Al­ter­na­tive Fact of the Week: Kellyanne Con­way, still the cham­pion pre­var­i­ca­tor

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND VOICES -

What­ever claims Don­ald Trump has made about his in­flu­ence on the U.S. econ­omy, there’s sim­ply no ques­tion that he’s done won­ders for one par­tic­u­lar pro­fes­sion — fact check­ing. Rare is the day when Pres­i­dent Trump doesn’t per­son­ally serve up five or six false or 20 mis­lead­ing state­ments, of­ten be­fore break­fast. He lies about im­por­tant mat­ters like for­eign pol­icy, he lies about triv­ial stuff like how many peo­ple at­tend his cam­paign events. And in an es­pe­cially ironic twist, he even per­son­ally pro­motes the hir­ing of fact check­ers, tweet­ing early Thurs­day that they make news ar­ti­cles more ac­cu­rate. “Years ago, when Me­dia was le­git­i­mate, peo­ple known as “Fact Check­ers” would al­ways call to check and see if a story was ac­cu­rate,” he wrote in a tweet that, of course, is only par­tially true.

But if you re­ally want to see re­al­ity twisted into some­thing un­rec­og­niz­able with­out even the slight­est sense of re­gret or re­morse — the gold stan­dard of the Trump era — then you re­ally have to trot out Kellyanne Con­way, the Trump ad­viser who coined the term “al­ter­na­tive facts” on a Sun­day talk show in Jan­uary of 2017 to try to ex­plain how In­au­gu­ra­tion Day crowds could be record-set­ting when they weren’t. She was back in ac­tion last week­end and in ap­pear­ances on CNN’s “State of the Union” and on “Fox News Sun­day,” she ad­dressed the in­fa­mous Ukraine phone call by demon­strat­ing once again that the con­straints of re­al­ity that limit the rest of us hold no pur­chase on her.

Asked re­peat­edly by the hosts to ex­plain whether it was ap­pro­pri­ate for Pres­i­dent Trump to en­list help for his po­lit­i­cal cam­paign from a for­eign govern­ment, Ms. Con­way went in all sorts of di­rec­tions, none of them ac­tu­ally an­swer­ing the ques­tion. She sug­gested to Fox’s Chris Wal­lace that the re­lease of aid to Ukraine shortly af­ter the in­spec­tor gen­eral in­formed the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee about the whistle­blower com­plaint was mere co­in­ci­dence. But that’s just run-of-the-mill de­flec­tion. What’s truly im­pres­sive is how she can keep ad­vis­ing ev­ery­one to “just read the tran­script” of Pres­i­dent Trump’s phone call with Ukraine Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­sky as if it’s ex­on­er­at­ing, which it isn’t. There’s sim­ply no ques­tion that he wanted Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate former vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and his son Hunter Bi­den as well as some cocka­mamie al­le­ga­tions about Ukraine, not Rus­sia, in­ter­fer­ing in the 2016 elec­tion. And he did so while he was hold­ing up hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in much-needed mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine. So yes, by all means, read the tran­script.

Is that quid pro quo? It’s dif­fi­cult to see it as any­thing else. Un­less, you’re Kellyanne Con­way who is cer­tain she never read those ac­tual words (at least not in their orig­i­nal Latin) in the rough tran­script of the call, which is true but re­mark­ably unim­por­tant. “I don’t know whether aid was be­ing held up and for how long,” she told CNN. Re­ally? Be­cause sim­ply pe­rus­ing re­cent me­dia re­ports drawn from in­ter­views with top Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials could an­swer that ques­tion. It was held up at the time of the phone call. Even the act­ing chief of staff has ad­mit­ted to that sev­eral weeks ear­lier on na­tional tele­vi­sion. How does a top ad­viser stay so ill-in­formed on an is­sue that might re­sult in her boss’s im­peach­ment when the rest of the coun­try is hear­ing about it daily? That’s a tal­ent. What she does know is that Ukraine’s pres­i­dent “felt no pres­sure” and that the aid has since been de­liv­ered. “Quid pro quo, yes or no?” Ms. Con­way was asked re­peat­edly on CNN. She de­clined to an­swer di­rectly. Sev­eral times. “I just said to you I don’t know whether aid was be­ing held up or for how long,” was her most co­gent re­ply to CNN’s Dana Bash.

No doubt Ms. Con­way’s ex­pla­na­tions of the Ukraine ex­tor­tion and why it does not con­sti­tute an abuse of of­fice will fur­ther evolve as events war­rant. In all like­li­hood, she will even­tu­ally get around to where Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham and oth­ers are — that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sim­ply isn’t com­pe­tent enough to ex­tort and that its Ukraine pol­icy was “in­co­her­ent” any­way. “They seem to be in­ca­pable of form­ing a quid pro quo,” the al­leged Trump sup­porter from South Carolina told re­porters. Some peo­ple might re­gard such a de­fense as in­sult­ing. But in the Trump sphere, this might be the most cred­i­ble ex­cuse that’s been of­fered to date.

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