This Was President Trump's 2,000th Lie in Office
What a moment!
A n American presidency has many milestones: the first 100 days, the first year, the first major piece of legislation. President Trump is shaking up the institution in all kinds of ways, the Beltway Media is always telling us. Here's a new milestone: the 2,000th lie. According to the surely exhausted fact-checkers at The Washington Post, who began a project tracking Trump's false or misleading claims over his first 100 days in office—but were forced, by the deluge of mendacity, to continue—President Very Stable Genius hit 2,001 false or misleading claims in office during his televised meeting with a group of bipartisan lawmakers Tuesday.
Like an aging arena rock band, Trump is no longer writing much new material. He goes out there and plays the hits. Each false claim the Post pulled out of Tuesday's meeting is something the Enormously Consensual President has offered up before. One of these will find itself on the trophy plaque reading, "2,000th Presidential Lie":
· “We can build the wall in one year and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about.” (No, they can't. As the Post reminds us, reality has long dictated it's a multi-year project—probably at least four—that could cost upwards of $25 billion.)
· For the diversity visa lottery, “what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst, but they put people in that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people.” (This bears no similarities to how the lottery actually works. It is entirely a product of the president's very stable genius brain.)
· “We have tremendous numbers of people and drugs pouring into our country. So in order to secure [the border] we need a wall.” (The wall will have zero effect on drug trafficking. As cartel expert Don Winslow told Esquire: "The wall is a problem. It will do absolutely jack shit to stem the flow of drugs, because the wall has gates—San Diego, El Paso, Laredo and others—which are the busiest commercial border crossings in the world, open 24/7. Over 75 percent of the illegal drugs come on trucks through those open gates. So unless you want to shut down the commerce of two countries, with dire economic consequences for both, this is cloud cuckoo land.")
Trump has parroted the line about the wall stopping drugs 17 times. He's spread this propaganda about the diversity visa lottery 12 times in two months. The wall seems to cost whatever Trump feels like it will cost at any given moment, but it's always going to be cheaper than everyone else says. That one dates back nearly to when he announced his candidacy in 2015.
These are just three of the 70 (!) false claims the president has repeated three or more times, according to the Post, and they're dwarfed by the two Big Kahunas. Each of these lies has passed the lips of the president 61 times:
· The Affordable Care Act is dying and/or dead.
· And from WaPo: "Sixty-one times, he has touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search."
Those statements just beat out the claim the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate (59 times) or the tax plan is the biggest tax cut in American history (55 times). Neither of these are true. The falsehoods, mischaracterizations, and outright lies have become so common as to be a kind of avalanche, burying the body politic in misinformation. The intent is to blur, or erase, the line between fact and fiction, so that anything can be "true" if enough of the president's supporters will believe it. The question is whether we can weather the storm long enough to correct the record.
How Donald Trump because the golfer-in-chief
He has played more golf in his first weeks than any recent president – even rising tensions with North Korea didn’t keep him away from his Florida course last weekend. Do diplomacy and golf mix, and what does his love of the game say about him?
Golf has been called many things – “an expensive way of playing marbles” (Chesterton), “an insult to lawns” (National Lampoon), “a plague invented by Calvinist Scots as a punishment for man’s sins” (James Barrett Reston) and Twain’s famous “good walk spoiled”. The late and very great Arnold Palmer, unexpectedly, thought it a possible vehicle for world peace. Golf for him was a universal language brimming with the forging of new friendships and with deep and ancient traditions of honour, respect and personal accountability.
Eric Trump, the president’s son, thinks so, too. In a New York Times interview, he praised his father’s unusual capacity to make connections on a golf course, with Mar-a-Lago being the perfect venue for world diplomacy.
“If he could do that with Putin,” he said, “if he could do that with some of these horrible actors around the world who only want to compromise us as a country, and if he can make friends and they can trust one another, he just did something that not many presidents have been able to do.”
