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Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Take a plea he's a madman don't you know

by Tom Sullivan

Gen. Garcia (Richard Libertini) with "Señor Pepe" (The In-Laws, 1979).

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times drew fire last weekend from Twitter critics for characterizing a blaze of disjointed Trump tweets as "demonstrable falsehoods" rather than lies. Twitter users were not in the mood to split hairs over whether the statements were misinformed, disinformation, spin, etc., and saw the soft-peddling as lack of media courage to what-else to power. But lies implies knowing falsehoods. Haberman wrote, Trump "often thinks whatever he says is what's real."

Over at the Washington Post this morning, Dana Milbank backs up that assessment, writing, "With each day it becomes more obvious he can’t distinguish between fact and fantasy." He's getting worse, Milbank adds:

I’ve been writing for two years about his seeming inability to separate truth from falsehood: from his claim that he opposed the Iraq War to his belief that his rainy inauguration was “really sunny.” The man who ghostwrote Trump’s “Art of the Deal” marveled at Trump’s “ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true.”
The Post Fact Checker's count of Trump's falsehoods since taking office topped 3,000 weeks ago. The average daily count has been rising, Milbank writes. Really though, to get a fuller picture what we ought to see (to be unnecessarily fair) is a trend line of his truths-to-lies ratio over time. The picture would be worth another thousand falsehoods debunked.

Tali Sharot, professor of cognitive science at the University College London, explains that through "emotional adaptation" the natural discomfort people feel when telling lies declines as they tell more, leading to telling more. By now Trump would produce a flat line on a lie detector.

But emotional adaptation sounds a bit like the Twinkie defense or Rosanne Barr's blaming Ambien for her racist tweets rather than racism. Milbank believes what he dubs the Propaganda President's "Trumpery" isn't symptomatic of his being a liar, but a madman.

Trump's enablers in Congress and in the White House have no such excuse. What they are doing in claiming up is down and black is white is lying. Trump's rally crowds luxuriate in the lies and smears as others do in golden showers. That goes beyond political to spiritual corruption.

But whether falsehoods are lies when told to federal investigators poses a problem in proving perjury should Trump ever sit down across the table from special counsel Robert Mueller or his team. An obstruction of justice charge turns not just on intent but actions. The New York Times last night reported that Mueller is now exploring Trump's attempts to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Trump wanted a loyalist in the post and has heaped ire on Sessions ever since:
Investigators have pressed current and former White House officials about Mr. Trump’s treatment of Mr. Sessions and whether they believe the president was trying to impede the Russia investigation by pressuring him. The attorney general was also interviewed at length by Mr. Mueller’s investigators in January. And of the four dozen or so questions Mr. Mueller wants to ask Mr. Trump, eight relate to Mr. Sessions. Among them: What efforts did you make to try to get him to reverse his recusal?
Even more stunning is this revelation:
Mr. Trump complains to friends about how much he would like to get rid of Mr. Sessions but has demurred under pressure from Senate Republicans who have indicated they would not confirm a new attorney general.
The obstruction case is building as is pressure inside the Oval Office. But as two-tier and corrupt as our system of justice is, whatever he tells investigators it is unlikely the propagandist-in-chief will face perjury charges even after he leaves office. Even if charges appear, he is far too arrogant to plead insanity even if he is a madman.

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