Milbank: Trump focuses on fringe conspiracies
WASHINGTON – Nobody brings the crazy quite like The Donald.
For years, the conspiracy-minded have been trying to prove that Hillary Clinton gave "stand-down" orders blocking the military from helping ambassador Chris Stevens and other U.S. personnel in Benghazi the night of the 2012 attacks. But Donald Trump asserts the opposite: Clinton was unconscious.
Stevens "was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee declared last week in an unfocused jeremiad against his Democratic opponent. "That's right. When the phone rang, as per the commercial, at three o'clock in the morning, Hillary Clinton was sleeping."
That's not right — unless Trump is accusing Clinton of taking an afternoon nap. Stevens and the others were attacked in the late afternoon, Washington time. Clinton, who was in Washington and closely involved in the response, issued a public statement about the attacks at 10 p.m. and wrote an email to her daughter about the matter an hour later — well before Trump's imaginary 3 a.m. wake-up call.
Trump's dystopia is frequently at odds with reality here on earth. He and his followers live in a dark place where life ranges from bad to horrible, conspiracies abound and allegation passes for truth.
In his much-anticipated speech outlining his general-election themes against Clinton, Trump had much to work with from her record. But he went instead with conspiracies and inventions.
Trump quoted a "Secret Service agent posted outside the Oval Office" challenging Clinton's character; the "agent" in question was a low-level official who wasn't posted inside the White House.
Trump claimed Clinton's email "server was easily hacked by foreign governments. ... Sure they have it." No evidence of successful hacking has been found.
Trump said "we are, by the way, the highest taxed nation in the world." The United States is nowhere near the top.
He said "we could rebuild every inner city in America" with "the amount of money Hillary Clinton would like to spend on refugees." The amount she would spend would be a sliver of just one large city's budget.
He said Clinton "accepted $58,000 in jewelry from the government of Brunei." He neglected to mention that the U.S. government, not Clinton, kept the gift.
He said the trade deficit "soared 40 percent" under Clinton; it actually rose less than half of that.
He said he was "among the earliest to criticize the rush to war" in Iraq; in September 2002, he supported the Iraq invasion.
He alleged that Clinton's State Department refused "all" security requests from U.S. diplomats in Libya; actually, a number were approved.
Trump's volume of disinformation is so heavy that even the nimblest fact-checker can't keep pace. And that's no accident: In Trump's dystopia, things are so bad — so utterly and desperately awful — that no allegation, no matter how sinister, seems implausible to his followers.
Consider these fragments of woe, all pulled from Trump's speech last week:
Crumbling roads and bridges. Dilapidated airports. Factories moving overseas. Our military ... is totally depleted. It's a rigged system. Our country lost its way. Wipes out our middle class. It's total devastation. Disastrous and totally disastrous. Among the most destructive. They are stealing billions and billions of dollars. It's not just our economy that's been corrupted, but our foreign policy, too. One deadly foreign policy disaster after another. We just can't take it anymore.
The person responsible for so much misery and mayhem? From Trump's speech:
She's a world-class liar. Pathetic. Phony. Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency. Has perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft. Doing favors for oppressive regimes. She gets rich making you poor. She sold out our workers and our country for Beijing. The Hillary Clinton foreign policy has cost America thousands of lives and trillions and trillions of dollars. Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East. Has the blood of so many on her hands. Needs to go to prison.
In Trump's dystopia, Clinton is "the biggest promoter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership," and the fact that she has expressly opposed the deal just means "she's pretending."
And Trump, who before last week had raised about five dozen different conspiracy theories, produced another: "Our enemies probably know every single one" of Clinton's deleted emails. "So they probably now have a blackmail file. ... We can't hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies. Can't do it."
A blackmail file? Why not? In Trump's dystopia, no horror is impossible.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post.