In spite of Donald Trump’s proclivity for making statements that aren’t meant to be taken literally — be that through sarcasm, hyperbole, or outright lying — it seems reasonable that in the Trump lexicon the phrase “it’s true” shouldn’t require much interpretation. That is to say, in Trump talk, “it’s true” should at least mean that Trump thinks it’s true — whether it’s actually true is a completely different question.
So, when Trump calls Hillary Clinton “the devil” and adds “it’s true,” as he did yesterday in Pennsylvania, this might prompt a number of questions:
Does Trump believe in the literal existence of the devil and see Clinton as a human incarnation of Satan?
Or, is Trump using “the devil” as a metaphor — the most provocative way of saying Hillary would make a really, really bad president?
Or, was Trump just grabbing the nastiest expression that came to mind at that moment?
What’s actually more telling than the phrase “the devil,” however, is the phrase “it’s true.”
Trump is using a stock phrase from stand-up comedy and late-night talk shows — the bit that comes with a straight face after the punch line.
The sad truth that Trump employs to some effect is that we live in a world where people are more receptive to words coming from the mouths of comedians than they are to those coming from candidates for high office. Trump is a showman posing as a politician acting like a comic, with considerable success.
But here’s the thing — and the media knows it and should stop feigning shock with each new utterance: Trump’s a garbage truck. Each time he opens his mouth, out comes a new pile of garbage.
Is there a compelling reason to sift through the putrid items each time he dumps — oh, Trump just coughed up a dead cat; is that horse shit or cow shit that’s now dripping from his lips?
No. Trump’s a trash-talker and each new piece of trash doesn’t need to fill the airwaves — it should go straight to the landfill.
Trump craves endless and free media attention and he has long operated as the media’s ringmaster as he hangs out one piece of bait after another. Every single time, the media obediently bites.
By so doing, the media is evading it’s real responsibility which is to seriously vet a man who could become president and to do this without him dictating the terms of that vetting process.
Given that no one actually knows what Trump believes or whether he believes anything at all, it’s time to focus much less on what comes out his mouth — the gap between his words and thoughts is inherently unbridgeable.
Instead of fruitlessly attempting to attend to what Trump thinks, we should focus more on how he thinks.
To observe how Trump thinks, no one needs access to Trump’s mind — the train of Trump’s thought is physically manifest.
By the account of those who have spent time with him and through the evidence of his rambling style of speech-making and in his responses to interview questions, we know that the train of Trump’s thought is extremely short and subject to frequently getting derailed.
Tony Schwartz, who as Trump’s ghostwriter was the author of The Art of the Deal, tells Jane Mayer that one of the real estate developer’s most essential characteristics is that, “he has no attention span.”
At the time the author embarked on research for the book that through its phenomenal success would expand Trump’s renown far beyond his home town:
Schwartz recalls, Trump was generally affable with reporters, offering short, amusingly immodest quotes on demand. Trump had been forthcoming with him during the New York interview, but it hadn’t required much time or deep reflection. For the book, though, Trump needed to provide him with sustained, thoughtful recollections. He asked Trump to describe his childhood in detail. After sitting for only a few minutes in his suit and tie, Trump became impatient and irritable. He looked fidgety, Schwartz recalls, “like a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom.” Even when Schwartz pressed him, Trump seemed to remember almost nothing of his youth, and made it clear that he was bored. Far more quickly than Schwartz had expected, Trump ended the meeting.
Week after week, the pattern repeated itself. Schwartz tried to limit the sessions to smaller increments of time, but Trump’s contributions remained oddly truncated and superficial.
“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit — or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.
In a recent phone interview, Trump told me that, to the contrary, he has the skill that matters most in a crisis: the ability to forge compromises. The reason he touted “The Art of the Deal” in his announcement [as a presidential candidate], he explained, was that he believes that recent Presidents have lacked his toughness and finesse: “Look at the trade deficit with China. Look at the Iran deal. I’ve made a fortune by making deals. I do that. I do that well. That’s what I do.”
But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source — information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”
Maybe that’s true. But be that as it may, Trump’s ability to fulfill the responsibilities of a president doesn’t hinge as much on how well read he may or may not be, as it does simply on his capacity to digest information.
An American president is much less the king of deal-making than he or she is one of the world’s preeminent decision-makers.
Decision-making that is of national and often global consequence is not a responsibility that should be handed to an impulsive, egotistical, narcissistic, vindictive, bullying, xenophobic, misogynistic man who on top of that is a complete scatterbrain.