The “president” yesterday in his 77-minute news conference—76 minutes of which any parent of an unruly child would agree qualified as a tantrum—accused the press of being out of control. Unfortunately he omitted the perfectly serviceable pronoun my from that statement, and that omission, for us, should be reassuring at a time when optimism is at a premium
My is merely a possessive pronoun—not as forceful as I or me—and therefore probably less important to an egoist like Trump, but it still has an important role to play in that sentence. The press remains beyond Trump’s control and that’s awfully frustrating to him—almost as frustrating as the fact that we continue to remain informed. Trump would like us to envision pressrooms as failing institutions staffed by asylum inmates trying desperately to alphabetize obituaries and differentiate them from the movie reviews. Anyone who has worked for a newspaper may very well substantiate the inherent chaos, but it’s part of the job of separating the alternative facts (which we used to call lies) from the truth.
That continuous lying, aside from any pathology involved (and I’m not saying there isn’t any), is merely a tactic he outlined decades ago in his Art of the Deal:
The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. 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 a very effective form of promotion.
If he admits that, how do we interpret a statement like this, which he made in response to a question about the rise in anti-Semitic activity since his election?
So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.
Truthful hyperbole or outright lies?
During the campaign his strategy produced “Crooked Hillary,” “Low Energy Jeb (Bush),” “Lying Ted (Cruz),” and “Little Marco (Rubio.)” He may have been playing to his base at the time, but the results are inarguable. Now he wants us to tag along with his newest truthful hyperboles: a failing New York Times (subscriptions are up), his electoral vote margin was unprecedented (it wasn’t), he would have won the popular vote except for illegals and people who voted twice (he wouldn’t have and they didn’t), and over a million people attended his inauguration (he was half right).
“Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see,” Ben Franklin* is purported to have said. If we apply that same skepticism to Trump’s first month in the White House, i.e., even if only half of what we’ve seen is true, we have very little reason to be optimistic.
*Ben Franklin, like Frederick Douglas, is dead. I point that out because Trump is likely to imply soon that Franklin, like Douglas, is doing an amazing job—at which point you’re allowed to laugh.