President Trump has already played a round with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. (Abe presented Trump with a $3,755 gold driver when he became president.) Golf is long established in Japan and Abe’s grandfather played with Eisenhower. But China’s Xi-Jinping came and went without lifting a club. Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly counted himself out from golf during a press conference with Obama. Could you entice karate black belt and bare-chested horse rider Vladimir Putin into plaid pants and tassled shoes?
Politicians can be wary of golf. “Photograph me on horseback? Yes,” wrote Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. “Tennis, no. And golf is fatal.” It’s the frivolousness of it, the look of a childish pastime played by posh boys who know nothing of the world. Roosevelt’s contrast with being on horseback is revealing. He might have thought golf not only insufficiently serious but also insufficiently masculine. The clothes work against you. George W Bush could look manly in jeans and a Stetson clearing wood on his ranch, but the famous clip of him exhorting the world to stand up to terrorism, then declaring “now watch this drive” before striding to the tee, did him a lot of harm. Michael Moore put it in Fahrenheit 9/11. Bush soon stopped playing golf, or at least being seen to do so, as he didn’t think it fitted with his role as commander-in-chief after the invasion of Iraq.
Even Trump, named “golfer-in-chief” by Golf Digest, repeatedly castigated his predecessor for “playing more golf than Tiger Woods”. “I’m going to be working for you,” he told Virginians during the campaign. “I’m not going to have time to play golf.” (According to the New York Times, he has visited a golf course 19 times in the past 13 weeks, compared with Bush Jr’s and Obama’s zero and Clinton’s three over the same period of their presidencies; this is around double the rate of Obama’s tally of just over 300 rounds over two terms. Only one of Trump’s golf outings appears to have involved “international diplomacy”. It’s an ensnaring game. In China it’s been called “green opium”. Trump as president has a rhythm of life continuity with Trump as businessman: weekdays at the city office, weekends at Mar-a-Lago and his nearby Jim Fazio-designed course at West Palm Beach, one of the state’s best.)
There is a term in golf known as “the clerical 12”. It refers to a handicap of above-average proficiency, not so high as to be risible, but not so low as to indicate too much time spent away from the flock. It is a handicap meant for public consumption. Most declared US presidential handicaps have been of the clerical kind – Reagan, Nixon and Ford, 12; George W, Clinton and Kennedy, 10. All but four US presidents since the beginning of the 20th century golfed. Woodrow Wilson played more than 1,000 rounds, playing almost every day, and even, like Kipling, in the snow, using balls painted black.
The usual public explanation given for presidents taking to a golf course for numerous hours is their need for “relief from stress”. (This seems to me to be like betting on junk bonds, hang gliding or writing novels to relieve stress, though it is true there are those who take their golf easy.) Trump or his son, or White House press secretary Sean Spicer, are innovators in their focus on golf as an arena for international diplomacy. Golf has certainly been associated with deal-making. It originally spread globally through Scots soldiers wishing to play their favourite game but, once established, the golf club tended to comprise the aspiring or established local elites. You could get on in business by joining. They are like Masonic lodges in their concentration of economic and political power. There are several in England that are simply extensions of public school, where men can gather without women, eat the same food and call each other by the same nicknames as they did at school, while at the same time settling the interest rate or the privatisation of the rail service. In Japan, golf became a ritualistic expression of corporate loyalty. There are some precedents for political deal-making by US presidents. Obama played with John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, in the hope of lifting deadlock, and Lyndon Johnson did the same with senators to get his civil rights legislation passed. Condoleezza Rice, now a member of the venerable Augusta National club, thinks golf useful for diplomacy, but only because it teaches patience and the acceptance of setbacks.
Can geopolitical deals be made on a golf course? There are obstacles. You have about four hours on the course together, but, even if the two global players are riding together in a buggy with an interpreter hanging on at the back, there are the constant interruptions of club selection, scorekeeping and searches for errant balls. But then there is the drink or lunch afterwards, and by this time humour has likely been exchanged, foibles and skills exposed, partners rooted for and opponents congratulated. Golf would seem to have a near-magical ability to bring highly diverse people on to common ground. It does the same work as empathy without the need for an empathetic nature. There is something inherently disarming about it. Trump is said to excel at being good company on a golf course. He’s generous, affable, solicitous and hospitable. He’s usually the host, playing at a course he owns, and wants his guest to have a good time.
