Going through the transcript of Trump’s interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes is, as my podcast co-host Dan Ray likes to say, a “case study in practiced deception.” The dodges, the deflections, the dishonesty, the verbal tics — they’re all there. Let’s go through some of them, starting with her question about climate change and hurricanes.
Lesley Stahl: Do you still think that climate change is a hoax?
President Donald Trump: I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this. I don’t wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t wanna lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t wanna be put at a disadvantage.
Lesley Stahl: I wish you could go to Greenland, watch these huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean, raising the sea levels.
President Donald Trump: And you don’t know whether or not that would have happened with or without man. You don’t know.
Lesley Stahl: Well, your scientists, your scientists–
President Donald Trump: No, we have–
Lesley Stahl: At NOAA and NASA–
President Donald Trump: We have scientists that disagree with that.
Lesley Stahl: You know, I– I was thinking what if he said, “No, I’ve seen the hurricane situations, I’ve changed my mind. There really is climate change.” And I thought, “Wow, what an impact.”
President Donald Trump: Well– I’m not denying.
Lesley Stahl: What an impact that would make.
President Donald Trump: I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back. You know, we’re talkin’ about over a millions–
Lesley Stahl: But that’s denying it.
President Donald Trump: –of years. They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael.
Lesley Stahl: Who says that? “They say”?
President Donald Trump: People say. People say that in the–
Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but what about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?
President Donald Trump: You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley.
Lesley Stahl: I can’t bring them in.
President Donald Trump: Look, scientists also have a political agenda.
Of course, if she did name a few, a dozen or a thousand scientists who say that, he’d still reject them. Because they “have a political agenda.” And after all, it might change back. He has all the usual dodges and deflections down perfectly here. It’s utterly irrational and contradictory, of course, but that’s true of virtually everything Trump ever says.
I wish she’d done a follow up on this though. I wish she had said something like, “You said several times in the past that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to destroy the American economy. Two questions about that. First, doesn’t the fact that China is spending a vast amount of money now to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that fuel global warming proof that you were wrong? And will you admit now that you were wrong at the time and were just talking out your buttocks?” Because seriously, that claim is one of the dumbest things any human being has ever said. She could have asked him also if he ever actually believed something that stupid? If so, on what possible evidence? And if not, why did he say it? That’s how a real journalist would have continued the questioning. She was combative with him at times, but she didn’t really ever hold him accountable for his nonsense. She preferred to make a mild challenge, then let him slide and move on to the next question.