trump ever put together IKEA furniture for his kids? Did he ever buy anything other than something gold-embossed, gaudy and pricey? Has he ever lived like a normal person?

It seems unlikely that this millionaire racist landlord’s kid would ever have roughened his short-fingered vulgarian’s fingers with do-it-yourself anything. With that thought, it seemed to me that the gulf between him and the ordinary folks he pretends to speak for widened just a bit more. Between the cossetted life he led and crimes for which he may at last face an accounting, that Grand Canyon-sized gap seemed just a mite bigger.

This is a man – a reality-show invention, really – who claims to be the voice (and the “retribution”) for millions of ill-schooled and disenfranchised Americans. But, as he pals around with his billionaire friends at his exclusive clubs and then coarsely rambles and rails before the proletarians at his rallies, does he really know how most folks live? Does he have anything in common with them? Would he ever welcome into his home or clubs people he has said he finds disgusting?

Source: The Daily Beast

As his trial will demonstrate, Trump thought nothing of cheating on his pregnant wife (No. 3) with Playboy model Karen McDougal, though prosecutors will not be allowed to mention Melania’s pregnancy. Only a few months after his son was born, he cheated again, that time with porn film star Stormy Daniels. He had, of course, quite publicly cheated on the prior two wives. Do most of the evangelicals who cheer him on do that sort of thing? Do they think such behavior appropriate for a leader, an occupant of the White House, a place that in the past provided role models for children?

How can they embrace a man who believes his “star” status entitles him to grab women by the genitals and brag about it? Someone who would stride through the backstage areas of beauty pageants to gawk at teenage girls changing their clothes? Someone whose sexual abusiveness and dishonesty about it has cost him more than $83.3 million?

It is extraordinary that so many can turn a blind eye to the conspicuous faults of an habitual liar who uses the Bible as a prop. Presumably, they care less about his personal lack of morality and more for the opportunistic stances he takes on matters they care about, such as abortion and gay rights (for them, preferably, the lack thereof), and, perhaps, racist stances on immigration. To them, he is G-d’s flawed instrument, perhaps.

And yet one has to wonder how much lower our political and social culture can go that someone facing the panoply of unsavory criminal charges that he is can get within a hair’s breadth of a partisan nomination. How low has the GOP sunk? How did so many smart people in it – and there were many, even if one disagrees with them — become such dupes? How did the decent folks in the party let it be hijacked by Trump and the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene?

The trial, of course, is only incidentally about Trump’s personal morality and sexual wanderings. Legally, it is about his lying about them in financial disclosures, specifically covering up hush-money payments to his fixer, Michael Cohen, so they would not be revealed before his 2016 election. In effect, he denied voters a full picture of his depravity, one that arguably could have swayed some against him (despite his crack about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue).

Karen McDougal, Source: BBC

And yet the underlying facts of the case – as will be showcased by his dalliance partners, Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal – will again make clear for the American public just how unsavory this man is. Will that persuade enough voters, particularly women, that he doesn’t deserve the White House? The testimony is sure to prove sordid and his reaction to it – his brazen denials and pinched, furious demeanor, as well as his attacks on the judge and legal system – will offer still more profound insights into his character.

Mitt Romney, a principled Republican who would likely have made a decent president, has said he cannot abide the man because character is important in a national leader. He clearly found his former rival wanting.

Much of Trump’s extracurricular activities were widely reported, particularly in New York, even prior to the 2016 election. So, it’s entirely possible that this rehash will roll off the backs of his diehard supporters as it did before. Still, a detailed showcasing of his perversity could make a difference to younger voters unacquainted with his record. Moreover, it will bear the official stamp of court action, not just be dismissible as “fake news.”

The trial will provide some interesting sidelights, too. Will Melania and Ivanka Trump, his wife and daughter, show up by his side? Or will their absence suggest that they don’t want to be sullied still further by his vileness? Perhaps he will coerce them into appearing as things progress, but one can only imagine how either would react to the unsavory details the women in the case will provide. Certainly, they must be repulsed by his behavior, much as they have decided to look the other way on it.

Source: Reuters, via CNN

In the meantime, it’s been enlightening to see how poorly he has looked as he has twisted solo in the wind. His constipated scowl suggests a guilty man who feels like he is facing judgment day and knows he cannot avoid it any longer. Soon, we’ll find out how decisive that judgment day will be.

The droit du seigneur in medieval Europe supposedly allowed feudal lords to have their way with any female subject, particularly on a woman’s wedding night. Trump’s privileged upbringing apparently made him think such practices could suit him, as well. Will American voters agree?

