Friday, July 27, 2018

The Liar, Liar Game


Early this morning, the illegitimate "president"-- installed in the White House by the Kremlin-- was up and tweeting, attacking his longtime personal lawyer. His new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had already gone running to the media to insist that Michael Cohen is a congenital liar. OK, fine, but who is more of a congenital liar? Sorry, pick just one:
Señor Trumpanzee
Michael Cohen
Rudy Guiliani
Vladamir Putin
Lanny Davis
Señor Trumpanzee, Jr.
Trump's mad at Cohen. This isn't how Omertà is supposed to work. I bet he wishes he had Roy Cohn back. The extra "e" isn't worth squat; Cohen's not fixing anything. The Daily Beast reported that "Two sources who have spoken to Trump about Cohen this week said the president was furious-- hurling 'expletives,' per one confidant-- after CNN revealed Cohen had covertly recorded at least one of their conversations... After audio of the call surfaced, the president conveyed to those close to him that he felt betrayed by Cohen. He was particularly irate at being clandestinely recorded and that audio had found its way to, of all places, CNN, a frequent target of Trump’s tweets. Trump also vented his frustration that there are apparently other tapes out there, and that he doesn’t know exactly what could be on them, or when they’ll drop in the press... 'They’re dead to each other [now],' said another source close to the president who also knows Cohen."
In his three most recent tweets about his former lawyer, Trump has declined to write “Michael” or “Cohen,” as he has in other tweets about him this year. The slight is not by accident, according to multiple people who have known Trump for years. The president, they say, will often stop using people’s names if he’s convinced they’re turncoats, or if he suddenly finds them big enough “losers” not worth the attention. On Friday morning, Trump continued using this tactic, referring to his former loyalist as “he,” “him,” and “someone.”
Andrew Sullivan rocked his column at New York Magazine today: Portrait of the President As a Con Man. The new leaked tape, he asserts, introduces us to "the actual Trump, the man behind the curtain. And this Trump is quite clearly in charge. He’s not some addled 70-something, delegating large swathes of responsibility for day-to-day operations to underlings. He’s clearly aware of everything that’s going on: 'Let me know what’s happening, okay?' he says to someone-- Pam (Bondi)?-- on the phone at first. He talks about how some issue will blow over: 'I think this goes away quickly … in two weeks; it’s fine.' He then asks Cohen, 'Can we use him anymore?' referring to an Evangelical pastor, and Cohen says absolutely.
What this tiny glimpse into reality reveals is something quite simple. It’s not that it’s a shock that Trump has been lying about this incident from the very beginning. That has long been clear. But there’s something about listening to his voice acknowledging this in such a breezy, matter-of-fact tone that exposes the purity of the cynicism behind the lies. “We have no knowledge of any of this,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks, had, after all, originally told the Wall Street Journal when it broke the story days before the 2016 election. The idea that Trump had had an affair at all, let alone organized hush money to the National Enquirer, was “totally untrue.” And yet here, as the curtain is pulled back, we hear Trump himself figuring out how to finance its cover-up.

This is not a man embarrassed by something unusual in his private life, lying defensively in a panic. It’s a world-weary operator in sleaze and outright deception, dealing with an item of everyday business. The euphemisms-- “info,” “financing,” “our friend David,” etc.-- are those of people who know they’re doing something shady. He even talks of “using” a religious-right figure. It’s the tape of a con man, discussing the con with an underling in a kind of consigliere code. And this revelation is therefore dangerous. It demonstrates that Trump is, in fact, just another crooked pol-- and does so in his own voice.

I suspect that this was what was worrying even Franklin Graham this week, as he tweeted: “Everyone in the media is talking about the just-released tape & what the President said or didn’t say, what he meant or didn’t mean. It is a good moment to point out that everyone should realize that every word that is spoken or thought is recorded by God … We won’t be judged by media spin masters or forensic audio analysts, but you will be judged by truth & righteousness-- by God Himself.” Is Graham telling his followers simply to banish the evidence of the tape from their minds and stop gossiping? Or is he actually condemning Trump for his secret shadiness? Neither is good news for the White House.

By Chip Proser
...Con men usually know that a con has a life span, and not a long one. At some point, it will collapse because it is, in fact, bullshit. By then, the best con men have made the sale-- think of “Trump University”-- and moved on. They also know that keeping the suckers sealed off from other sources of contrary information is essential until the deal is done. You have to maintain a fiction relentlessly, dismiss or delegitimize external information that might get your marks to think differently, and constantly make the sale. You have to humor and flatter and bullshit all the time, until you’ve sealed the deal.

And Trump is really, really good at this. In fact, it’s his chief skill, along with his instinct for the easy mark and another human being’s vulnerable spot. It has worked many times before. It’s at the root of his entire shady business career. His problem now, however, is that this is the biggest of all cons, if you’re playing at a presidential level, and is also the longest. It has to be sustainable for at least four years. And that’s an extremely long time to keep it alive.

This is why, it seems to me, Trump tweets so often and so aggressively. It’s his chief mechanism for keeping his dupes under his spell, for sustaining the narrative of the con while reality tugs at it. He’s making the sale every news cycle of every day because the alternative is the whole thing crashing to the ground. It’s also why he keeps holding rallies. You need that kind of mass crowd hysteria to sustain a con-- “America Is Great Again!”-- that might otherwise be fraying at the edges. It’s why he lambastes the media. Their role in undercutting the con-- in presenting the arguments against it, in raising suspicions about the con man himself-- is deeply destabilizing to the project. And it’s why he has to lie, and lie with greater and greater intensity and frequency.

And sure enough, the rate of Trump’s lies is accelerating, as the con ages. All six of the last six weeks rank in the top ten most dishonest of his presidency, as the indefatigable Daniel Dale has noted. Last Tuesday, Trump actually made the subtext text, in a speech to a Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening … Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” Some have analogized this to Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism. But it is not as sophisticated as that. It’s just a con man getting a little rattled, as his trade war is beginning to wreak havoc in the Midwest.

...[T]he con is definitely fraying badly. And it is not going to get easier to keep patching it up as time goes steadily by.

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At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering all of the time Mueller is taking with this investigation, and if this is an honest investigation, he better be sweeping up the entire criminal enterprise. Otherwise, he's as much of a fraud as is Trump.


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