“Golf bears down on you and illuminates character,” Arnold Palmer said. “There’s the expression in vino, veritas, and certainly golf, like alcohol, can bring out the true person that may otherwise be hidden.”
What does golf reveal about Trump?
He is likely to be the most skilful player of all US presidents, at least while in office. (Kennedy might have given him a run for it but for a bad back, and Franklin D Roosevelt won his club championship at 17, but was struck down by polio.) You can watch Trump swing on YouTube. There is something about it of the elephant in a tutu trying to exercise a pirouette. He lurches back on a severely flat plane so that he is out of position at the top of his backswing, but then, through some innate athleticism, is able to clear the hips and make a long and effective extension through impact. He is said to have won 19 club championships and to possess a handicap of 2.8, which is seriously good – and also unlikely.
There have been no signed scorecards submitted since 2014, and even those that were show several rounds in the mid-80s. Rory McIlroy, following a round with him, would only say he was “a decent player for a guy in his 70s” and that he had shot “around 80”. There have been eccentric swings by good players – Jim Furyk’s multiple parts and flying elbow, Eamonn D’Arcy’s helicopter taking off – but they played every day. There would seem to be something wilfully delusional about the 2.8, like saying he is the leader of the greatest political movement his country has ever seen.
Trump takes pains to remind people how good at golf he is. In February, he interrupted a large meeting of CEOs to ask General Electric’s Jeff Immelt to tell everybody about the hole-in-one he made, immediately after claiming: “I’m the best golfer of all the rich people.” They all laughed and applauded. Trump took it in. “It’s crazy,” he said, shaking his head. Unsolicited, he lists his club championships. He tweets about who he is playing with and who he can beat. All golfers have played with braggarts. It doesn’t go well. It’s boring, it’s obnoxious. It creates a malodorous air. It’s like bragging about sex. No one wants to hear about it.
Golf is the most existentialist of games. It turns on the same principles – the free act, the assumption of responsibility. Wherever you hit it, you put it there. You must play it as it lies and give an honest account. Without that, you are in bad faith, and the game becomes absurd because you have deprived it of its meaning. “The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and plays his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well,” wrote PG Wodehouse. Trump seems to concur.
“When you play golf with someone, you learn their honesty, you learn their competitiveness,” he has said. Several of these playing companions have given reports of the experience. Samuel L Jackson says that Trump cheats. Sports Illustrated’s Mark Mulvoy and the boxer Oscar de la Hoya spoke of balls that had been in shrubs miraculously appearing in the fairway or close to the hole with no strokes added. The sportswriter Rick Reilly said Trump gave himself not only putts but chip shots and that, on a cheating scale of one to 10, Trump would be an 11. When asked who the worst celebrity golf cheat was, Alice Cooper replied: “I played with Donald Trump one time. That’s all I’m going to say.” Trump tends to respond by denigrating the accuser or saying he doesn’t know them or that he doesn’t cheat because he’s so good he doesn’t need to. It’s a serious charge for a golfer. An English club player once bankrupted himself with legal fees trying to sue a fellow member who accused him of cheating.
It’s a strangely self-defeating activity. A hustler might cheat to win a bet, but without a financial motive it’s simply about winning on false pretences. “Cheating at golf,” as the late “Champagne” Tony Lema said, “is like cheating at solitaire. You only cheat yourself.”
