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First Read: Donald Trump, The Post-Truth 2016 Candidate

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
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First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Donald Trump — the post-truth 2016 candidate

We’ve been around the political block long enough to know that almost all presidential candidates exaggerate, dissemble, take statements out of context and, yes, lie. But from the start of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign (remember Mexican rapists?), he has taken this to a level we haven’t seen before in American politics. Consider just these two examples from the weekend. First, Trump said on Saturday in Alabama: “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering.” In fact, as the New York Times writes, “No news reports exist of people cheering in the streets, and both police officials and the mayor of Jersey City have said that it did not happen. An Internet rumor about people cheering in the streets, which said it was in Paterson, not Jersey City, has been denied numerous times by city and police officials.” But when ABC pressed Trump on his statement, he stood his ground. “It did happen. I saw it... It was on television. I saw it.” Second, Trump retweeted a graphic claiming -- falsely -- that African Americans are responsible for the killing of most blacks and whites in America. “That is not true, the Washington Post notes. “According to data from the FBI, most whites are killed by whites, as most blacks are killed by blacks. There's an obvious reason for that: Most people are killed by someone they know.”

And it’s on the explosive subjects of religion and race

It’s hard to disagree with the assessment of our colleague Benjy Sarlin: “Let's not sugarcoat what's going on. The GOP frontrunner is spreading hateful falsehoods about blacks and Muslims.”

Trump’s controversial week

By the way, don’t miss NBC’s Ali Vitali on what was Donald Trump’s controversial week last week. “It began last Monday on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' when Trump reignited a discussion about closing mosques... Then, Thursday, Trump spoke with Yahoo News on the issue of tracking Muslims through databases. 'We're going to have to do things that we never did before,' he said... In Iowa later that night, Trump touched off a further firestorm when pressed by NBC News on whether there should be a database system to track Muslims in the United States. 'I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,' Trump he said in a televised exchange... He also restated a claim — long disputed — that Arab Americans in New Jersey had cheered while watching the twin towers fall on 9/11.”

PHOTOS - On the Stump: Donald Trump's Presidential Campaign

George W. Bush on Islam vs. the 2016 GOP field

Yesterday, “Meet the Press” ran a fascinating comparison between the rhetoric we’ve heard from the 2016 GOP field after the Paris terrorist attacks with George W. Bush’s after 9/11. The examples:

Donald Trump: “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering.”

George W. Bush: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”

Marco Rubio: That would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren’t violent themselves… This is a clash of civilizations."

George W. Bush: “When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women there is no clash of civilizations.

Ben Carson: “If there’s a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog."

George W. Bush: “We respect the faith, and we welcome people of all faiths in America. And we’re not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values.”

Rubio’s first TV ad seizes on the Paris terrorist attacks

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio’s campaign is up with its first TV ad -- the campaign says it’s a major nationwide cable buy -- that doubles down on the candidate’s “clash of civilizations” line from last week. “This is a civilizational struggle between the values of freedom and liberty, and radical Islamic terror,” Rubio says into the camera. “What happened in Paris could happen here. There is no middle ground: These aren’t disgruntled or disempowered people. These are radical terrorists who want to kill us, because we let women drive because we let girls go to school.”

Wall Street -- the image problem Hillary Clinton “cannot seem to shake”

Turning to the Democratic presidential race, the Sunday New York Times explored Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. “Mrs. Clinton’s windfalls from Wall Street banks and other financial services firms — $3 million in paid speeches and $17 million in campaign contributions over the years — have become a major vulnerability in states with early nomination contests. Some party officials who remain undecided in the 2016 presidential race see her as overly cozy with big banks and other special interests. At a time when liberals are ascendant in the party, many Democrats believe her merely having “represented Wall Street as a senator from New York,” as Mrs. Clinton reminded viewers in an October debate, is bad enough. It is an image problem that she cannot seem to shake.”

Edwards beats Vitter in LA GOV race

Finally, after their rough defeat in Kentucky’s gubernatorial contest earlier this month, Democrats won the race for Louisiana’s governor’s mansion on Saturday. The lesson: David Vitter was a worse candidate than Matt Bevin. “State Rep. John Bel Edwards, a relatively unknown Democrat from a rural Amite, will be the state's next governor after toppling Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., in one of the biggest political upsets in the state's history,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote. “No state in the Deep South has had a Democratic governor since Kathleen Blanco left office eight years ago. A Democrat hasn't even come within spitting distance of statewide office in Louisiana since 2008, when former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu won reelection.” Two consequences from Edwards’ win: One, Vitter says he won’t run for Senate seat in 2016, meaning there will be an open-seat contest. Two, Edwards says he’ll expand Medicaid in the state under the federal health-care law.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Reno, NV… Donald Trump holds a rally in Columbus, OH at 7:00 pm ET… Ben Carson also stumps in Nevada… Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina are in Iowa… John Kasich campaigns in Michigan… Bernie Sanders rallies in Atlanta, GA… And Martin O’Malley spends his day in New Hampshire.

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