In the old, sleazy Times Square days,
there used to be a 3-card Monte game on just about every corner. Never heard of the “game”? There would be a small group of people, about 7 or 8, huddled around a quick-fingered, fast-talking card shuffler who would dazzle his “audience” with three cards: two black cards and one prized red card, usually the queen of hearts.
Some people clapped, some glanced around nervously, but your attention was mostly focused on the guy with the cards and either his victim or one of his accomplices. The people working with him would win and/or lose while you watched, but would mostly win just enough to give you (the intended victim) the confidence and inclination to step up and try your luck. A person would bet, and then win, $100, $200 at a time, and all the while, you were unaware that they (the dealer, the winner, the loser, and clapping audience) WERE ALL WORKING WITH THE CON MAN.
You could never win this game…
Even if, in a 1-in-a-zillion chance, you happened to somehow correctly identify the red card, suddenly someone would yell “cop,” and the crowd would disburse. Or, worse yet, if you were able to take your money off of that table, you wouldn’t make it around the corner, because his thugs would meet you there.
Fast-forward to 2016. Times Square is much cleaner, swarmed by cops, and is a more family-friendly environment. But the 3-card Monte game has evolved into the Donald Trump presidential run, and it is frightening. In this game, we are watching as horrified captives, screaming at our TV sets and into our Twitter feeds while we watch the MSM continue to condone the conduct of this charlatan and feed his steady, improbable rise to the most powerful job in the world.
Day after day, interview after interview, Trump continues to spout lies (not even good ones!), telling whoever will listen that thousands and thousands of NJ Muslim residents cheered the day the Towers fell. Or that recently, after the tragedy in Dallas, that people had the audacity to request a moment of silence FOR THE SHOOTER! Or that he was self-funding. Or that he had investigators down in Hawaii, who “couldn’t believe what they were finding.” He never DID share those details with us, did he?
But still, the media continues to coddle this dangerous fraud, as though he’s the harmless drunk uncle at Thanksgiving who will pass out eventually. Except he’s not passing out, he’s just getting started. One can only assume that he will continue his shameless stream of falsehoods in the primary election, while millions watch him stream one unchecked lie after another at Hillary Clinton.
Every once in a while, a journalist may get lucky, as Jake Tapper did that one time, pressing him 3 times on his racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel. But that is the rare exception. Part of the problem is the sheer volume of his inaccuracies, exaggerations, vague statements, and straight-up lies. In order for a reporter to do this live, it’s almost impossible unless he/she is staring directly at a fact checking website during the interview. But again, how does one prepare for a Trump interview, when he says so many untrue things it’s hard to keep up? And if he doesn’t like the line of questioning, he’ll just shift the subject to “Crooked Hillary,” which his surrogates have become so adept at doing. Moving that red card around right under our noses while we impotently scream at the TV for the reporter to “make him answer the question! Ask a follow-up! Confront him on that lie!” And it never comes.
But what if?
What if prior to a Trump interview (either live or a phone-in), the news team actually PREPARED to be lied to (because c’mon, he doesn’t really have a close relationship with the truth). Prepare a list of the top 30 things that he frequently lies about, and then use the chyrons and graphics to fact-check the interview in progress. How hard could it be? When he starts off with the first lie, throw up a big red box on the screen next to his face that says “NOT TRUE” and then a chyron below indicating how it was a lie.
It might seem like a lot of trouble to go through for maybe a 5-10 minute interview, but journalists are supposed to be the gatekeepers of truth, and they are failing the American people at this if they continue to allow his pollution of the process to go unchecked. Joy Reid is one of those fearless journalists whom I would LOVE to see grill Trump, but that will never happen – he may be stupid, but he’s not crazy.
But really, you don’t have to be Tom Cruise’s character from “A Few Good Men” to get the truth out of Trump (insert Jack Nicholson “You can’t handle the truth” clip here). All you need is a well-thought and well-executed plan to corner him, and some well-placed, fact-check chyrons to stop the complicit enabling of voter misinformation, and to finally kick over that damn 3 card Monte table of lies.
There’s more at stake than just a $200 bet: it’s our future, and our children’s future.