John Oliver: The “Theme Of The Republican Convention” Was “Emphasizing Feelings Over Facts”

Oliver: Trump's Speech “Was A Symphony Of Bile And Race-Baiting”

From the July 24 edition of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

JOHN OLIVER (HOST): The Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the most apocolyptic thing ever to happen in that city, and bear in mind, their river has repeatedly caught fire.


But that message of Trump as a skilled manager was somewhat undercut by the fact the entire convention was a mismanaged shitshow. From Melania Trump using a partly plaigiarized speech to Ted Cruz being booed off the stage for not endorsing Donald Trump to the fact that supposedly Donald Trump knew Ted Cruz wouldn't endorse him and didn't care.


It's actually fitting that Trump had seemingly done so little to prepare for his party's convention, given that the party itself had done so little to prepare for Donald Trump. After the last election, the GOP published a post-mortem report, titled The Growth & Opportunity Project, analyzing their mistakes and laying out a plan to expand their appeal. Now, it featured passages like, “many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country” and “we must emphasize ... the importance of a welcoming, inclusive message in particular when discussing issues that relate directly to a minority group.” Unfortunately, over the past year, that report and its carefully considered suggestions has been overshadowed by a different report titled literally everything Donald Trump has ever said and done. Because this is a guy who suggested building a wall to keep Mexicans out and advocated a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.


But amazingly, through all the chaos and confusion this week, one theme did emerge. And it was accidentally summarized best -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- by Antonio Sabato Jr., an IMDB page awarded actor, who delivered a relatively restrained speech before opening his heart regarding President Obama to ABC News.


ANTONIO SABATO JR.: First of all, I don't believe that the guy is a Christian. I don't believe he follows the God that I love and the Jesus that I love.

AMNA NAWAZ: You believe that President Obama is a Muslim? Is that what you're saying?

SABATO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

NAWAZ: And that is based on what you feel in your heart?

SABATO: Yeah, that's what I believe, yeah. And you know what, I have the right to believe that and you have the right to go against that, but I believe it.



OLIVER: What is truly revealing is his implication that believing something to be true is the same as it being true. Because, if anything, that was theme of the Republican convention this week. It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts.


It is worth noting that since President Obama took office, crime rates, the flow of illegal immigrants over our borders, and claims for unemployment benefits have all declined. And yet, frighteningly, when reporters started pointing that out, it didn't seem to matter. Just watch as Newt Gingrich brushed any effort to fact-check Trump's claims about the U.S. crime rate.


ALISYN CAMEROTA: Violent crime is down. The economy is ticking up.

NEWT GINGRICH: It is not down in the biggest cities.

CAMEROTA: Violent crime, murder rate is down. It is down.

GINGRICH: Then how come it's up in Chicago and up in Baltimore and up in Washington?

CAMEROTA: There are pockets where certainly we are not tackling murder.

GINGRICH: Your national capital, your third biggest city --

CAMEROTA: But violent crime across the country is down. 

GINGRICH: The average American, I will bet you this morning, does not think crime is down, does not think they are safer.

CAMEROTA: But it is. We are safer and it is down.

GINGRICH: No, that's just your view.

CAMEROTA: It's a fact. These are the national FBI facts.

GINGRICH: But what I said is also a fact.


OLIVER: No it isn't, no it isn't. It's only a fact that that's a feeling people have. This is a graph of the violent crime rate, it's not a fucking Rorschach test. You can't infer anything you like from it. And sure, you can cherry-pick recent upticks in some cities, but the overall trend across the country during the Obama presidency and, indeed, for the last 25 years is down. But, Newt wasn't done.


GINGRICH: The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics that theoretically may be right, but it's not where human beings are.

CAMEROTA: But what you're saying is, but hold on Mr. Speaker because you're saying liberals use these numbers, they use this sort of magic math. These are the FBI statistics. They're not a liberal organization. They're a crime-fighting organization.

GINGRICH: No, but what I said is equally true. People feel more threatened.

CAMEROTA: Feel it, yes. They feel it, but the facts don't support it.

GINGRICH: As a political candidate, I'll go with how people feel and I'll let you go with the theoriticians.


OLIVER: He just brought a feeling to a fucking fact fight. And it is worth taking just a moment to seriously consider what Gingrich was saying there, because think about it. I think we can all agree that candidates can create feelings in people. But what Gingrich is saying is that feelings are as valid as facts. So then, by the transitive property, candidates can create facts, which is terrifying, because that means someone like Donald Trump can essentially create his own reality.


If you're thinking, well hold on, eventually reality will set in, because if elected Trump would actually have to deal with facts, I'm not so sure about that. Just this week, the Times reported that not only was John Kasich asked if he had any interest in the vice presidency by the Trump campaign, he was offered quite a lot more.


DANA BASH: Donald Trump Jr. even called one of John Kasich's top aides and said that if he wanted the job, he could even be in charge of foreign and domestic policy, which of course is kind of everything.



OLIVER: It gets better, because apparently when Kasich's advisers asked what Trump would be in charge of, the response was, “Making America great again,” which objectively is not a job, but I guess it feels like one and it seems that's all that fucking matters now. Now the Trump family disputed that story, naturally, but it does often seem like Trump is more interested in attention than the hard work of getting things done in a complicated political system.


The notion that Trump would be a hands-off president might actually represent the best case scenario here. The much more frightening prospect would be if he were hands-on, because between those 24 minutes of applause was a symphony of bile and race-baiting. Remember, this is the man who has retaliated against journalists and at various points has advocated killing terrorists' families, endorsed torture, and expressed admiration for leaders like Kim Jong Un, Saddam Hussein, and Vladimir Putin. His message this week was the message of every strongman ever: The world is dangerous and only I can make you safe.


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