In light of Trump’s, shall we say, dramatic last few weeks, I thought this would be a good time to repost something I wrote a couple months ago about Trump’s unusual view of “the truth”. I had actually forgotten about it, but reading the coverage the last couple days about Trump doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on this wire tap claim – plus a slew of articles on his propensity to lie, in general – reminded me about what I had written.
In addition to Trump continuing to insist his wire tap claim has merit, adding to the absurdity of late was his reaction to the testimony on Monday of FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director MIke Rogers. Even after Comey debunked Trump’s wire tapping claim, Trump continued to live tweet lies about their testimony related to the Russia investigation. This required them to do further – on the spot – debunking of Trump’s false tweets as they continued to give their testimony.
To those of us who oppose Trump, this seems like insanity. But how are the people on Trump’s side reacting? Because, as you’ll see in my re-post below, they are the ones that matter, they are the judges in Trump’s “Truthy Contest.” So, let’s take a look . . .
Throughout all of this, Republicans in the House have continued to defend and/or deflect for Trump, choosing to focus their questions during the Comey/Rogers hearing only on the issue of leaks (e.g. who leaked the information about Flynn secretly talking to Russia) instead of showing any concern about Trump’s wire tapping lies or the substance of the Russia issue. Even if they begrudgingly acknowledged there’s no evidence to support Trump’s wire tapping claim, it’s always with some version of “yet” – there’s no evidence yet. Or they qualify it by saying they’re sure there was some sort of surveillance, even if not wire tapping specificially, and that’s really what Trump was referring to.
Sean Spicer has vociferously defended Trump on his wire tapping claim, at press briefing after press briefing, claiming he’s confident the evidence is still out there, deflecting by accusing the media of not covering news that’s good for Trump and even going so far as to accuse our British allies of conspiring with Obama to perform the wire tap. And out in America, Trump’s supporters are still with him, completely unperturbed by his wiretapping lies or any possible connections to Russia’s interference with the election. To them, that’s all a creation of the media.
So with that, I give you my theory – originally posted right after he took office – of how Trump gauges whether his lies are working:
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.
*In this short exchange, Trump also displays a specific subset of lie he likes to tell: the outraged “I never said that”. 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.