Is Trump Media proof of the Greater Fool theory?

Really, it’s a wonder investors have fallen for this falling outfit

Source: Google

A few decades ago, I wrote about scamsters active in the Denver penny stock market. This was a market in which hustlers such as the folks at Blinder, Robinson (known as “Blind ‘em and Rob ‘em”) would take public companies that made big promises but lacked assets, business plans, etc. The stocks would come out at $1 or so per share, rise as the firm’s salespeople hawked them, and then plummet as the lack of intrinsic value became apparent.

The underwriters and those in early made money, while suckers paid the tab by buying the shares. Sometimes, these penny deals involved shell companies, which had no assets or business, but were already publicly traded. Thus, they were ideal vehicles for other outfits wanting to go public — especially for merger candidates that didn’t want to tell much to investors at first. By contrast, legitimate companies, making initial public offerings, had to provide lots of information about themselves in elaborate pre-offering documents.

I’m reminded of this by Donald J. Trump’s Trump Media & Technology Group, which went public through a shell company (now dressed up as a “special purpose acquisition company”). By merging with a SPAC, Trump Media avoided having to make uncomfortable disclosures before going public that might have given investors pause.

Source: TMTG

For instance, Trump Media didn’t have to reveal that, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “it nearly ran out of cash last year and would have struggled to survive without the recent deal that took it public.” That disclosure, along with an auditor’s note saying the outfit’s “operating losses raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern” came out only after Trump Media started trading. The company lost more than $58 million last year, if anyone is counting.

Would smart investors have bought in anyway? Well, some traders would have – and did – as they played the rise and (mostly) fall of the stock. But would those who want to buy into a company with real business prospects have done so? Or would only devotees of Trump buy in, thinking they were getting a stake in a brilliant businessman’s newest venture? It has to pay off since the golden boy is running it, right?

Well, the fall to earth for Trump Media began, fittingly, a couple days before April Fool’s Day. The stock, which had opened at $70.74 on March 26 and added a bit to hit $79.38, started a deep slide from $69.70 on March 28 to $51.77 by April 2. That means that folks who bought at the opening have now lost nearly 27 percent of their investment.

Does this strike anyone as the Greater Fool theory in operation? Does it remind anyone of the penny stock world? Indeed, is it possible that Trump Media & Technology Group may someday fall to nearly nothing, as Trump’s casino stocks did a couple decades ago, when he ran those businesses into the ground?

Source: The Wall Street Journal

A lot of people lost money when Trump’s casinos failed, and they weren’t just investors. Folks who had done work for Trump or were otherwise owed money by him lost big. Cushioned by his wealth – money that had come by way of his rich father and that he had siphoned off the gaming halls — Trump managed to float above the disaster.

All this was reported, and folks who followed Trump’s career had long known about his failures. But, even as his casinos were being managed by others for the benefit of his lenders, the broad public didn’t see him as anything but golden, a god whose name adorned their still-glittering Atlantic City gaming palaces. I saw this firsthand in reporting out a story for BusinessWeek when I spent time with Trump, including a tour of one of his bankrupt casinos where gamblers sought to touch him in hopes his good fortune would rub off on them.

Even then, long before The Apprentice put a glossy sheen on this much-tarnished mogul, the gulf between the real Trump and the Trump his devotees see was apparent.

Of course, before his newest business whimsy craters, Donald J. Trump will likely cash out of Trump Media. His 57% stake in the company is worth a lot less than it was on opening day, but it’s still worth a bundle. And in time he could sell it off in bits and pieces as he needs cash, perhaps to pay off one $454 million civil judgment levied against him or another one, for $83.3 million – both of which he will delay paying as he appeals, of course.

When this is all reported, do Trumpies just dismiss it as the work of the “fake news” media? Do they shrug off such reporting as simply the product of people with anti-Trump agendas? Do they look on the justice system’s operations as nothing but persecution of their hero? No doubt, some do, and they may even just avoid reading such accounts. There are none so blind as true believers, after all.

Reporting accurately on Trump raises major problems for journalists, though. For one, they risk losing a good part of their audiences.

Chris Quinn, source: Advance Ohio

The editor of Cleveland’s Plain Dealer recently addressed the challenge in a note to readers. “The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency,” editor Chris Quinn wrote. “He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse. This is not subjective. We all saw it.”

As reported by HuffPost, Quinn expressed sympathy with Trump fans who were frustrated that their local news source does not “recognize what they see in [Trump].” But he suggested that won’t stop the coverage.

“The facts involving Trump are crystal clear, and as news people, we cannot pretend otherwise, as unpopular as that might be with a segment of our readers,” Quinn wrote. “There aren’t two sides to facts. People who say the earth is flat don’t get space on our platforms. If that offends them, so be it.”

It’s possible that some Trump devotees will chalk up the frothy debut of Trump Media and its likely slide over time to what they see as their leader’s business brilliance. After all, he’ll do well, probably. As Trump Media slides, he will be in a position to ride the stock down quite profitably; it’s all found money for him, much as was the case with penny stock insiders.

As for his investors? Perhaps they will have the satisfaction of knowing they helped their boy out in a pinch. They could consider their investment a donation, though the IRS might not agree. They could tuck their investment records into one of the Bibles Trump recently sold.

Of course, the smartest investors may be those who have avoided the stock but, instead, watch it slide from the sidelines. Perhaps they could take bets on how quickly the shares fall and on when Trump Media will crater altogether.

What Can Make Trump Fail

Can the media, doing its job, show voters the fatal flaws of their hero?

Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images/Axios

Despite scores of news stories about his astonishing legal woes, Donald J. Trump seems likely to coast in on a smooth glidepath to the Republican nomination for president. As the National Review noted, he is polling above 60 percent nationally and leads the field by 30 points in Iowa, where caucusing takes place Monday night.

In the face of his four indictments, 91 criminal charges and two impeachments, his supporters seem only to rally behind him. They seem persuaded by his claims that he is a victim of persecution, much as they feel victimized by the economic, racial, ethnic and social change he seems to stand against – he is their King Canute.

A short time ago, The Wall Street Journal ran “Trump’s Businesses Got Millions From Foreign Governments While He Was President,” a piece detailing how various governments enriched him with official stays in his hotels in Las Vegas and Washington and spending at his New York properties. When I posted a link to it on Facebook, a journalist friend sadly wrote: “Story after story, year after year, decade after decade, yet no legal team can put TFG away,” wrote BusinessWeek veteran Joan Warner. “From tax evasion to misuse of funds to election tampering to insurrection to rape, he gets away with is. The one truthful thing he ever said was that he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and it wouldn’t make a difference. He was right.”

The disdain Trump’s supporters feel for the legal system is mind-boggling, of course, as is the system’s seeming inability to nail him (even as a clutch of his underlings, deserted by him, have been jailed or face criminal charges). Equally unsettling, though, is the disregard among the MAGA faithful for journalistic work that that has illuminated his perfidy – before, during and after his presidency.

Source: The Washington Post

Story after story seems to roll off their backs or, bizarrely, to deepen their enthusiasm for him. Are they simply not paying attention? Or, worse, do these pieces just entrench the idea that the elites – in the “fake news” media that Trump derides to great effect – are just unfairly coming after their hero again?

For journalists, the question arises: does any of that painstaking, diligent work make any difference? Indeed, might be it counterproductive?

Back when Trump was spreading lies about Barack Obama’s birthplace, researchers described the “backfire” effect. As NPR put it in a 2010 piece, this was the idea that “we base our opinions on beliefs and when presented with contradictory facts, we adhere to our original belief even more strongly.” University of Michigan researcher Brendan Nyhan, who did much of this work, said “it’s threatening to us to admit that things we believe are wrong.” And the way people – both liberals and conservatives – deal with the cognitive dissonance of facts versus beliefs is to “buttress that belief that they initial held.”

Of course, it helps if one can find media outlets that reinforce such beliefs. In the case of Trump, think Fox News, Newsmax, conservative talk radio and the like. They stand in counterpose to legitimate media, feeding their audiences a steady pro-Trump diet that flies in the fast of the steady anti-Trump coverage of the mainstream folks.

Source: YouTube

And then, of course, there are Trump’s own blasts on social media. One of his most recent jaw-droppers is a reposted video, “God Gave Us Trump,” made by a group of his supporters and featuring the AI-created voice of Paul Harvey, a voice that would resonate in MAGA world. While a bright person might think this a parody, it’s anything but. Trump followed that with a birther attack on Nikki Haley, reposting a piece that claims she’s not a citizen, even though she was born in South Carolina, because her parents were immigrants. With that, he attacks perhaps his most palatable rival – one who polls better against Biden than Trump does – and smears immigrants, all in one fell swoop.

