Reagan Redux

Donald Trump has been telling this story about souped-up cars driven by bad guys who run the border with women tied up (with blue tape!) in the trunk, and finding prayer rugs in the desert left by terrorists. It’s all a lie. He’s making shit up. Where did it come from?

…there’s a movie called Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which was released last summer, and which included a woman being tied up with tape, smugglers driving vast vehicles, and officials finding prayer rugs in the dirt near the border.

Again, just so we’re all clear, the movie is real, but the story is fictional. The script was written by screenwriters, not documentarians. The plot of the film is made up, as are the characters and developments that unfolded on screen.

As Rachel added, “In a normal administration, it would be insane to suggest” the president of the United States saw stuff in a movie and maybe thought it reflected reality. And who knows, maybe it’s just a coincidence.

We’ve been here before with a president who can’t tell reality from fiction.

It was Reagan, you might remember, who told an annual meeting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society about a World War II B-17 commander who elected to stay with a wounded crewman rather than bail out of his stricken plane. “He took the boy’s hand and said, ‘Never mind, son, we’ll ride it down together.’ Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously awarded.”

Actually, Congressional Medal of Honor never awarded. There’s some dispute about where Reagan got the story. Some said it was from the 1944 movie “A Wing and a Prayer” while others cited a Reader’s Digest item. Whatever its source, Reagan’s account was not true.

We have a madman at the helm, and he’s forcing us to ride it down together.

Trump has to have been informed that his story is false. Next time he tells it, someone tackle him, put him in an ambulance, and take him to the nearest hospital for a thorough neurological examination.


  1. davidnangle says

    Border police are also concerned over the ridicule they have faced over the scent of their badges. “Our badges do not stink, and we do, in fact, need them,” one unnamed source reported.

  2. says

    B-17 commander who elected to stay with a wounded crewman rather than bail out of his stricken plane. “He took the boy’s hand and said, ‘Never mind, son, we’ll ride it down together.’

    Yeah, how did the witness survive to document that incident?

    30 years from now, someone will spill the beans about Trump, maybe sooner – after it’s too late to do anything. Alzheimer’s is one theory but I suspect he’s an amphetamine abuser (diet pills). It’s also possible that his parenting and the environment he grew up in combined with his stolen wealth simply conspired to refine a weapons-grade asshole.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I doubt he actually believes, I think he thinks it is a good story to raise fear.
    Yes like Reagan, he’s an actor playing a part.
    Unlike Reagan, “45” has a moron writing his role, the moron being himself. He plagiarizes from movies and tv shows, whatever he thinks will cause an emotional response. All he does is rouse emotions, anger and fear on his side, disgust on our side.
    As much as I often call him moron, I doubt that is accurate. He is incompetent manipulator playing us for all we’re worth.
    Putin doesn’t control him like a secret agent of destruction, Putin is only helping him, seeing him as a useful method of destroying us.
    —I better stop now before going off the edge I;m already over, sigh oh well.
    Thank you for letting me rant a bit, times are not normal
    the answer my friend is blowing in the wind

  4. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Meanwhile, the administration is asking border agents to substantiate the lies:

    But two weeks after Trump had started talking about tape-gagged women — when a January 17 Washington Post article had questioned the claim — a top Border Patrol official had to email agents to ask if they had “any information” that the claim was actually true.

    The email, shown to Vox by a source within Border Patrol, was sent as a “request for information” by an assistant Border Patrol chief, apparently on behalf of the office of Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan (referred to internally as “C-1”). It asked agents to reply within less than two hours with “any information (in any format)” regarding claims of tape-gagged women — and even linked to the Post article “for further info.”

  5. drew says

    It took the movie The Day After for Reagan to understand the results of nuclear war. Maybe Trump needs to Fox to screen Waterworld.

  6. says

    Marcus Ranum, nice catch. I remember reading UFO comics when I was maybe twelve—at a time when I apparently wanted to be scared—and realizing that the “true” account of two boys so frightened by an alien that they went insane and never spoke again had to be BS because (as you point out up there) how did the story become known?

    Perhaps this is related to a humorous trope where someone’s no-shit personal anecdote leads inevitably to someone asking “How did you get out of that?” with the narratorial reply “I didn’t. They killed me.”

  7. raven says

    A lot of people think Trump has been showing some kind of age related cognitive impairment.
    He is 72 and his father came down with Alzheimers.
    If that is the case, it is just going to get progressively worse.
    Going to be a long two years in any case.

    PS As comparisons to Reagan came up, during his second term, Reagan started showing signs of Alzheimers. And was diagnosed with the disease shortly after he left office.

