Was All the Criticism of Trump Fair-Minded?

Created: 11 November, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
5 min read

Is criticism of Trump fair-minded? After what has been called 'the most disgusting US presidential race ever,' fair judgement of President-Elect Donald Trump will play a key role in bringing the US together.

Trump's comments about blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and women have offended a large population of voters, causing considerable backlash against his victory. But, is Trump also a victim of gross characterizations that dehumanize him, and preclude fair judgement of his policies? He is characterized as unfit, unintelligent, and dangerous. He will be the next President of the US. Is he really all of these things?

In the second presidential debate, Trump was accused of 'stalking' Clinton, clenching the back of his seat, being a 'menacing' and 'hulking' presence -- alluding to him as a male predator. The characterization, first expressed on social media, was picked up by Clinton herself. Clinton said people could "sense how much anger" Trump had during the debate.

In fact, Donald Trump hovered around his own podium the entire time. The image that seemed to disturb people the most was one of Hillary crossing over onto Trump's side of the stage, and positioning herself in front of Trump. An expert on body language, Janine Driver, characterized Trump's actions as pre-assault behavior, and likened him to a caged dog. Another body language expert, Robin Kermode, commented on Trump's debate body language to Vice author, Sirin Kale, prompting the author to ask:

"For Trump to use bully tactics that make him look like a thug begs the question—do we want a thug running the world?"

Famous Hollywood movie score artist, Danny Elfman, created a horror spoof from a clip of the debate. It begs the question, does the horror-themed music match Trump's behavior? Was Trump acting like a predator about to pounce? The characterization stuck with Trump's critics, but was it fair?

In the final debate, Trump's intellect was skewered online with the hashtag #trumpbookreport:

Trump's foreign policy answers sound like a book report from a teenager who hasn't read the book. "Oh, the grapes! They had so much wrath!"

— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) October 20, 2016

The Huffington Post ran a story about the hashtag, dismissing Trump's debate performance as 'clueless.' The hashtag was entertainment, but was it fair?

Newsweek's foreign policy fact-check generally admits that Trump knows his stuff. There were two points -- his comments on Mosul, and Iran's influence in Iraq -- they gave him bad marks on. However, it is Newsweek that misquotes Trump's comment on Mosul. Newsweek quotes Trump as saying:

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“We don’t gain anything” in helping Iraq recapture the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State militant group, Trump said Wednesday, citing potential negative consequences of liberating the city." 

But, that is not what Trump said. He said:

"But who is going to get Mosul really? We'll take Mosul eventually. By the way, if you look at what's happening, much tougher than they thought. [...] You (Hillary Clinton) shouldn't have been in Iraq, but you did vote for it. You shouldn't have been in Iraq, but once you were in Iraq, you should have never left the way -- the point is the big winner is going to be Iran."

Newsweek goes on to discredit Trump's comments that:

"Iran should write Washington 'a letter saying thank you very much' because Tehran 'is taking over Iraq, something they’ve wanted to do forever, but we’ve made it so easy for them.'"

Newsweek said, "No." Then, they refined the issue to "a stretch." A stretch is more true than a flat out no. In 2015, Alariza Nader, Senior Policy Analyst at RAND Corp said, "Iran is now arguably the most influential foreign actor in Iraq."

The Washington Post starts its critique of the third debate lambasting Trump:

"The final presidential debate once again demonstrated Donald Trump’s thin grasp of the facts and his willingness to make poorly sourced or inaccurate claims."

Again, several of Trump's facts dismissed by the Post are not so thin. Trump challenged Clinton on her statement against the Supreme Court in the Heller gun rights case. The Washington Post, and other fact checkers, defended Clinton by saying that she does not want to erode gun rights and only favors tighter gun control.

The case was larger than simply gun control issues like background checks or responsible storage -- the case was about defeating the Firearms Control Regulation Act (1975) of D.C., which prohibited individuals from owning handguns for self-protection. It had significant effect on Second Amendment rights -- whether individuals have the individual right to bear arms, including conventional weapons.

The Post gave Trump four "Pinocchios" for his criticism of Clinton's failure to account for $6 billion in the State Department:

"$6 billion was missing. How do you miss $6 billion? You ran the State Department, $6 billion was either stolen — they don't know."

The Post and Politifact dismiss this criticism because only the contracts and paperwork are missing, not the actual money, they say. But, Snopes qualifies the issue as significant:

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"If the point, however, is that Clinton ought to be held responsible for mismanagement of the department's record keeping practices such that $6 billion in government spending was  inadequately accounted for, it's well taken."

A Snopes investigation points out that while the money is not 'missing,' the inspector general's statement was that the State Department's failure to account for the monies “creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department’s contract actions.” Does Trump's claim deserve four "Pinocchios"?

Other statements of Trump's were outright dismissed after the debates, like his characterization of Aleppo, which is on the brink of famine; and the importance of cooperating with Russia, which General Hayden admits is necessary, although he also says that Trump's views don't "fit into the intelligence picture."

Major networks like CNN, the LA Times, McClatchey, and Gallup declared Clinton the winner of all three presidential debates, yet Trump came out on top in the election. The media is now asking itself, what didn't add up?

Clinton asked the country to accept Trump's presidency "with an open mind, and a chance to lead." GOP leadership has already said that several of Trump's goals for his first 100 days "will not be on the agenda."

Have people settled on a gross characterization of Trump as unfit, unintelligent, and dangerous, that precludes fair judgement of his policies?

Photo Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

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