What, then, would Putin learn from a round of golf with Trump? Perhaps that Trump is surprisingly convivial and generous, and that you can have a good time with him. But, if he heard the club championship list, saw balls dropped on to greens or was given phoney scores, he would also see someone of colossal insecurities and needs, who has to bathe in glories of his own invention in order to face the world, like an ageing mascara’d roué repeating before a mirror: “Look at me. I am Adonis.” Putin may not need the game of golf. He has said that one of the benefits of martial arts is the training it gives in assessing an opponent’s weakness. He may have seen these weaknesses long ago. Waclaw Radziwinowicz, former Moscow correspondent of Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, has written that Russia wished for (and perhaps abetted) Trump’s victory not so that Trump would be nice to them, but because his unpreparedness, illogicality and emotional instability would make the US weak.
Trump has said that the single most valuable piece of golf advice he had encountered was Ben Hogan’s insistence on the importance of clearing the hips out of the way on the downswing. I had heard this myself. “Golf is all about getting out of the way,” a painter and very good golfer once said to me. True in golf, I thought, and in art and life. But can a man who tweets against his enemies in the middle of the night, who starts each day by reading about himself, who boasts of achievements he has not accomplished, whose consciousness would seem to be so loud and his needs so heavy, ever get sufficiently out of his own way?
Golf is widely declaimed as elitist. Donald Trump has done his part in making this impression. He builds golf courses for the elite, prosecutes people who stand in their way and expresses his disgust for wind farms that spoil the view from his courses in Scotland. “They’re working so hard,” he has said, “to make golf a game of the people. They’re cheapening it. I think golf should be a game that people aspire to through success.” But that’s not how it started. Golf originated on what was then the cheapest land, the dunes by the sea. Sheep were the original greenskeepers. The Duke of York, later James II of England, played a money match against two English noblemen with a poor shoemaker named John Patersone as his partner. Fishwives played in a competition in Musselburgh in 1810. Country clubs give golf a bad name just as established churches sometimes do to human spirituality. Golf is, in essence, the most democratic of games. The old and infirm can compete on equal footing with a pro through the handicap system. Public courses, at least in the English-speaking world, make golf affordable to almost anyone. The postman on a bus with his clubs in Glasgow is equal to Trump as a citizen of the golf world. Even Che Guevara played. I have met a far wider variety of people through golf than through any other activity, including going to pubs. But I have not confined myself to courses with the name Trump in front of them. Perhaps he should get out and about more.
- Timothy O’Grady is the author of On Golf (Yellow Jersey). His most recent book is Children of Las Vegas (Unbound)
Does Donald Trump cheat at golf? A Washington Post investigation.
One morning in the mid-1990s, Mark Mulvoy was on the sixth hole of Long Island’s Garden City Golf Club with Donald Trump when the skies opened, and they ducked for cover under a nearby awning. The rain let up a few moments later, and Mulvoy, then the managing editor of Sports Illustrated, returned to the green. When he got there, he found a ball 10 feet from the pin that he didn’t remember seeing before the storm.
“Who the hell’s ball is this?” he said.
“That’s me,” the real estate mogul said, according to Mulvoy.
“Donald, give me a f---ing break,” Mulvoy recalls telling him. “You’ve been hacking away in the . . . weeds all day. You do not lie there.”
“Ahh, the guys I play with cheat all the time,” he recalls Trump replying. “I have to cheat just to keep up with them.”
It’s a story that the current Republican front-runner hotly denies. “I don’t even know who he is,” Trump said when asked about Mulvoy’s account.“I don’t drop balls, I don’t move balls. I don’t need to.”
But just as Trump has emerged as a national phenomenon by tearing up the rule book of electoral politics, it appears that the mega-developer’s willingness to bend the rules may apply to his philosophy of the links as well.
The Donald is known for describing himself as a man of unbridled accomplishment and success in virtually every area he’s attempted, and his golf game has long been one of his most highly self-touted skills.
“I’ve played a lot, and I’ve played well,” he said. “There’s very few people that can beat me in golf.” On multiple occasions during his campaign, he has let voters know that he “killed” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) when the two squared off this year. “I could play him a thousand times and never lose to him,” he said. And by all accounts, Trump is a very good golfer. Just maybe not as good as he says he is.