But there is reason to believe that continuing revelations about Trump’s shortcomings, along with the legal actions, could undo him. He may sail into the GOP nomination because so much of the party has been highjacked by the far right, but his luck in a national race could run as dry as his bankrupt casinos of old if the media continue to highlight his canyon-deep flaws. The best evidence, of course, is President Biden’s election in 2020. While Trump drew an amazing 74.2 million votes in that race, Biden still bested him with nearly 81.3 million. And the Electoral College tally was an impressive 306 for Biden to just 232 for Trump.

Back then, the media had reported for years about the legion of missteps by Trump in the White House. And in the election coverage, journalists delivered a nonstop barrage of coverage of his dismayingly broad array of problems. The media there clearly made a difference, as they did in the midterm elections in which Trump-backed candidates fell hard.

So, will the media tip the scales again? Well, a sharp new focus on the perversions to our system Trump is likely to deliver if elected may help. Publications such as The Atlantic have drawn attention to how much damage he could do to institutions ranging from the military and regulatory agencies to law enforcement. The New York Times has opened a window on what he and his minions plan, from wielding the Justice Department to attack his enemies to upending trade policy.

More such coverage of life under Trump 2.0 may stir up more Biden support, even if it doesn’t peel away Trump backing, going forward (Trump’s fans don’t read such publications, it would seem). Indeed, it would seem unlikely that the Trump base will shrink (it had grown from 62.96 million votes in 2016), unless reports are true that many of his backers would flee him if he were convicted of crimes.

Seeing him hauled off to jail may rally his most diehard backers, perhaps dangerously so, a la Jan. 6. But that could strip away some of the less deluded among his crowds. Of course, he’s doing his best to delay trials that could lead to such convictions, betting that he could quash the federal efforts, at least, if elected.

But what remains puzzling is just why so many people continue to back him. His railings against immigrants and minorities, his barely concealed white supremacism, his disdain for globalism and his thumb-your-nose views of coastal elites all seem to find traction among his devotees, overriding his yawning gaps. His personal immorality continues to be a non-issue for evangelicals who see him as their deliverer.

No matter how much economic stability and restored global influence Biden brings, these other matters seem to make Trump unassailable among many of his supporters. Why is he their avatar, their flagbearer?

Source: Facebook

Part of his appeal seems to lay in the simple ignorance that seems widespread among his backers. He has long been cherished by the under-educated and our system of primaries seems to turn heavily on them. As The New York Times reported, college-educated people have long been deserting such important primary states as Iowa and other states in the Upper Midwest, leaving behind those Hillary Clinton memorably described as a “basket of deplorables.” Such folks may read little of anything, in fact.

More troubling, part of his success has to do with flaws in our version of democracy. Recall that Clinton actually beat him by a fair number of popular votes in 2016, garnering nearly 3 million more votes at 65.8 million nationwide. But she lost the Electoral College vote 306-232 because that probably outdated institution gives more power to voters in small states than they deserve. Indeed, there continues to be a sharp media focus on so-called swing states, as intelligent cries for abolition of the Electoral College continue to go unheeded.

Moreover, the two-party system puts the choice of our presidential contenders in the hands of an astonishingly small number of people. As a Brookings Institution commentator broke down the figures, some 10,000 people – split between 8,567 delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions and the members of the parties’ national committees – choose the two contenders, the only real prizefighters in these elections. Most of those folks are representative of primary voter choices, of course, but those primary voters are always a fraction of the general electorate.

There remains hope that enough people can be persuaded – either in the primaries or in the general election – that we will be denied the continued hauntings of this supremely vindictive racist narcissist in the fall. Democracy, at least our flawed form of it, could prevail. It’s possible that even the legal system will rise to the occasion, despite him playing it like a fiddle.

Source: Partisan Issues

What of the media’s role and effectiveness? More recent research about the “backfire effect” suggests that even deeply held beliefs may not be set in concrete. As researcher Nyhan put it, “corrective information is typically at least somewhat effective at increasing belief accuracy….” Misperceptions may persist for years, but he suggests that carefully targeting information and breaking what he calls the linkage between group identities and false claims can be effective.

In other words, if the Trumpists begin to see him as a failure, his hold on them may slip. We can only hope he fails in the courts, in time, and in some key primaries, and that the media can drive home word of such slipups. By shooting straight with honest decisions and reporting about a man who reviles them, judges, juries and journalists can make a difference, but all have their work cut out for them.

