He’s president, and we’re not

There’s a lot of buzz about an interview Trump did for Time, in which he told a whole bunch of whoppers. That’s ironic, because the interview is about his testy relationship to the truth. David Graham at the Atlantic

Time and again, Scherer asks Trump about statements that he has made without evidence, and time and again, Trump insists that something that happened later retroactively justifies the claims he has made, effectively arguing that lies have been alchemically transformed into truths after the fact. Time’s cover, the president was surely sad to discover, is not his face but the words, “Is Truth Dead?” over a somber black background.

The problem is that later events don’t make things any less false, and in many cases, Trump is also lying about the ex post facto justifications.

Trump says, for example, that after he claimed there was chaos in Sweden, there were riots. “Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems,” Trump told Time. He is off on the details—the riot was two days later—but he is also misleading. His original statement was, “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” There was still no riot the night before. Even his own standards of retroactive justification, he’s only in the vague vicinity of truth.

It’s the same with his lie about Obama abseiling in to tap his phones: he had zero reason to think that when he said it but he’s nudged people into saying things to him that he thinks justify it now, 19 days after he tweeted it. He’s wrong.

The same pattern has gone for his claim that Barack Obama “wiretapped” him at Trump Tower. Trump made an outlandish, inflammatory claim with no evidence, and has now sought to prove it after the fact. “I have articles saying it happened,” he told Time, but there are no reputable reports justifying his claims, only thinly sourced conspiracy theories. Republicans in Congress and intelligence officials have debunked those reports, and Fox News suspended the legal analyst who made a claim on which Trump was relying. Nonetheless, Trump cited the analyst again in his interview.

Somebody somewhere said it, therefore Trump can’t be wrong in saying it.

At other times, Trump simply claims he’s been proven right when that has not happened. He continues to claim, falsely, that Muslims celebrated in Jersey City on 9/11. Pressed on that, he told Scherer, “Well if you look at the reporter, he wrote the story in TheWashingtonPost.” The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, did not write a story saying what Trump says he did.

The president seems to believe that by saying something, he can conjure it into existence. “I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,” he said.

“Instinctual” – that’s what people say when they’re too lazy or too stupid or both to do the work of investigation and self-correction. It’s what Bush said to Biden when Biden asked him how he knew, and Biden told him that wasn’t good enough. It still isn’t.

His relationship with the press remains vexed. On the one hand, he calls outlets fake and misleading; on the other, he happily points to press reports, real or imagined, to justify what he cannot prove. That includes the Jersey City claim and the wiretap claim. It also includes Trump’s allegation that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

“Well, that was in a newspaper,” Trump said. “No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper.”

But the “newspaper” in question was the National Enquirer, a tabloid that seldom makes any pretense at accuracy, and even then, Trump “referring” to the paper doesn’t change the fact that he said it.

He’s such a child. He thinks if it’s written down somewhere public, that makes it true – except of course when it’s the Times or the Post or the New Yorker or Vanity Fair or

This reaches to the heart of the problem. Having spent his career in business and entertainment, where he could shoot off his mouth with relatively minor consequences, and despite envying the bully pulpit of the presidency for decades and bragging that he is the president, he cannot understand the difference in importance between what a TV personality says and what the president of the United States says publicly.

And it’s clear that 500 people could sit him down and explain it to him in very short simple words, and he still wouldn’t take it in. He doesn’t take anything in.

Here’s how the interview ended:

But isn’t there, it strikes me there is still an issue of credibility. If the intelligence community came out and said, we have determined that so and so is the leaker here, but you are saying to me now, that you don’t believe the intelligence community when they say your tweet was wrong.

I’m not saying—no, I’m not blaming. First of all, I put Mike Pompeo in. I put Senator Dan Coats in. These are great people. I think they are great people and they are going to, I have a lot of confidence in them. So hopefully things will straighten out. But I inherited a mess, I inherited a mess in so many ways. I inherited a mess in the Middle East, and a mess with North Korea, I inherited a mess with jobs, despite the statistics, you know, my statistics are even better, but they are not the real statistics because you have millions of people that can’t get a job, ok. And I inherited a mess on trade. I mean we have many, you can go up and down the ladder. But that’s the story. Hey look, in the mean time, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?

It’s the post facto thing again. He’s president, therefore he’s right about everything. No, dude, that’s not how it works.

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