  8. Akira MacKenzie says

    We have a madman at the helm, and he’s forcing us to ride it down together.

    He’s always been a figurehead; a puppet for the unholy alliance of White Supremacy, Christian Theocracy, Randite Plutocracy, and Russian fascism that now is the GOP. He exists to run his mouth for the inbred backwoods hicks who flock to his rallies, while smarter (yet just as evil) men run the empire behind the scenes. The only question left is, what do we do about it?

  9. whheydt says

    Remember also that Reagan spent WW2 where the “dead bodies” all got up at the end of the day and went home for dinner. He was making propaganda and training films.

  10. says

    Maybe Trump is trying to establish talking points for when he pulls the “insanity defense” as a last ditch some day. Does he have an advisor whose sole job is telling him how to act even more broken than he already is?

  11. KG says

    Akira MacKenzie@10,

    I think it’s more complicated than that. Sure, there is such an (unstable) alliance, but Trump is not a reliable puppet: as a malignant narcissist with increasing cognitive disabilities, no-one can be sure what he’s going to do next. Yes, the “puppeteers” can put ideas into his head, but such ideas are always liable to be dislodged either by another faction’s ideas, or because he finds something in them that clashes with his ego, or because he simply forgets. We’ve seen this going on both with his sudden decison to withdraw immediately from Syria – subsequently contradicted by Bolton but still perhaps going ahead, and in his reversals on the shutdown.

  12. davidnangle says

    I love any excuse to remember this line: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

  13. lumipuna says

    You folks may remember the “what happened in Sweden last night” incident from two years ago. In a Saturday speech, Trump was referring (as it turned out) to a Friday night’s propaganda documentary detailing alleged immigrant crime epidemic in Sweden. In other words, he presumably meant to say, “what’s been happening in Sweden (that I just saw a report about)” The context of his remark clearly implied something very abrupt, like a major terrorist attack.

    Aside from the issue of him parroting random far-right lies he sees on Fox News, I was gobsmacked at the time by this sad failure in communication. Now, I wonder if he lacks enough media comprehension that he actually thought all those listed examples of alleged immigrant crimes and riots in Sweden were actually real-time news.

  14. microraptor says

    lumipuna @16: I was thinking the same thing: Trump doesn’t appear to have the ability to sort fact from fiction in what he sees on TV, so he believes that whatever fits his preconceived narrative is the truth.

    Also, I don’t think he was intended to be a puppet for Putin. Simply putting in someone who’s dumb and easily manipulated who’ll throw America’s foreign and domestic policies into chaos benefits Putin because it leaves Russia free to largely do whatever it wants while America is unable to do anything to stop it.

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    As someone who actually lived through the Reagan administration as a young adult, I take issu with the contention that he was a more benign version of the orange shit gibbon. Reagan was very damaging to the country and started the tailspin in which we now find ourselves. A short and non-exhaustive list of his “accomplishments”:
    1) Undermined the professional civil service by breaking the air traffic controllers’ union and decimating civil service benefits (especially pensions).
    2) Undermined the nation’s environmental laws and enforcement (his first Interior secretary, James Watt, gave rise to the joke: How much power does it take to destroy the environment? A: 1 Watt)
    3) Ignored the AIDS crisis for several years, personally contributing to thousands of deaths
    4) Destabilized Central America through support of the Contras in Nicaragua and right-wing death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala. This led to a huge wave of immigration from these countries. People often forget that MS-13 started in the US and was then exported to Central America.
    5) Appointed a wave of conservative judges that thwarted progressive interpretations of the Constitution and the law.
    6) Began the bankrupting of the country through his tax and spending policies.
    7) Contributed to the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment.
    8) Started the push back against reproductive rights.
    9) Ended the push toward green energy
    10) Started the shadow covert government through Iran -Contra
    11) Helped destabilize Afghanistan, eventually leading to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden
    12) Started the whole “the gummint is the problem” narrative inside the gummint!
    13) Started the unholy alliance with the fundagelicals
    14) Inspired a generation of right-wing nutjobs to set their sights on politics, the law and government
    15) Saddled us with the Space Station, the abortive supercollider, Star Wars and several other White Elephant projects that drain dollars from actual science.
    16) And much, much more.

    The Reagan Administration was demoralizing for Progressives, and we still have not fully recovered.

  16. acroyear says

    I’m with the “he’s being manipulated” side. I think someone like Stephen Miller (an ambitious nutcase who has WAY too much influence in that building) fed him the scenes.

    The main reason I think that is the timing: at the time the statements started coming out, Mary Poppins was out and Emily Blunt was everywhere. This implies Trump didn’t actually recognize nor even see Blunt in the Sicario film…which implies he didn’t see the film as a whole. None of the footage that hinted that it was fictional was shown to him. Just the scenes to build the talking points.

    People like Miller and Bolton know as well as everybody else (including Fox and Friends, but not Trump himself, it seems) how easy it is to push his buttons. I’m convinced that’s what happened here.

    Trump has, unlike Reagan, no culture at all. I don’t think he even sees movies, never mind any other works of the arts. Asked about the celebs on Celebrity Apprentice, he often didn’t even know what they were famous for before they joined the show. He’s only dissing the Kennedy Center Awards each year because he knows he’s not welcome: nobody would take the time to hobknob with him and feed HIS ego. He has no idea what these performers actually do, and doesn’t care. They’re famous, so they should be helping him be famous like everybody else around him does. But they don’t, so he won’t go.

  17. robro says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space — Reagan was bad, sure, but as a 30+ year old who lived through the Reagan years he certainly didn’t start the tailspin. We were well into when he came along. Frankly, I’m not sure where it starts.

  18. bryanfeir says

    At the very least, the tailspin goes back to Nixon actively weaponizing racism and white nationalism for partisan purposes.

    Reagan then actively accelerated it by making common cause with the nascent Religious Right for the same reasons: he came to power right in the middle of the big argument between Bob Jones University and the IRS about whether BJU was allowed to get tax breaks as a public educational institution while still actively discriminating against black students.

  19. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Robro and bryanfeir,
    I agree that the rot doesn’t start with Reagan. Indeed, I think it goes way beyond Nixon–who I also remember. You could take it back to the racism of Woodie Wilson, the abrogation of Reconstruction, the populist tyranny and glib genocide of Andy Jackson, the paranoia of the founding fathers or the original American sins of slavery and slaughter of native peoples.
    I just see so many people thinking that it is unprecedented to have an idiot in the Whitehouse. It isn’t. So much of what we are seeing and feeling now, I remember from Ronny’s “Morning After in America.” The idea that somehow Rethugs will wise up and take back their party is a pipe dream. Trump is not an aberration, nor even the apotheosis of their policy arc.

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space @ # 18 could easily have made that list twice as long.

    (Though I would quibble with #s 8 (the attack on reproductive rights started before 1981) & # 11 (Jimmy Carter’s administration began the multi-billion-dollar boost to “pan-Islamic” muhajideen in Afghanistan as a way to weaken the USSR, an idea bad enough to qualify as bipartisan).)

    No progressive American should never forget Reagan’s unceasing support for South Africa’s apartheid, for one.

    We should also note the nonstop spate of Reaganista administrative failures, such as the string of embezzlements in the Dept of Housing & Urban Development (search for “Robin HUD”) and the several indictments of those involved with the Meese Commission (Meese himself was the only one acquitted). The cumulative impact, more than any one problem, set the pattern for later Republican regimes, as summed up in the phrase which I at least had never heard before the ’80s but which we can all identify with now: “scandal fatigue”.

  21. drst says

    Another difference is Reagan had Nancy, both for good and for ill. She put a great deal of effort in to controlling his life and hiding his illness. We have no evidence that Drumpf talks to his wife and son regularly.

    Also Reagan’s staff, while mostly evil, were also semi-competent bureaucrats, unlike Camp Runamuck.

  22. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Pierce Butler,
    Thanks and agreed. I was not totally against the funding of the Muhajideen against the Soviet invasion, but Reagan and the Congress cut them loose as soon as they had Russia on the ropes. However, I agree there is much more one could add.

    I think this serves as a cautionary tale–after all, look at how conservatives have mythologized the senile, old bastard. They like to pretend he was this wise, old grandfather type, when in reality, his whole administration was a trainwreck. I don’t think he was quite as evil as ’45’, but his response to the AIDS epidemic and the plight of Central American indigenous people was certainly cold.

    I felt the same way during the whole eulogy for Pappy Bush. I mean, for chrissake, the guy ran a shadow government with the Iran-Contra scheme, and he has been implicated in attempts to obstruct justice on behalf of Spiro Agnew. Hell, if he was a “gentleman,” then my left nut sings opera.

  23. Mark says

    I think the lie that Muslim prayer rugs are being found in the desert originated with republican congressman Tom Tancredo back in 2005. I remember the story and the only photos that republican propagandists at the time could provide were of a small, beat-up rug and of a discarded Emirates soccer jersey, both found along the US Southern border. Because as we all know, only Muslims use rugs and watch soccer. Tom Tancredo’s original talking points were — “We’ve found copies of the Koran, we have found prayer rugs, we have found a lot of stuff written in Arabic, so it’s not just people from Mexico coming across that border.” The history of Islamic terrorism in the US seems to contradict that claim because the terrorists either end up being US citizens or they have clean records and visited the US as legal residents. So why they would need to cross the border illegally wasn’t addressed by Tancredo in 2005 and it’s not addressed by Trump or by his media parrots. It’s just cheap propaganda.

