Burke: Get out a pencil, it’s time for a pop news quiz

Test your ability to tell truth from fiction. (Hint: Trump already failed the test.)

By Tom Burke

Been paying attention to current events? Can you tell fact from fiction on The Herald’s national news pages or reporting on the radio or TV?

It’s been a busy fall with lots of stuff, so let’s have another National News Snap Quiz!

It’s true or false. You’re either right or wrong: no “Alternative facts,” just real facts; “The truth isn’t the truth,” B.S. isn’t allowed (My test, My rules), and there’s no “fake news,” just verifiable data.

1. True or false: Our air and our water, it’s right now at a record clean.

2. True or false: We lose $800 billion a year with trade.

3. True or false: Saudi Arabia will invest $110 billion in U.S. military purchasing, $450 billion overall in the U.S.

4. True or false: Obama had the same separation policy as the current administration.

5. True or false: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s not Senate confirmed. He’s heading this whole big thing; he’s not Senate confirmed.

6. True or false: Trump’s wall is being built in small stages.

7. True or false: The crowds at Trump’s midterm rallies were far bigger than they have ever been before, no empty seats, many thousands watching screens outside.

8. True or false: Trump’s midterm results were better than other sitting presidents.

9. True or false: “I had nothing to do with Russia.”

10. Extra credit: True or false: “No collusion.”

So how did you do? Score 10 points for each correct answer and 10 extra points if you recognized the questions were Trump quotes, paraphrased. Score a million additional points if you can correctly answer the extra credit question.

The correct answers: All but No. 5 are False.

Let’s look at the facts:

1. False. Water quality is good, but not the cleanest ever. For air quality, U.S. carbon emissions have declined, but they are only the lowest since 1996, according to the World Bank. Emissions were lower before 1996 and were nearly two times lower in 1960.

2. False. We don’t “lose” money from trade deficits. No one is stealing our money. We just buy more products from other countries than they buy from us. Plus Trump’s figure is maliciously inflated. We had a $552 billion trade deficit in 2017, counting both goods and services. Trump only counts trade in goods, thus confusing the total. Since Trump took office the trade deficit has widened, according to his Commerce Department.

3. False. These numbers are baloney. Trump’s 2017 number, $350 billion, was inflated then. Now, without explanation he says it’s $450 billion. His $110 billion in military sales have no delivery dates or were scheduled for 2022 or beyond. There are few, if any, signed contracts, just memorandums of intent. There were six specifics, totaling $28 billion, but all had been previously notified to Congress by the Obama administration.

4. False. Atorney General Jeff Sessions started a “zero tolerance” policy of apprehending and prosecuting adults illegally crossing the border. This policy, which separated thousands of children who can’t be detained or prosecuted, was not the Obama-and-Bush-era policy of separating children from adults at the border only in limited circumstances, such as suspected human trafficking or danger to the child; or when false claims of parentage were made.

5. True. This was an attempt to discredit Mueller. But Mueller doesn’t need Senate confirmation, as he reports to someone who has been confirmed, so the statement makes no sense.

6. False. Trump’s wall is not being built. Congress specifically stated none of the $1.57 billion appropriated for border protection may be used for wall prototypes. The money can be used only for repair, bollard and levee fencing. Trump regularly makes this false claim — at last count, more than 80 times.

7. False. His new numbers are as bad as his inauguration numbers. For instance, he claimed 50,000 people outside a rally in Houston, but the city’s police chief said it was 3,000. In Cleveland, he claimed “thousands” of people outside but Twitter showed Trump didn’t fill the venue inside and only a handful of people were outside. In Tampa, he claimed thousands who couldn’t get in were watching outside on a “tremendous movie screen.” There was no movie screen. It didn’t exist. It wasn’t there. At all.

8. False. The Republican Party lost the House — 40 seats flipped — so not “better than other sitting presidents” in most midterm elections since 1946.

9. False. Michael Cohen says Trump was involved with Russia. A lot.

10: Only Robert Mueller knows that answer, for now.

Trump talks/tweets incessantly. He doesn’t always lie. But he’s lied so much, more than 6,000 times since his oath of office, that no word he speaks can ever be trusted; and “False” is the answer to most of his assertions.

And that’s no lie.

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com.

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