Donald Trump spoke to Michael Shear of The New York Times this morning about Russia's sabotage of the presidential election. Let's watch how nimbly Trump dances around the relevant facts.
Trump says we shouldn't focus on Russia because other countries hack:
“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” he said, referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management in late 2014 and early 2015. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”
He says inadequate attention has been paid to other political hacks:
On the issue of Russia’s hacking, Mr. Trump noted that there have been prior successful hackings of the White House and Congress, suggesting it was unfair that those attacks on American institutions have not received the attention that the Russians have....
“With all that being said, I don’t want countries to be hacking our country,” Mr. Trump said. “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world.”
He blames the victims:
The president-elect also noted the news this week, first reported by BuzzFeed News, that the D.N.C. had refused to give the F.B.I. access to its computer servers after it was hacked.
“The D.N.C. wouldn’t let them see the servers,” Mr. Trump said. “How can you be sure about hacking when you can’t even get to the servers?”
He says that Democrats leaked secrets:
He also said that the hacking of emails from the D.N.C. and top campaign officials for Mrs. Clinton had revealed that Mrs. Clinton received advance notice of debate questions and “many, many other things that were horrible.”
“How come nobody complains about that?” Mr. Trump said, referring to a tip that a CNN commentator and Clinton supporter, Donna Brazile, gave to Mr. Podesta ahead of a Democratic Party presidential debate in Flint, Mich.
He cites previous errors he ascribes to the intelligence community:
... he said that “a lot of mistakes were made” by the intelligence community in the past, noting in particular the attacks on the World Trade Center and saying that “weapons of mass destruction was one of the great mistakes of all time.”
And he says the attention being paid to the Russian hack is the result of Democratic shame:
Asked why he thought there was so much attention being given to the Russian cyberattacks, the president-elect said the motivation was political.
“They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Trump said during an eight-minute telephone conversation. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”
Did you notice the time readout on this call? Trump got in all these irrelevant, distracting points in eight minutes. He's really a wizard at this.
To be fair, he's made a lot of these points before. And he was doing this on the phone, so he could have been reading from notes. (Or, given his aversion to reading, he could have been repeating lines fed to him by aides. He's president-elect now, so he has a lot of aides to do that sort of thing for him.)
Still, that's a lot of bamboozlement in eight minutes. Should we call this a Gish Gallop?
Duane Gish is a famous scientist known as a staunch Creationist. His debate style was so remarkable that it eventually got its own name: “The Gish Gallop”. Here’s how Wikipedia explains it:
His debating opponents said that Gish used a rapid-fire approach during a debate, presenting arguments and changing topics quickly. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, dubbed this approach the Gish Gallop, describing it as “where the creationist is allowed to run on for 45 minutes or an hour, spewing forth torrents of error that the evolutionist hasn’t a prayer of refuting in the format of a debate.”
The Urban Dictionary is a bit more direct:
Named for the debate tactic created by creationist shill Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it. To make matters worse a Gish Gallop will often have one or more ‘talking points’ that has a tiny core of truth to it, making the person rebutting it spend even more time debunking it in order to explain that, yes, it’s not totally false but the Galloper is distorting/misusing/misstating the actual situation. A true Gish Gallop generally has two traits.
The difference here is that many of Trump's points have some truth to them -- the China hack really happened; the FBI did say that the DNC refused to give the Bureau access to its servers (but only after the DNC said the FBI never asked for access); and Donna Brazile did inform the Clinton campaign about debate questions (though this happened during the primaries, long before Clinton was running against Trump). However, none of this is relevant to the question of whether the Russians did serious damage to electoral democracy in the U.S. It's like trying to get out of a speeding ticket by saying your next-door neighbor is a drunk and your cousin is having an affair. Even if both assertions are true, you were still speeding.
So this isn't exactly a Gish Gallop. Let's call it the Trump Trot instead. Trump lies incessantly, as we know, but he's deceitful even when he's not lying. He bombards the media with truths and half-truths that are irrelevant and meant to confuse. And he's going to keep doing this for the next four years.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog