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Trump Makes Play For Critical Andrew Sullivan Constituency

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Serial fabricator Betsy McCaughey recently made arguably the most ridiculous argument she’s made in a pundit career consisting entirely of ridiculous arguments, describing Donald J. Trump as a serious policy wonk. You can probably see where this is going:

Betsy McCaughey’s addition to Donald Trump’s council of economic advisors seems fitting: Both are conspiracy theory-floating sensationalists who have what you might describe as a hostile relationship with the truth.

Trump announced that McCaughey, along with seven other women, was joining his economic team Thursday after critics noted the council was made up entirely of men, only one Ph.D.-holding economist and four Steves among them, upon its initial rollout.

The campaign’s biography of McCaughey describes her as “a public policy expert,” citing her Ph.D. from Columbia University, her time as the lieutenant governor of New York state, her two anti-Obamacare books and her “nationwide educational campaign to stop hospital-acquired infections.”

But it leaves out perhaps the greatest asset she brings to Team Trump: an ability to serve up distortions and flat-out falsehoods about Democratic legislation that mainstream Republicans and even credible media outlets devoured and regurgitated as conventional wisdom.

McCaughey’s biggest success was her role in the defeat of the health care reform initiative led by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, an achievement that makes her entry into this current electoral cycle all the more fitting. In what started as a Wall Street Journal op-ed, McCaughey pushed the inaccurate assertion that the Clinton legislation would ban health care consumers from paying doctors for services outside their government plans.

Her “no exit” claim landed her a cover story at The New Republic that won a National Magazine Award, even though the bill itself clearly stated that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services” (an editor of the magazine would later recant that story). McCaughey’s allegation nonetheless provided Republicans an easy talking point as the legislation stalled in Congress, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called her writings the “the first decisive breakpoint.”

Unlike that 1990s crusade, McCaughey’s attacks on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative weren’t enough to block its passage. But she was still able to land some lasting, albeit deceptive, blows on the law. Most famously, she was a major propagator of the Obamacare “death panels” myth that held the law created a panel of bureaucrats who would deem which Americans were worthy of health care.

Yes, Trump is a clown, but the fact that the clowns he surrounds himself with are mostly mainstream, influential figures within the Republican Party really should tell you something.

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