“The worst celebrity golf cheat?” the rock star Alice Cooper said in a 2012 interview with Q magazine. “I wish I could tell you that. It would be a shocker. I played with Donald Trump one time. That’s all I’m going to say.” (“I’ve never played with Alice Cooper,” Trump said. “That’s a terrible thing to say about people, especially me.”)
“Golf is like bicycle shorts: It can reveal a lot about a guy,” said Rick Reilly, the sportswriter who hit the links with Trump for his 2004 book “Who’s Your Caddy?” — in which Reilly lugged clubs for several of the world’s best golfers and VIP amateurs.
As for Trump? “When it comes to cheating, he’s an 11 on a scale of one to 10,” Reilly said.
Reilly told The Washington Post about an afternoon when Trump wrote down scores he didn’t actually achieve on his scorecard, conceded putts to himself by raking the ball into the hole with his putter rather than striking it properly (“He rakes like my gardener!”), and even called a gimme — something a player might claim for a two-foot putt — on what should have been a chip shot.
“He took the world’s first gimme chip-in,” Reilly said. At one point, Trump, after taking a number of second shots, told Reilly to “make sure you write that I play my first ball. You don’t get a second ball in life.” In life, it may or may not be true that a person gets a second chance; and yet, as Reilly wrote, on holes 1, 13 and 17, Trump did indeed get a second ball.
Trump disputes Reilly’s entire story as well: “I always thought he was a terrible writer,” he said. “I absolutely killed him, and he wrote very inaccurately. I would say that he’s a very dishonest writer. . . . I never took a gimme chip shot. . . . I don’t do gimme chip shots. If I asked his approval, that’s not cheating, number one. Number two, I never took one.”
But Reilly noted something else about playing with Trump that is echoed by others who have golfed with him: He had an amazing time. Trump played with confidence and bravado, he tipped the caddies, he gave great pointers that helped his comrades with problem swings. So what if he cheats? The guy is a lot of fun!
“It’s his limo ride, his golf course. The guy paid for lunch — what are you going to do?” Reilly said. “He’s exhausting, but I want to be clear: I really liked him. It was just like being in a crazy carnival for a day. Though I’m not sure it would be so much fun when it starts to count.”
Tony Kornheiser of ESPN played with Trump in 2008 and said in an e-mail that Trump “couldn’t have been more gracious or more fun.” Fox News anchor Bret Baier, who recently went toe-to-toe with Trump at the first debate, has played with the real estate mogul and said he was actuallyvery nice when separated from a television camera.
Jonathan Carr spent the 2007 and 2008 golf seasons caddying at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. He remembers a gregarious club owner who treated the caddies with the utmost respect, a man who, despite lacking a “pristine” golf swing, played with a high level of skill and an even higher level of confidence. Carr never saw Trump come close to bending the rules, although he said everyone who caddied there had heard of that reputation.
“The caddies would say, ‘If I get on his bag, I’m going to make sure he always has a good lie,’ ” Carr said, meaning that even if Trump shanked a ball, the caddies would do what they could to place it on the fairway.
And judging by Trump’s own account, he’s had plenty of good lies. He said he holds the amateur record on his own golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla., a 66. In a story about celebrity golf handicaps, Forbes reported that his is a 4 but noted they have yet to see “a real signed scorecard.”
From a guy who once went on a mission to get President Obama to release his birth certificate, this raises some eyebrows. Ironically, Trump had only nice things to say about the president when it came to his golf game.
“His swing looks like it’s coming along beautifully. His game looks much better,” he told The Post. “I’d love to play him for the presidency.”
Not so much for one of his main opponents, former Florida governor Jeb Bush: “I’d love to play Jeb for the presidency,” he said, before adding: “That would be even easier than running against him in politics.”
Trump has shown that his candidacy is immune to the types of attacks that can bring down normal Republican candidates. He’s on record mocking a war hero and praising House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), he has advocated for higher taxes, donated to Democrats and called for single-payer health care. None of that has mattered. But does his golf history provide opponents with the opening they need?
