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Donald J. Trump’s Lies and What do They Mean?

2016-02-17

Mr. Donald J. Trump, self-proclaimed billionaire and front-runner for the Republican nomination to run for President in November, is an inveterate liar and everyone seems to know that.  To his supporters, it doesn’t seem to matter, partly because they don’t believe the sources that call him out on his lies.  To his detractors, it doesn’t matter either, because he doesn’t respond to requests for information or clarification and ignores the complaints.

Here is a particularly egregious example of his lying style:

“We should have never gone into Iraq. I’ve said it loud and clear. I was visited by people from the White House asking me to sort of, could I be silenced because I seem to get a disproportionate amount of publicity. I mean, I was very strong, though: ‘You’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’”

[From an interview with Fox News on October 6, 2015]

Both Washington Post’s “Fact Checker“, in a post on October 21, 2015, and “Politifact” published analyses of his statements.  Neither was able to locate any of the twenty-five stories he claimed to have documented his early opposition to the war.  The only statement they found that could be construed as cautionary was this:

“Well, he has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know. He’s under a lot of pressure. I think he’s doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.”

[From an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News on January 28, 2003, where Cavuto asked Trump if Bush should concentrate on the economy or Iraq]

The invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003.  A week later, Trump was quoted as saying, at an Academy Awards after-party (by the Washington Post): “The war’s a mess.”  But it wasn’t until August of 2004 that he elaborated on this statement:

“Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.

“What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!”

[From an article in Esquire magazine]

In hindsight, he sounds very perceptive, but before the war he had little to say.  He now changes the timing of his statements to fit his new narrative, that he was prescient in warning against the invasion.  What’s more, he invents a visit from White House staffers where he is asked to “be silenced” about his inconvenient warnings.  Why does he invent these lies?  To polish his image as a wise man and visionary counselor, in order to convince his supporters that he is the very man to be our next president.

He is free with his lies because he knows the people who support him don’t believe anyone else when it comes to his statements, and the people who care about truth-telling wouldn’t support him anyway.  He’s only interested in controlling the people who naturally gravitate to his camp; he has no interest in attracting new supporters, because they might make inconvenient demands on his speech or his policy positions.

There is a strategy at the bottom of Donald J. Trump’s behaviors, and it is not a strategy aimed at winning the US Presidency.  He is planning on developing a group of fanatical supporters, who can be counted on to throw their votes in whatever direction he dictates.  In this way, he can make a bargain with whoever the eventual Republican nominee will be, trading his endorsement for a wallet-full of advantages like preferred tax treatment and protection from legal harassment.  He is treating the American Presidential election in the same way that he sees the Russians treating their electorate; we know that he “admires” Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Trump does not believe that any Republican candidate will have a chance against Hillary Clinton, and he assumes that she will be the eventual Democratic nominee.  He doesn’t believe that Bernie Sanders will become Democratic nominee but his plan doesn’t depend on the eventual line-up, it merely depends on the Republican Party’s ability to see their own advantage in a trade-off of his endorsement for certain undisclosed advantages.

Even if he is the front-runner going into the Republican Convention, he will be reluctant to actually compete in the election; he knows he will lose unless there is a third party candidate to split the Democratic vote, and there is no advantage in spending money in a losing campaign.  So far, he has managed to avoid spending a significant amount of his own money, relying on the free publicity that he attracts from television.  This is a stark contrast from other candidates, who have spent millions or hundreds of millions, much of it from super-PACs.  When it comes to the general election, though, there will be less opportunity for free publicity, more spending from the secret money of super-PACs (which he has not yet exploited) and more obligations to spend his campaign’s money and his own money.

Unless he is much more serious than he appears to be about really trying to become President, there is no future in spending any of his own money on the election campaign.  If he had been serious about winning, he would have avoided offending women, or at least apologized for his past remarks.   If he had any interest in the real election, he wouldn’t have said so many offensive things about Mexicans.  The truth is, he doesn’t care, because he has no intention of putting himself up as a candidate in an actual election (as opposed to a primary contest).

 

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