Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Why Does No One Care That Trump Is Lying About Elijah Cummings’ District?

July 30, 2019
Why Does No One Care That Trump Is Lying About Elijah Cummings’ District?
(Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

1. He’s Lying, Again

There’s a great deal to unpack in the Trump-Elijah Cummings-Baltimore incident.

So let’s start with the fact that Cummings has been a pretty great colleague to his Republican friends in the House. He’s the kind of old-school member who takes the idea that “we’re all friends here” seriously.

Then there’s the racism. (You should read Andrew Egger’s piece on this.)

But buried deep down in all of this is the question of truth.

Here is what Trump said about Cummings and Maryland’s 7th district:

Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA…..

….As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place . . .

Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!

So here is my question: Exactly who says that Maryland’s 7th district is “considered the Worst in the USA” and “considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.”

Let’s have some citations here. Heck, let’s just have one citation.

I’ll save you the trouble, because there aren’t any. Because exactly nobody—nobody, anywhere in the world—considers Maryland’s 7th district “the Worst in the USA” or “the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.”

Nobody. This statement by the president is a lie.

When I say it’s a lie, I say this because Trump is not simply saying that Maryland’s 7th district is the worst. That would just be his opinion. It would be an incorrect opinion (we’ll get to that in a minute) but it wouldn’t be a lie.

But by  saying that it “is considered” the worst, most dangerous, etc. Trump is claiming that some mass of popular opinion and thought—not just him, Donald Trump—holds these views.

And this is not true. It is a lie. The president of the United States is lying to you. And he is lying in an attempt to disparage and denigrate America. (Kind of makes you want to tell him to love or leave it, doesn’t it?)

So let’s get to the opinion part. Why is it that nobody considers the Maryland 7th district  “the Worst in the USA” or “the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States”?

Because by every objective measure it is not even close.

Here are some things you may or may not know about Maryland’s 7th district:

  • It includes Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Hospital (which is one of the two or three best medical centers in the world), and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
  • It stretches as far west as Mount Airy.
  • This western part of the district is essentially farmland.
  • The median household income in the United States is $59,000. The median household income in MD-7 is $61,000.
  • 11 percent of district residents are foreign-born (compared to 13.5 percent for the U.S.).
  • In educational attainment, MD-7 is right around the national average: 88.8 percent high school graduate and 38 percent a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • The majority of workers in MD-7 are white collar though there is a sizable blue-collar working class.

You can find all of this and more from the Census, here.

If you wanted to rank congressional districts by markers that might suggest they are the “worst” there are people who do that. Take this list of districts by median household income. (NY-15 is dead last, with a median income less than half that of MD-7.)

There are rankings for districts by life expectancy (last is Kentucky’s 5th district) and educational attainment (last is Texas’ 29th district).

My point is that to believe that Maryland’s 7th district is “the worst” you have to know basically nothing about American life. Because not only is it not “technically” the “worst,” it’s not even close. By every conceivable measure, MD-7 is on the high side of average.

Does it matter that the president of the United States doesn’t know any of this?

Does it matter that he’s lying when he says that other people agree with his incorrect opinion?

Does it matter that the man who two weeks ago said that people who are critical of America ought to go back to where they came from is now lying about America in an attempt to criticize it?

Don’t get me wrong. The race-based aspect of this incident is bad. Very bad.

But I can’t help thinking that the fact that everyone just assumes that Trump is lying about the underlying facts and that this lie is baked into the cake is even worse.

2. Bryce Harper Update

My brother-in-law went to a Phillies game over the weekend. Had great seats, a couple rows behind the home team dugout. He’s a Sox fan and knows his baseball.

And his mind was kind of blown when he heard the crowd just killing Bryce Harper with boos all night.

Because Bryce and Philly are only 105 games into a contract that’s supposed to run for 2,106 regular season games. And the Philly fans are already fed up with him.

It’s going to be a loooooooong 13 years.

Bleacher Report has a piece explaining that this is a surprise to basically no one who follows baseball with any passing amount of seriousness:

What was the realistic return on that investment? One American League executive said: “I see a good player in Harper but not a great one. Where he stacks up to guys like [Mike] Trout, relative to that contract, there’s an obvious disconnect.”Another industry veteran expressed a similar sentiment: “I would just never pay any player that much money. Well, maybe Trout, but I wonder if the Phillies are thinking, ‘What did [we] do?’ They made a big splash, got the fans excited, but now it’s the morning after and they have to pay him.” . . .

“I don’t blame Bryce,” he said. “He chased what the industry told him to chase—swing hard, go for the home runs. It’s what the industry rewards. But he’s not in Washington anymore. He’s in a place where you have to be accountable, and he’s expected to get a hit every time up.

I’m going to get those last two sentences on a pillow.

3. Wrongfully Accused

This Texas Monthly story about a man wrongfully sentenced to 99 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit will make your blood run cold:

Ed’s lawyers tried to show that Snow was an untrustworthy jailhouse snitch, making him read a letter he had written Dobbs from jail. “I think I could be the best informant that ever come out of Tyler, Texas,” he’d proclaimed. They emphasized that none of the hundred-plus hairs, blood, semen, fingerprints, or cigarette butts tied Ed to the crime scene—they also pointed out that he had no scratches or blood on him or any motive to kill Griffin. Moseley was a much better suspect, they said. Again, the jury took a long time and was deadlocked 10 to 2 after two days, in favor of guilt. Again, Ed was offered a plea bargain, and again he turned it down. But on the morning of the third day, August 13, 1998, the two holdouts changed their minds, and the jury found Ed guilty. According to a local paper, when the verdict was read, “A cry went up” from Ed. He was sentenced to 99 years. Kim, weeping, watched as her husband was handcuffed and taken away.

Read the whole thing.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.