The dominance of dumbness

Anti-intellectualism has a long history in American culture

Source: HubPages

A friend set me to thinking about the long and unsavory history of anti-intellectualism in American life. This strand of our culture didn’t begin with Trumpism, of course, though the anti-science and anti-elites chords the former president strikes so powerfully are exceptional examples of it. Indeed, it’s not by accident that Donald Trump in 2016 singled out the group he had most affection for, saying: “We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with the poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

Nor has this phenomenon been exclusively a province of the right, which boasts of many ignorant folks but also the likes of the brilliant (if often distasteful) William F. Buckley. In fact, a most intriguing commentary on the phenomenon came in 2001 from conservative economist Thomas Sowell in “The Quest for Cosmic Justice,” where he wrote:

“From its colonial beginnings, American society was a ‘decapitated’ society—largely lacking the top-most social layers of European society. The highest elites and the titled aristocracies had little reason to risk their lives crossing the Atlantic, and then face the perils of pioneering. Most of the white population of colonial America arrived as indentured servants and the black population as slaves. Later waves of immigrants were disproportionately peasants and proletarians, even when they came from Western Europe … The rise of American society to pre-eminence, as an economic, political, and military power, was thus the triumph of the common man, and a slap across the face to the presumptions of the arrogant, whether an elite of blood or books.”

As a trip through Wikipedia reveals, there is much support for Sowell’s view. A minister in 1843 wrote about frontier Indiana (one of our most undereducated states): “We always preferred an ignorant, bad man to a talented one, and, hence, attempts were usually made to ruin the moral character of a smart candidate; since, unhappily, smartness and wickedness were supposed to be generally coupled, and [like-wise] incompetence and goodness.”

Such views have long infused our politics, sometimes with well-schooled leaders who either demagogued on this stream of thought or just warmed to it. Consider the 1912 thoughts of Woodrow Wilson, who, despite his doctorate from Johns Hopkins, said: “What I fear is a government of experts. God forbid that, in a democratic country, we should resign the task and give the government over to experts. What are we for if we are to be scientifically taken care of by a small number of gentlemen who are the only men who understand the job?”

American historian, author, and Columbia University professor Richard Hofstadter (1916 – 1970) poses for a portrait, New York, 1970. Two of his most important works are ‘Anti-Intellectualism in American Life’ (1963) and ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ (1964). (Photo by Bernard Gotfryd/Getty Images)

A thorough discussion of this trend came in 1963 from Columbia historian Richard Hofstadter. In “Anti-intellectualism in American Life” he argued that anti-intellectualism was how the middle-class showed its feelings for political elites. As that group developed political power, he contended, it held up the ideal candidate for office as the self-made man, not a well-educated man born to wealth.

More recently, in 1980, author Isaac Asimov observed: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”

Susan Jacoby, Source: WBEZ

Since then, many folks have dusted off this theme. Journalist and author Susan Jacoby in her 2008 book, “The Age of American Unreason,” bemoaned what she called the resurgence of anti-intellectualism in the modern era. According to The New York Times, she blamed it on television, video games and the Internet, saying they created a “culture of distraction” that has shortened attention spans and left people with “less time and desire” for “two human activities critical to a fruitful and demanding intellectual life: reading and conversation.”

Certainly, the forces Jacoby pointed to exacerbate the cult of ignorance we are awash in. Still, history shows that it’s nothing new. The new media that preoccupy us now may just be building on that well-rooted base. One has only to look at the success of Fox News to see how deep that base is.

We might take heart, however, that there’s an ebb and flow at work. At various times in our history, we have swung from respecting (and electing) smart people to choosing ignoramuses. How else to explain descents such as that from Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Jackson (in just 20 years) and from Barack Obama to Donald Trump (in no time at all)?

It’s troubling, nonetheless, that politicians such as Ron DeSantis feel a need to play down or deride their elite-education credentials to try to harness votes from the masses that are less-schooled than they. After using Yale as a steppingstone to Harvard Law School and then entering politics, he soon realized that such credentials were “a political scarlet letter as far as a G.O.P. primary went,” as The New York Times reported. As he has sought to remake higher education in Florida, DeSantis has also said he would eliminate the federal Department of Education, among other agencies.

For his part, Trump has bragged — when it suited his purposes — about attending an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, even as he failed to mention that he had transferred there after two years at the less tony Fordham University, as The Daily Pennsylvanian reported. In fact, he claimed to have graduated first in his class in 1968 at the university’s Wharton School, though the school newspaper’s investigation of this did not bear that claim out. Indeed, he did not even make dean’s list that year.

