Donald Trump sees as himself as the ultimate businessman. It makes sense then that for him, truth is just another commodity. ABC News’ David Muir snagged an interview with Trump this past Wednesday night that covered a wide range of topics and – as we’ve become accustomed to with Trump – the interview delivered a number of, shall we say, unusual moments. I want to focus on just one brief interaction, because of what it reveals about one of Trump’s worst instincts.
The interaction is from a portion of the interview dealing with Trump’s voter fraud allegations & his call for an investigation into the situation (a topic I discussed yesterday). But the subject matter isn’t what I want to talk about here. In this case, that topic just happens to be the window that allows us a view into Trump’s disturbing way of approaching the world. Talking Points Memo gives a good summary of this entire portion of the interview.*
But the specific exchange that really grabbed me was when Muir noted that even some of Trump’s fellow Republicans have pointed out that there’s no evidence for his claims of widespread voter fraud. This was how Trump replied:
Let me just tell you, you know what’s important, millions of people agree with me when I say that if you would’ve looked on one of the other networks and all of the people that were calling in they’re saying, ‘We agree with Mr. Trump. We agree.’ They’re very smart people.
Muir had tried multiple times during the interview to present Trump with the evidence that voter fraud is almost non-existent. But Trump was completely uninterested in what the evidence said. To him what matters is that millions of people agree with him. And note that the “people” he’s talking about here are not a wide range of people across the United States, but only a very narrow slice of the population.
Trump isn’t looking at polls of all voters and seeing big numbers of support for his presidency or for most of his policies – because those don’t exist. He’s watching Fox News (that’s the “other network” he refers to in the quote above) and seeing their cheerleading for him, and seeing that everyone in their audience is wholeheartedly on his side.
He reads his “paper of record” the very Trump-friendly NY Post (owned by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch). He watches hours of the generally Trump-friendly Morning Joe show. And he doesn’t appear to have anyone within his group of close aides with the ability and/or desire to stand up to him or tell him hard truths. Based on that very unrepresentative vision of the country, Trump is determining that “the people” agree with him.
That is how Trump creates reality and constructs the truth. He doesn’t question things and then go searching for answers. He doesn’t do research, seek out information, look for well documented facts. Trump decides on the truth and then tries to get people to buy into it. If they do, that “truth” is affirmed. Just like his reality tv show, which he assessed through tv ratings, and his presidential campaign which he assessed through poll numbers, and his daughter who he assessed in dollars made modeling, the truth for Donald Trump is assessed solely by how well he can sell it to the public.
*As an aside, I can’t help but note that in just this short exchange, Trump manages to display an impressive number of his worst flaws. In brief, it begins with his use of the word “groveling” to describe the author of a Pew study on voter registration that he keeps incorrectly citing. This is the same word he used to describe the disabled reporter he infamously mocked during the campaign. In neither case does the word actually seem to describe what Trump is trying to accuse these reporters of. It’s unclear if Trump doesn’t know what the word means, or if he doesn’t care and simply wants to use any word that casts his “enemies” as submissive.
The conversation then turns to his inability to comprehend when Muir tells him that the Pew study doesn’t say what Trump claims it says. Trump responds, “Then why did he write the report?” Again, it’s not clear if this is a lack of understanding on Trump’s part (i.e. is he unable to understand what the true conclusion of the study was?), or if he just can’t possibly imagine that a researcher would have a reason to write a paper other than to provide Trump with evidence of his conspiracy theories. The conversation tops off with Trump claiming that he never said there were “millions” of fraudulent voters, even though we’ve all seen his earlier claims with our own eyes (see tweet below), and numerous people were witness to his most recent claims. We all also heard his own spokesperson mount an elaborate defense of Trump’s allegations.
By now we are all familiar with Trump’s habit of blatantly denying saying things we all heard or saw him say – often only hours or days earlier. As if he’s somehow unaware that tv and the internet exist and we all have access to them. But the familiarity doesn’t make it any less unsettling.