The President Who cried wolf


May 24, 2017

The President Who cried wolf

‘Trump is now more than just a real estate developer, a franchise marketer, or a celebrity TV star. He is President, and he is dealing with matters of war and peace, law and justice. Words matter, and in a wholly different way than he has ever understood. They build national credibility, deter enemies, reassure allies and execute the law. In high office, in public life, words are not so different from actions. They are everything”.–Fareed Zakaria

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For most of his life, Donald Trump has found words to be his friends. He has used them to build his business, dramatize his achievements and embellish his accomplishments. As important, he has used them to explain away his missteps and to paper over his problems. He built a 58-story building in glass and steel, but through his wordplay, it became 68 stories tall. He owns an 11,000-square-foot apartment in Manhattan, but in his telling, it’s 33,000 square feet. Trump has used words extravagantly and cleverly to serve his ambition. He has called his method “truthful hyperbole,” and oftentimes it is not even truthful. But it has worked — so far.

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James B. Comey

The White House understands the gravity of the allegation that President Trump asked then-FBI Director James B. Comey to end the Michael Flynn investigation. That’s why the administration has vigorously denied the charge. And perhaps it’s not true.

But the challenge for the administration is that in the court of public opinion, this is likely to turn into a case of “he said, he said” — unless there are, in fact, tapes. On the one side, you have Comey, a distinguished civil servant with a history of speaking truth to power. While his critics feel that he has made several bad judgments over the past year, most people believe he is honest and sincere. On the other side, you have Trump.

The Post’s reporters Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee describe Trump as “the most fact-challenged politician” they have “ever encountered.” They pointed out that, after having received a whopping 59 “Four Pinocchio” ratings during the campaign, Trump in his first 100 days made 492 “false or misleading claims,” at an average of 4.9 a day. These fact checkers clarified that “those numbers obscure the fact that the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.” By their count, there were only 10 days in the first 100 days in which Trump did not make a false or misleading claim.

And his fibs are not over small matters. Before being elected, Trump claimed that Barack Obama was not born in the United States; that he had met Vladimir Putin, who “could not have been nicer”; that he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq “from the beginning”; that he watched Arabs in Jersey City, N.J., cheer when the World Trade Center was attacked; that America’s unemployment rate (just last year) might be as high as 42 percent; and that its murder rate was the highest in 45 years. Since his election, he has claimed that his electoral vote margin was larger than anyone’s since Ronald Reagan, that China stopped manipulating its currency in response to his criticism and that Obama had his Trump Tower phones tapped. Every one of these claims is categorically false, and yet Trump has never retracted one of them.

Trump’s approach has never been to apologize because it wouldn’t make sense to him. In his view, he wasn’t fibbing. As his sometime rival and now friend Steve Wynn, a casino tycoon, put it, Trump’s statements on virtually everything “have no relation to truth or fact.” That’s not really how Trump thinks of words. For him, words are performance art. It’s what sounds right in the moment and gets him through the crisis. So when describing his economic policy to the Economist, he explained that he had just invented the term “prime the pump” a few days earlier. Never mind that the phrase was coined a century ago, has been used countless times since and was in fact used by Trump repeatedly in the past year. At that moment, it seemed the right thing to say.

But Trump is now more than just a real estate developer, a franchise marketer, or a celebrity TV star. He is President, and he is dealing with matters of war and peace, law and justice. Words matter, and in a wholly different way than he has ever understood. They build national credibility, deter enemies, reassure allies and execute the law. In high office, in public life, words are not so different from actions. They are everything.

It would be the ultimate irony if Trump now faces a crisis in which his lifelong strength turns into a fatal weakness. His rich and checkered history of salesmanship, his exaggerations, fudges and falsehoods, leave him in a situation now where, even if he is right on this one, people will have a hard time believing that this one time Donald Trump is finally telling the truth.

 

10 thoughts on “The President Who cried wolf

  1. But Donald Trump did not write “The Art of the Deal” and does not have the intelligence to invent the term “truthful hyperbole”. The peanut sized brain of Trump cannot compose more than two sentences beyond the Twitter. The book and the term came from Tony Schwartz, the man who ghost-wrote the book that Trump so often conjures as a testament to his ability as a deal-maker. See:

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all

    In an interview with ‘The New Yorker’, Schwartz says: “I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” He added that if he were writing the book today it would be called, “The “Sociopath”. To be certain, I looked up the dictionary definition of ‘Sociopath’ – “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is anti social, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience”.

    And here’s the kicker. Schwartz said that in ghost-writing the book, he wrote the following assertion for Trump: “I play to people’s fantasies. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and it’s a very effective form of promotion.” Schwartz now regrets inventing the term, ‘truthful hyperbole’, which, he says, is a contradiction in terms. He admitted that it’s a way of saying: ‘It’s a lie, but who cares?’ But, according to him, Trump, loved the phrase. And, so it is.

    During that period of 18 months ghost-writing the book, Schwartz had spent hundreds of hours observing Trump firsthand, and felt that he had an unusually deep understanding of what he regarded as Trump’s beguiling strengths and disqualifying weaknesses. He had got to know Trump better than almost anyone else outside the Trump family. Trump terrified him, Schwartz said. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology, for Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which Schwartz considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.

  2. Donald Trump was born a liar.That is what he is,this last seventy years.He was caught lying by his nanny,even before he ever learn to speak.By sign language.

  3. There is no irony whatsoever in what is unfolding in the US or what is happening to Trump…just observe the mainstream press… hacking by Russia and the laughable “investigation” that has been going on for more than six months now, North Korea being manufactured into an immediate threat, the continuing attention to the Islamist terrorism and now an alliance being initiated to bring the Middle East to the boil once again…the list does not end there…

    Missing in the list are the REAL issues facing millions of Americans…jobs, medical care and the rebuilding of so many torn areas… these are not and, by the looks of things, will not be discussed…the American public is once again being cheated..

    • “… hacking by Russia and the laughable ‘investigation’ that has been going on for more than six months now….”

      Nobody should expect answers to come quickly, despite most citizens’ desire to see these allegations swiftly resolved. The wheels of justice are designed to turn slowly. The gravity of this situation demands that each step be taken deliberately and as transparently as possible. A hasty or opaque process would only erode doubt in the outcome, which would be detrimental to the US.

  4. MSM and CNN have done and are doing a job. But, unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. History will be the judge. And for that, we have to wait.

  5. Quote:- ” History will be the judge. And for that, we have to wait”

    The way things are going, we may not have any “historical future” at all.

  6. MSM and CNN ARE indeed doing a job… but thanks to the way the media is organised in the US (owned by only half a dozen companies) the news they dish out has to be that which suits their paymasters…

    So the public do not get to hear any other angle to crucial issues..

  7. Well LaMoy, it’s really difficult to make a valid clinical diagnosis on POTUS Drumpski, cuz he has almost all the characteristics of serious personality disorders – varying from narcissism to sociopathy and paranoia.

    The closest i would dare to venture – would be anti-social, sub-type narcissistic. It accounts for his pathological lying (mythomania), hypocrisy, intimidation and intemperate outbursts.

    Boy, he really sucked up to Pope Francis, who’s his antithesis.. Haha!

    • Yeah, CLF, I really wonder how many spectrums and diagnosable personality disorders are a source of Trump’s behavior. He’s just not a normal person, or even a normal extreme nut job.

  8. Latest news is that MO1 has hired an ex-Trump aide as a lobbyist.

    To try to slowdown or stop the US Dept of Justice probe that was underway under
    Preet Bharara ??

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