10 Sep Moving the Goalposts – FT#8
Moving the Goalposts is such a common tactic that I’m sure everyone has come across it at some point.
When someone makes an argument; you refute that argument with valid logic; and then they move on to a different argument without acknowledging that their first one failed, they’ve just moved the goalposts.
Sometimes it’s even more clear-cut, in that they will set up a specific set of criteria you must fulfill or a specific piece of evidence you must produce to defeat their argument. When that exact goal is met, they will not accept that they are beaten, but instead change the criteria.
We mainly talked about the incredible shifting stories of the Trump Tower meeting. The timeline looked something like this:
- December 18, 2016: Kellyanne Conway – Absolutely no contact between campaign and Russians
- Jan 11, 2017: Trump told reporters no there was no contact with Russia leading up to or during the campaign.
- January 15: Mike Pence calls it a bizarre rumour that could only be attributed to media bias.
- March 18: Don Jr tells the New York Times: “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”
- July 8: The New York Times first reported the meeting with “a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin”, arranged by Trump Jr. and including Kushner and Manafort. Don Jr responded: It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.
- July 9: The New York Times reported that Don Jr had been promised damaging information about Hillary before agreeing to the meeting. Don Jr responded (in part): After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act.….. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.”
- July 11: Don Jr tweeted out the emails that led up to the meeting, which said they were offering incriminating information about Clinton, which “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” to which Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
- July 11: Don Jr told Sean Hannity the emails were all the communication that happened prior to the meeting and there had been no phone calls
- July 12: President Trump gave an interview with Reuters where he reiterated that he had only known about the meeting for “a couple of days”
- July 12-16: Jay Sekulow said in several interviews that the initial misleading statement on the Trump Tower meeting had been written by Don Jr and Trump was not involved in drafting the statement.
- July 31: The Washington Post reported that the version released by Trump Jr. on July 8 was actually dictated by his father
- August 1: At the next day’s press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that Trump “certainly didn’t dictate, but … he weighed in, offered suggestions, like any father would do”
- September 7: In a closed-door interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Don Jr. admitted that phone records showed three short phone calls with Agalarov prior to the meeting.
- June 2, 2018: The Times published a January 2018 letter from Trump’s lawyers to Robert Mueller conceding that the president dictated “a short but accurate” statement issued by his son about the meeting.
- July 26: Michael Cohen claimed the president approved “going ahead” with the meeting, contradicting denials of any prior knowledge by Trump’s legal team.
- August 5: Trump again denied having any advanced knowledge, but claimed that it was a “totally legal” meeting to “get information on an opponent” — something that is “done all the time in politics”
The other examples used in this episode will be coming soon.
Here are the links to the stories we talked about
Lodestar is not a logical fallacy: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html
And finally, some things we really didn’t have time to talk about:
- Trump was very sad about Senator John McCain’s death last week. Not because he has normal human emotions, but because it took some of the attention off him for a few days. He responded by ignoring reporters who asked him 11 times to comment on McCain’s death, and ordering the White House flag returned to full staff. All this was apparently because Trump was jealous of all the praise McCain was getting. Well Donald, if you think dead people get all the glory, you know what you have to do.
- Meanwhile, McCain seemed to spend his last days figuring out how best to piss off Trump. After making sure he wasn’t invited to the funeral, asking Obama and Bush to give eulogies, and choosing an anti-Putin Russian dissident as one of his pallbearers, McCain wrote a final letter to America which included the words: “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down;“ We were going to put a joke in here but it seems right to let John have the last laugh!
- Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward has a new book coming out based on interviews with staff inside the White House. Several quotes have been making the rounds, including one in which John Kelly reportedly said of Trump after a meeting: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” Kelly has since denied calling Trump an idiot. Which is kind of like when your girlfriend says ‘You think i’m fat, stupid and ugly’ and you reply ‘I don’t think you’re fat’.
- Failed Senate candidate, twice-disgraced judge and noted paedophile Roy Moore is suing comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for $95 million, presumably on the basis that Moore’s otherwise unblemished reputation was harmed when Cohen held a ‘paedophile detector’ near him and made it go ‘beep’. I don’t think Roy Moore has heard of the Streisand Effect.
- Trump tweeted another rebuke of Jeff Sessions, this time for bringing charges against Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins just before the midterms, saying ‘Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time – Good job Jeff’. I bet Robert Mueller wishes Trump would stop obstructing justice just for a couple of hours so he can get some sleep.
- Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis got all racist dog-whistley on TV last week when advising against voting for his African American opponent, saying “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.” Republican claims that ‘monkey this up’ is a totally normal phrase that everyone uses and not racist at all became a little harder to accept when it was revealed that DeSantis was a moderator for a far right Facebook group that regularly featured racist memes.
- In one of his regular tweets about Fake News, Trump added “When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!”. This is the first time Trump has claimed that NBC ‘fudged’ the tape of his interview with Lester Holt 15 months ago in which we all saw him admitting to obstructing justice by firing Comey because of the Russia investigation. Of all the people NBC could spend their CGI budget on who would green light Trump?
- Nike released a new ad featuring kneeling NFL player Colin Kapaernick, and Trump fans are so pissed off that a black man who exercised his 1st amendment rights got to be in a Nike ad, that they are destroying their sports socks, shoes, shorts and other gear. The same people reminiscing about burning their now fabulously valuable original Beatles albums in 1966. Anyway Nike doesn’t care. They already have your money.