  24. Mark says

    @a_ray_in_dilbert_space — Reagan also supported the South African apartheid regime and all the US corporations doing business there, which essentially forced the South African freedom fighters to seek help from the Soviet Russia. Republican politics seems to have encouraged fascism around the world.

  25. says

    I’m thinking it’s all of the above.

    The Annoying Orange is a known speed-freak, with a family history of Alzheimer’s, and is being manipulated precisely because the previous two items have messed his head up to the point where he’s genuinely unable to tell fact from fiction.

    Or he’s just a malicious liar.

  26. says

    Is there any evidence that Trump supporters have the ability to tell fiction from reality? I mean, if the Republican base believes what he says, it opens up a third option, which is that Trump is deliberately mixing in fictional stuff because it works.

  27. irene says

    Trump’s father wasn’t diagnosed with dementia until his late eighties, though. It’s a good deal more common at that age than earlier. The incidence goes from about 2% in the late sixties to about 20% in the late eighties.

  28. dianne says

    The US seems to like electing men with dementia or at least dubious connection to reality.

  29. raven says

    So why they would need to cross the border illegally wasn’t addressed by Tancredo in 2005 and it’s not addressed by Trump or by his media parrots. It’s just cheap propaganda.

    It’s not just cheap propaganda, it is a flat out lie.

    Where Islamic terrorists have been known to cross the border is…between the USA and Canada. It’s much easier for them to cross that border than try to cross the southern border.

    The Seattle Times: The Terrorist Within
    Jun 23, 2002 – … news that a mysterious Arabic man had been arrested crossing the border … Mounted Police, the FBI identified the man arrested at the Canadian border. He was Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian with ties to Islamic terrorists.


    The Daily Beast
    FBI Reports Show Terror Suspects Coming From Canada While Trump Stares at Mexico
    Documents reviewed by The Daily Beast show way more suspected terrorists encountered at the northern border than at the southern one. Why is Trump so eager to build a wall down there?
    Jana Winter 02.07.17 1:13 AM ET

    Far more suspected terrorists are found crossing the Canadian border than the southern border.
    So why is Trump so fixated on the Mexican border?
    It certainly has nothing to do with national security.

  30. raven says

    The US seems to like electing men with dementia or at least dubious connection to reality.

    It doesn’t take much to be a right wingnut hero.
    Some of them are convicted criminals as well such as D’Souza, North, Arpaio, and O’Keefe.

  31. says

    The US seems to like electing men with dementia or at least dubious connection to reality.

    They’re the ones who will tell the GOP’s base what it wants to hear.

  32. John Morales says

    Not directly on-topic, but I remember how back in the day the political leadership of the USSR and of China were maligned as gerontocracies.

  33. dianne says

    @34 Kip: Remember Reagan was an extremely popular president who won 49/50 states in his re-election campaign, at a time when he was clearly suffering from moderate dementia. That’s not just the GOP base, that’s the US.

  34. dianne says

    Though before we assume that Donald is suffering from Alzheimer’s I would like to point out that it was his kid who declared getting a 30/30 on a mini mental status to be “winning”. The whole family has very little understanding of, well, practically anything. And that’s just how the US likes its presidents. Remember how we misunderestimated Dubya?

  35. ck, the Irate Lump says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space wrote:

    A short and non-exhaustive list of [Ronald Reagan’s] “accomplishments”:
    16) And much, much more.

    For that much, much more, refer to @eshaLegal’s thread on twitter She’s up to #74 so far. She also has threads on G.W. Bush, Obama, and everyone in between. It turns out that America may have never elected a good president.

  36. Kagehi says

    @8 hemidactylus

    You beat me to it, more or less. I was about to suggest that we have Trump watch Independence Day and maybe it would scare him badly enough seeing the White House blown up that he would run away and never enter it again. lol

  37. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Dianne: “The US seems to like electing men with dementia or at least dubious connection to reality.”
    Representative democracy?

  38. ck, the Irate Lump says

    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) wrote:

    That’s an unfortunate turn of phrase. Chronologically, there was nobody in between, and in terms of practical policy only a handful.

    I had to exclude pre-Reagan politicians somehow, so ideological ranking it is. She has threads for G.H.W. Bush and Clinton, but didn’t want to run afoul of the link limit.