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Donald Trump is trying to convince us that he didn’t lose the 2020 election, it was stolen from him.

Regardless of what the numbers may say, Joe Biden is trying to convince us that we are not sinking into a recession.

Now I am not comparing the magnitude of the two efforts. Trump is making a case that every trial and investigation — and the testimony of some of his own people — has shown to be patently false. Biden is engaging in the old art of political spin, but with a disturbing twist.

Yet, it is part of the wider picture of a society so divided that we cannot agree on a common fact. Die-hard Trump loyalists cannot be convinced that Biden is the legitimately elected president. Fierce Biden loyalists insist Trump should be in prison, due process and Justice Department rulings be damned. Both sides employ “The Big Lie” to brand what their monstrous opponents are up to.

Trump is dominating the news again, with Biden’s flamboyant speech on the sidebar

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at Fort Leslie J. in Washington.  McNair arrived on a weekend trip to Rehoboth Beach, Del.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at Fort Leslie J. in Washington. McNair arrived on a weekend trip to Rehoboth Beach, Del.
(AP Photo/Manuel Bals Seneta)

And the media long ago lost its role as referee, largely scorned by the right and increasingly distrusted by the left now that Biden is president.

Each has their own channel to reach their base directly through social media (Truth Social in Truth Social) or personal podcasts. They may ignore uncomfortable questions, accuse their opponents of conspiracy, or say that black is white.

News that the Justice Department is investigating Trump — based on leaks from the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as grand jury testimony from two former Pence aides — only raises the stakes.

In his Washington speech, Trump devoted the first part to rising crime and how to combat it, but he couldn’t resist some references to his stolen-election campaign. “I won, and I won a second time,” he said, and he had to do it again.

“Never forget, everything this corrupt organization is doing to me is to maintain their power and control over all Americans,” Trump added. “They want to harm you in any form, but they really want to harm me. So I can’t go back to work for you anymore.”

Trump excels at portraying himself as the victim and his followers as the losers if he is restrained.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the US Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, DC

US Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the US Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, DC
(Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

For a more nuanced view, here’s Truth Social after the Post broke the story: “Just more distortions by Democrats… Why isn’t the Justice Department cracking down on the people responsible? There’s plenty of time left!”

And: “People forget, it’s all about rigged and stolen elections. But instead of going after the people who hacked and stole, they go after people who seek honesty and truth and freedom of speech and many others. Defense, on their side! Justice The department should look into the crime of the century. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable!!!”

It’s a head-scratching situation: The Justice Department is investigating Trump (not fast enough for bloodthirsty partisans), and Trump says the department should investigate the election thieves (which they have failed to prove after a year and a half).

Now to take care of Biden’s hand.

In a plan that has been in the making for days, the president and his team want to counter today’s GDP report, which could conclude that we have just entered another quarter of negative growth. It’s a classic Definition of Recession.

Ah, but it would contradict Biden’s repeated insistence that we’re not headed for a recession.

Solution: Move the goalposts.

Brian Dees, the White House’s chief economic adviser, has argued that the usual definitions are backward-looking; Things have improved. Administration is evaluating itself.

While Biden issues executive orders, Trump battles probers and pundits

“We’re in a transition period right now,” Diez told reporters: “Two negative quarters of GDP growth is not the technical definition of a recession. It’s not the definition that economists have traditionally relied on.”

Recession? What recession? Move on, nothing to see here.

Imagine if Trump had said that?

It’s pretty shameless. Want to cure the recession using economics alone? We may or may not hit two negative quarters today, but the White House is clearly concerned about the prospect, bringing out Treasury chief Janet Yellen today for a rebuttal.

With Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump.

With Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnick)

Republicans have discovered this history:

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Dees in 2008: “Of course economists have a technical definition of a recession, which is two consecutive quarters of negative growth.”

Jared Bernstein, another economic adviser to Biden in 2019: A recession is defined as “two consecutive quarters of declining growth.”

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A Washington Post fact-checker, addressing Trump’s comments, in 2015: “Two consecutive negative quarters are a standard indicator of an economic downturn.”

I thought the media would be more critical, but so far the reaction has been surprisingly mild.

The concerted effort to redefine reality clearly transcends party lines.