Donald Trump, pathological truth-teller?


For some time, I’ve been intending to write a post raising the question, “Is Trump really a liar?”

It sounds like a dumb question because, of course, we’ve never in American history dealt with a man who is such a stranger to the truth. This guy constantly, relentlessly says things that are painfully obviously untrue — things everyone can immediately see are not true, like his ridiculous claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. And he sticks to the lies, no matter how much they are debunked.

But is it, technically and even morally, a lie if you believe it to be true? So much of what he says — say, his comments about how upset Andrew Jackson was about the Civil War, which started 16 years after his death — arises from his abysmal ignorance about, well, almost everything. Of course, speaking of the inaugural flap that mattered to no one but him, you don’t have to be an expert to look at a photo and see the crowd was smaller than at previous such gatherings. But he is so delusional about anything that bears on his fragile self-esteem that even there, I suspect he actually believes that the photos lie.

When media report facts, he dismisses those facts as “fake news.” Is that really a calculated, deliberate effort to brainwash his followers into ignoring said facts? I suspect that even there, his own grasp on the fact-based world is so tenuous that he may actually believe that it’s the news, and not him, that is wrong.

Anyway, the point seems rather moot now, because the big story of the past week has been instances in which Trump has rocked the world by telling the truth on himself.

First, all his followers who were out there saying no, the Comey firing (or as the BBC calls it, the “FBI Sacking Row,” which I love) was not about the investigation into alleged collusion between his campaign and the Russians. Heavens, no! What a shocking suggestion! It was really about Comey being beastly to that poor Hillary Clinton. And it was all at the suggestion of Comey’s boss in the Justice Department….

So what does Trump do? He does a network television interview in which he says, no bones about it, that he was going to fire Comey no matter what his advisers said, and yeah, it was at least to some extent about “this Russia thing.”

Then yesterday, the news breaks about him spilling code-word classified information to the Russians, so his defenders rush out to push the line that nothing of the kind occurred, the story is completely wrong, yadda-yadda…

…and what does Trump do? He gets on Twitter in the middle of the night and — to the extent that we can decipher his meaning, given that the Tweets were written in the semi-literate dialect known as “Trumpese” — said yeah, I told the Russians that stuff, and it’s OK that I did.

(At his point, who would want to work for this guy?)

And so we have to consider which is the greater problem with this guy — that he lies, or that he tells outrageous truths and considers himself immune from consequences (which, so far, he has been, especially with his fan base)?

Is he a pathological liar, or a pathological truth-teller?

7 thoughts on “Donald Trump, pathological truth-teller?

  1. Burl Burlingame

    Money quote: “We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.”

  2. Karen Pearson

    The fireflies at least have a purpose for blinking. Meanwhile are his aides abetting his insanity? And to what purpose?

  3. bud

    The Fireflies at least have Tim Tebow.

    Trump is eithe morally repugnant or he’s literally mentally ill. Either way it’s scary that he’s the president.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, that’s the way it works with Trump. We have these either-or things — like, is he a lying liar or just so stupid and ignorant that he doesn’t know what the truth is — and either way it works, we’re screwed having this guy as POTUS.

      But we knew this would be the case, right?

      A friend today who was traumatized initially when Trump was elected, but had calmed down a bit, said to me today that “This is worse than I thought it would be.”

      I said no, this is pretty much exactly the way I thought it would be — Trump, who knows and appreciates nothing about the job he holds, bumbling from one outrage to another, arrogantly insisting that he’s right as he trashes the nation’s interest on a daily basis.

      I remember Doug and others after the election asking “What’s the awful thing that you think will happen?” looking for “nuclear war” or something like that (which remains a possibility of course), I think. But no, what I expected was this daily degradation of the national prestige and national interest, by bits and pieces, day after day…

      1. bud

        Yeh, this is pretty much what I expected. I’m a bit puzzled by most Republicans who continue to back him. Waiting on a decline in his approval rating I suppose.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yep, that’s what they’re waiting for. And as of last week, as low as his rating was overall, it was still as high as ever with his base — the base they fear…


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