Although he has heavy competition from Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, Donald Trump has recently established himself the king of the Big Lie.
Saying that he saw thousands of people in New Jersey cheering the toppling of the twin towers on 9/11 serves as the American epitome of the “Big Lie.” Like Hitler’s big lies about the Jews, Trump’s false statement serves to support a virulent and odious racist position and also plays into the beliefs of Nativists and what some pundits are calling the “undereducated voters.” After historians and news bureaus proved beyond the doubt that there was no such occurrence of a group of thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center, Trump dug his heels in and said many people had tweeted they saw the same thing on TV—surely what Trump and his peeps saw were crowds of Arabs in a Middle Eastern country cheering. But it never happened in the United States, and Trump knows it!
The crescendo of disapproval of Trump’s incendiary 9/11 lie coincided with a report in the New York Times that Trump placed an historical marker on a golf course he bought noting that a bloody Civil War battle had taken place on the spot. Of course nothing happened there. After historians corrected the Donald, he dug his heels in again with some medieval thinking: “So if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot—a lot of them.” Note he’s arguing from general principles, which is called deductive reasoning. Popular among scholastics in the European Middle Ages, deductive reasoning can be a powerful tool, except when its conclusions contradict the facts on the ground, which are determined through inductive reasoning. Trump’s logic is full of holes. Moreover, the fact that he believes deductive logic over empirical fact-gathering should be truly disturbing to everyone. Unfortunately, these lies comfort those predisposed to mistrust immigrants and hate religions not their own.
But Trump’s Big Lies and those of the other Republican candidates are blunt instruments compared to the surgical precision that Wyoming Republic Senator John Barrasso uses in his Wall Street Journal opinion piece, “Congress Can Cool off Obama’s Climate Plans.” Barrasso manages to build lies based on accurate statistics.
The headline tells us all we need to know about Barrasso’s stand on human-induced global warming, which is now euphemistically called “climate change” in polite circles. He tries to stonewall all actions to address climate change for the short-term business interests of the coal companies and other energy corporations which he serves.
His call to arms to Congress to block the President’s likely actions at the upcoming Paris climate change conference begins with his assertion that there is already too much regulation of emissions in the United States. His proof is the fact that we are responsible for a mere 13% of world-wide greenhouse gas emissions, down from 24% since 2000. China by contrast pumps out 24% of the world’s carbon-based pollution. His implication, of course, is that China should cut back, but that United States has already done its part.
What Barrasso neglects to say is that per capita Americans burn more fossil fuels than any other nation. We Americans pumps so much pollution into the atmosphere that we are responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gases with only 5% of the world’s population. China has 4.35 times the population of the United States, which means that on average each American is responsible for 2.37 times more greenhouses gasses than each Chinese. Certainly China, India (another country given an apples-to-orange comparison by Barrasso) need to install additional pollution controls and switch as much as possible to non-fossil fuels, but that does not absolve the United States of its responsibility to continue reducing green-house gas emissions.
Later in the article Barrasso notes that the United States is negotiating away our economy, because recent deals give developing nations more slack than the United States in terms of when emissions regulations are phased in. He notes that developing countries have been growing recently by 7%-9%, whereas the United States has seen 2% growth. He blusters that by imposing environmental regulations on us 15 years before they go into effect elsewhere we are subsidizing these other economies. The facts about growth rates are true, but the premise is as leaky as a straw roof in a hurricane. First of all, 2% growth is more than twice as high as the historic growth rate of the economy through centuries. More significantly, our growth does not depend on the energy we use, nor on the energy that we sell to other countries. Recent studies have delinked the growth of greenhouse emissions with economic growth because the problems caused by global warming will cost the United States and the world, so much money to solve and natural disasters will lead to so much lost productivity.
Barrasso performs a rhetorical feat of distraction similar to a magician’s. While we are watching the facts in one hand, Barrasso slips us a mickey of false premises and illogical reasoning, proving once again that Samuel Butler was right when he said that while figures never lie, liars figure.
Of course, for many people, the annoying part of Barrasso’s article is not that he lies, but that he doesn’t tell entertaining lies such as the ones uttered by Trump, Carson and Cruz.