Curiouser and curiouser. The world of Donald Trump is, if nothing else, curious. Facts are fungible in this strange realm. Now that the United States has a new Attorney General, curious is starting to wear thin:
Jeff Sessions’ claim about violent crime contradicted by FBI data
That’s the headline in a recent news item from CBS Evening News. The chart above is taken from that item. The Attorney General is reported as saying:
“I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend,” he said.
What makes this most curious is that Mr. Sessions, apparently 70 years old and not having the excuse of youth and naiveté, seems strangely unaware. Strange, considering his past experience:
Sessions was an Assistant US Attorney in the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama beginning in 1975. In 1981, President Reagan nominated him to be the US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The Senate confirmed him and he held that position for 12 years.
I’m guessing that at a certain point Mr. Sessions took his eye off the ball and missed the nearly continuous decline in violent crime from 1991 to the present day. In defense of the Attorney General, he may have obtained the false information from his new boss, President Donald Trump:
At a roundtable meeting with county sheriffs on Tuesday morning, President Trump repeated a false statistic about the U.S. murder rate that he repeatedly deployed on the campaign trail.
The story from NPR comes with a graphic:
Some Skeptical Analysis is due. The leading graphic in this post is for violent crime. That would include armed robbery, assault, arson. The graph above is for homicide only. Taking that into consideration, President Trump is either continuing to put forth a lie he used to effect in his campaign, or else he is terribly misinformed or delusional. For a President I prefer the liar. A liar you can negotiate with.
The two linked references in the NPR story are telling. From FactCheck.org we have:
And even before that, at a campaign event in Panama City, Florida, on Oct. 11, Trump asked the crowd: “And by the way, do you know, it was just announced that murder is the highest it’s been in our country in 45 years? You’ve heard that right?”
That’s not even true based on raw numbers.
There were 15,696 murders in 2015, according to FBI estimates. That was fewer than the estimated number of murders in 1970 (16,000) and every year after that until 1999.
The murder rate in 2015 is actually the highest since 2009, when it was 5 per 100,000 people. That’s six years ago, not 45.
So what is Trump talking about?
The world wonders. Does President Trump even know?
The second linked item is from The Washington Post:
“Murder is — in 45 years, right now, the rates are the highest they’ve been … and they don’t want to talk about it.”
— Donald Trump, campaign rally in Las Vegas, Oct. 30, 2016
“The murder rate in the United States, it’s the worst, the highest it’s been in 45 years. Nobody talks about that — nobody talks about that.”
— Trump, campaign rally in Phoenix, Oct. 29, 2016
“You won’t hear this from the media: We have the highest murder rate in this country in 45 years. You don’t hear that from these people. They don’t want to talk about it. The highest murder rate in the United States in 45 years.”
— Trump, campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Oct. 28, 2016
Oh, Jesus. He’s doing it again. The Post further notes a bizarre transformation. The article, by writer Michelle Ye Hee Lee, explains that three weeks ago President Trump appeared to be closing in on some true figures. He started talking facts when he described “an increase in murder within our cities, the biggest in 45 years.” All that withered for some reason. The President is currently saying, “on a daily basis” according to the Post, “we have the highest murder rate in this country in 45 years.”
Fungible is a word we are all going to need to learn. Especially when it comes to President Trump and the truth. It sounds better than alternative facts.
There will be more to come. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.