Opinion | Donald Trump Is the Best Ever President in the History of the Cosmos

The Four Percent


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It’s no longer interesting, or particularly newsworthy, to point out that Donald Trump lies. It stopped being interesting a long time ago. He lied en route to the presidency. He lied about the crowd at his inauguration. His speech itself was one big lie. And the falsehoods only metastasized from there.

Why? We’ve covered that, too, most recently in all the chatter about “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Mary Trump, who is not only his niece but also a clinical psychologist. He lies because he grew up among liars. He lies because hyperbole and hooey buoy his fragile ego. He lies because he is practiced at it, is habituated to it and never seems to pay much of a price for it.

What intrigues me is that last part: the impunity. I want to understand how he has gotten away with all of the lying, because I’m desperate to know whether he’ll continue to.

That’s the question at the heart of his re-election bid, because his strategy isn’t really “law and order” or racism or a demonization of liberals as monument-phobic wackadoodles or a diminution of Joe Biden as a doddering wreck. All of those gambits are there, but they spring from and burble back to a larger, overarching scheme. His strategy is fiction. His strategy is lies.

Another Facebook ad a few weeks later comprised two side-by-side pictures. Under an image of Trump were the words “Public Safety.” Under a separate image, of a police officer crumpled on the ground amid protesters, were “Chaos & Violence.”

Scary! But, again, foreign. The scene wasn’t Portland or Minneapolis or Washington or Chicago circa 2020, although that was the obvious suggestion. The picture, it turns out, was taken in Ukraine. Six years ago. For a more complete and very funny deconstruction of its infelicity, read Jonathan Last’s riff in The Bulwark.

The Trump campaign’s television commercials, meanwhile, have painted a dystopia of rampant criminality in Democratic-controlled metropolises where the police no longer function or exist. One shows an elderly woman being attacked by a burglar as she listens to a 911 recording that tells her to “leave a message.”

If this is Trump’s tenor in July, just imagine October. By the time he’s done, Willie Horton will look like Peter Pan.

It’s beyond ludicrous. But is it too much? I once would have answered an emphatic yes. Now I just don’t know.

Every president’s election illuminates the moment in which it occurs, and Trump’s told us something important — and terrifying — about our relationship with the truth. He relied like no candidate before him on a new infrastructure of misinformation and disinformation, tweeting toward Bethlehem while his allies made Mark Zuckerberg their stooge. If you’re peddling fiction, Twitter and Facebook are the right bazaars.

As for the power of a liar, well, that’s what Trump is testing. He got away with lies in his business career because he chose professional avenues paved with deception and crowded with con men. Plus he had — and still has — a special talent for treating drivel as gospel, as long as it’s tumbling from his lips. That’s the great advantage of the truly amoral: They’re liberated from any tug of conscience, so there’s no suspicious hesitancy in their words, no revelatory panic in their eyes. Damn the verities and full steam ahead.

He got away with lies in 2016 because of social media, because show business and politics had finally fused to the point where one was indistinguishable from the other, and because many Americans had grown so skeptical of traditional candidates that an utterly untraditional one seemed more trustworthy on some level. Trump was the diet that hadn’t yet failed them. They were ready to believe.

But to believe now is to ignore the receipts. About 150,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Tens of millions have tumbled into financial ruin or are on the precipice of it. Racial tensions are at a palpable boil. And Trump keeps having to double back to correct his predictions and retrace his missteps. Charlotte, Jacksonville, Charlotte: I’ve lost track of where the Republicans are convening next month and of who’s on board, though I remain primed for Trump’s remarks. He alone can fictionalize it.

From now until Nov. 3, Trump will take the grand inventions that attend any presidential candidate’s campaign to a newly grandiose level, signaled by his insistence a few days ago that he’d “done more for Black Americans than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” I love that “possible.” Trump, Lincoln: It’s a jump ball, really.


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