In this season of Thanksgiving, a quirky source of gratitude has emerged — Donald Trump’s many campaign lies.
What else can one call the promises that he now treats as alien concepts? Almost daily, he reverses himself on a campaign promise, confirming what this column predicted: He would never keep his vows.
As a matter of practicality, Trump couldn’t do much of what he bragged about, such as build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. Now he’s talking fences.
Likewise, it isn’t the prerogative of the executive office to investigate, prosecute or jail Hillary Clinton, whom he now says he doesn’t plan to investigate because he doesn’t want to hurt the Clintons.
Similarly, Trump apparently no longer thinks that climate change is a Chinese hoax and is “open-minded” toward future discussions. When Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s apparent choice for defense secretary, told the president-elect that he could get more information from a prisoner with a couple of beers and a cigarette than by waterboarding, Trump said, fine, he will rethink waterboarding.
If Trump has never been burdened by the truth, he at least has been true to his core value, which is say or do whatever it takes to win. And for him, what worked were lies. Or at least untruths.
What does seem true is that he never had any interest in governing, as evidenced by his reportedly being surprised to learn he had to replace so many White House staffers. Who knew?
Early on, Trump told us as much when he couldn’t really put a finger on why he wanted to be president. In a wide-ranging interview last April with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, he wandered around the barn for several minutes looking for an answer, checking the sky for the Trump chopper to swoop down in a reverse deus ex machina to rescue him from this daunting question: “Can you isolate a moment when it kicked to yes?”
Not right off, no, he couldn’t.
First, it was the escalator ride, looking down on all those cameras, comparing the moment to the Academy Awards. Had the cameras not arrived, would Trump have returned to his office and forgotten all about it? Next, he talked about his TV show, his money, his children, hitting any topic that came to mind, circling, circling, searching for that dadgum moment. Woodward pressed on.
The polls, yes, it was the polls! Oh, also, watching Mitt Romney, “a very, very, failed and flawed candidate,” lose to Obama. After a mind-boggling discussion about breaking eggs to get elected, Trump landed on anger. Yes, he was angry. Plus, he always wins.
In Trump’s exhausting, attention-deficit world, winning is the end point, making this particular victory problematical. After the “Grand Opening” on Inauguration Day, the bands, confetti and the Inaugural Parade, what follows is much less fun — governing a fiercely divided nation that Trump helped create and making good on all those campaign slogans.
“How do you unbreak those eggs?” Woodward asked.
“That’s the question,” Trump replied.
Here’s another: How do you un-nut the nutcase? How does Trump explain to his base that he wasn’t really a crazed xenophobic bigot who will ban Muslims and thinks most Mexicans are criminals? How does he explain that he never intended to follow through on many of his crowd pleasers?
Hate to break another egg, but the answer is he won’t. Just as Trump never provided any substantive evidence for people’s faith in him, there’s no reason to believe that Trump cares what they think of him now. He won. An admitted establishment guy until he started running, he seems to have returned to his more familiar self.
Going forward, everything is anyone’s guess. As his base begins to show cracks, wondering what to do with their “Lock her up” T-shirts, his foes are wrestling a fresh angst — caught between detesting the man who spoke so foully of others and stupidly of issues, and the one who didn’t really mean it. A rational, decent Trump is not the man America elected and both sides, for better or worse, feel jinxed. How does one revile the man who now says what you believe? How does one trust the man who obviously lied?
Finally: Who is the real Donald Trump and what does he stand for?
That remains the question.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.