“FACT: Former House speaker Will Weatherford said ‘he did not remember @realDonaldTrump shooting 72,’ ” Danny Diaz, Jeb Bush’s campaign manager, tweeted recently.
But perhaps even this attack could backfire. The only other person that Reilly remembers cheating as much as Trump? None other than Bill Clinton.
Maybe Trump’s cheating is his most presidential move yet.
Is Donald Trump lying about having a three handicap?
The presidential hopeful lists a handicap of 2.8, unlikely for a septuagenarian part-timer. But he wouldn’t be the first politician to fluff his record
Donald Trump is a man of many amazing boasts; someone who never met a hyperbole he didn’t like. The truth can be a hazy thing in business, real estate and even taxes. But golf is supposed to be different. Golf lives in absolutes, and is governed by a strict honor code that players rigidly follow. Or at least they should. And so it is in golf, as most everything else with Trump, where the line between fact and fiction is hazy.
Trump has bragged about having a handicap of three. For years, this number was accepted with little public question, probably because nobody cared enough to investigate it. Forbes once reported his handicap as four, with the caveat that he has yet to produce a signed scorecard as proof. But mostly Trump’s word was that.
The Republican presidential nominee lists his handicap as 2.8 on the US Golf Association’s Golf Handicap and Information Network, making him an extraordinary golfer at any age – but truly phenomenal for someone who is 70. And it raises the question: how likely is this claim to be truthful? Is it yet another story of virility fabricated by a man who has a long history of distorting reality?
Trump’s age should not be an impediment. Jim Cowan, the director of course rating and handicapping for the Northern California Golf Association in Pebble Beach, said in an email that the organization runs many events for senior golfers over 65 and “handicaps of three and under and not uncommon”.
Terrence Somerville, the assistant pro at Washington DC’s Langston Golf Course, located two miles from the US Capitol building where Trump will take the oath of office if elected, agrees. In fact, he says, there are 70-year-old golfers who show up at Langston with legitimate three handicaps.
There is a hitch, though.
“With someone who has a schedule like Donald Trump’s, it’s unlikely,” Somerville said. “That’s almost scratch, someone who can play almost professionally. It’s not somebody who has a schedule like his.”
The 70-year-olds who come through the clubhouse with three handicaps are usually retired. “They aren’t in and out of meetings,” Somerville said. And they are also men who have been playing their entire lives, probably starting as teenagers and who either played in college or somehow found a way to play nearly every day through adulthood.
“It’s very remote that someone could do this with the schedule he has,” Somerville added.
There are many tales of Trump bending the rules on the golf course. Last year, former Sports Illustrated managing editor Mark Mulvoy told the Washington Postthat once playing with Trump in the 1990s he realized that Trump had placed a ball just feet from the pin that he had never hit. “Ahh, the guys I play with cheat all the time,” Mulvoy said Trump told him. “I have to cheat to keep up with them.”
The same story referenced an interview Alice Cooper did in 2012 in which the rock star – a regular golfer – answered a question about the worst golf cheat he had ever played with by saying: “I played with Donald Trump one time, that’s all I’m going to say.”
Trump wouldn’t be the first politician to massage the truth of his athletic prowess. Bill Clinton’s propensity for taking mulligans, golfing parlance for do-overs, which are not strictly permitted under the rules, is well documented. Runner’s World came away with one of the scoops of the 2012 election cycle when it caught Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan shaving more than an hour off his marathon time. When former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il played the first ever round of golf on the 7,700-yard championship course at Pyongyang in October 1994, state media reported that the Dear Leader finished with an 18-hole score of 34, including no less than five holes-in-one.
That said, Trump clearly has some talent as a golfer, as seen in this 2011 YouTube video. But his claim of a three handicap is hard to quantify, especially when his 20 most recent scores on his GHIN index are mostly from 2014 and stretch back to 2009. Even assuming he did not include his best rounds, it’s not the kind of record you would see from a 70-year-old with a reputation as a scratch golfer.
And it might just be yet another golf story.