He also has often derided intellectuals and pursuits such as reading. He told a reporter for The Washington Post in 2016 that he has never had to read very much because he can reach right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense.’ ” Moreover, Trump told the Post that he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Despite the choice of Joseph Biden in 2020, we seem now still to be perilously in a period when the pendulum remains far from valuing education in our leaders or elsewhere. Indeed, it’s troubling how few Americans today put a premium on schooling, a trend concomitant with the rise of book-banning nationwide. Our next election will be revealing about many things (not least of which are understandable concerns about the current president’s age), but it may also mark either a departure from the pendulum’s swing or its confirmation.

Trump TV Starts a New Season

Source; Vanity Fair

Donald J. Trump is slated to appear on CNN on Wednesday night for what is being billed as a town hall. This raises a host of journalistic questions that I suspect will persist throughout the campaign. Already, folks are weighing in on the propriety of CNN granting this showcase.

As Kyle Pope of Columbia Journalism Review asks, for instance: “Do you give Donald Trump airtime or ignore him? Fact-check him in real time or let him discredit himself? Pick apart his most noxious ideas or hope they go away?”

So, let me join the parade with a few matters media outlets – and viewers — need to consider. First, of course, is whether the man is newsworthy. That’s an easy one – he’s currently the frontrunner in GOP circles in the race for the presidency and, like it or not, he did occupy that office. By definition, he’s newsworthy and many viewers – perhaps especially those who shun CNN – would want to see him.

This is different, of course, from the 2016 campaign – at least in its early stages. Back then, he had clown appeal and few, probably including many in his inner circle, thought his efforts were anything but a PR stunt. He offered comic relief. Now, he needs to be taken seriously.

The question then becomes: if he is to be taken seriously, how is he best dealt with? He is almost certain to lie, perhaps about the election results and certainly about the various legal problems piling up for him. One technique, of course, would be to call on various pundits who could disembowel him with facts.

Women who have alleged improprieties by Trump. Source: Time

But Trump is so shameless and effective at bluster – a master salesman who at least appears to believe his own pabulum — that he won’t respond the way a normal candidate would. A normal candidate would be set back on his heels by the truth. But he’ll barrel on through, keeping the limelight focused on his untruths as if they were real (likely to the applause of his supporters, who want nothing to do with a normal candidate).

Indeed, the problem raised by CNN allowing disinformation on the air was suggested in a CNBC piece. The author, Alex Sherman, referred to a promise that CNN chief Chris Licht made last year when he took over the outlet, a pledge to avoid putting on anyone who engaged in disinformation.

“The analogy I love to use is some people like rain, some people don’t like rain. We should give space to that. But we will not have someone who comes on and says it’s not raining,” Licht said in an October interview with CNBC.

He was referring to election denier nonsense, in particular, there.

But, as Sherman suggested, Licht appears to be backtracking. “This seems to be a case of Licht bending his own rules,” he wrote. “Clearly, CNN has different standards for Trump than it does spokespeople for Trump that cycle through cable news networks as daily guests.”

Still, CNN does want to treat this appearance in serious journalistic fashion. That will mean fact-checking of some sort, as CNN officials have acknowledged.

“We obviously can’t control what Donald Trump says—that’s up to him,” CNN Political Director David Chalian told Vanity Fair. “What we can do is prod, ask questions, follow up, and try to get as revealing answers as possible.”

That certainly sounds reasonable. The problem, of course, is what is reasonable in dealing with Donald Trump?

The sad fact is that in modern times we’ve never had a president like Trump or a candidate like him, either. In recent memory, extramarital shenanigans – or something as benign as tears — would disqualify a contender. Now, even an indictment (much less two impeachment proceedings) is insufficient. How low have we sunk?

Source: Britain’s Got Talent Wiki

So, let me make a modest proposal. On one of the innumerable TV talent competitions, whenever a judge finds someone unacceptable, he or she hits a button that puts a big red X on the screen. If a majority of the judges hits such buttons, the auditioner is bounced.

What if CNN did something like this with Trump? Each time he lies, a big red X and a loud buzzer could sound. As soon as he hit, say, six red Xs, he’d be escorted off the stage to the tune of the Beatles “Nowhere Man.”

The host would explain the rules in advance – perhaps in an effort to confine Trump to true statements. And after each lie, the host would explain the truth.

The only problem with this approach would likely be that Trump’s appearance would be short and CNN would then need to find a way to fill the airtime. Perhaps the network could then put on a credible candidate, from either party. Almost certainly, that would better serve the public than this town hall is likely to.