Donald Trump is still pretending to be a person that he’s not

Following the release of the infamous Access Hollywood video tape in which he bragged, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” Donald Trump issued a statement in which he said:

I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize.

In the rest of his statement, Trump struck a note of defiance. His apology was really a non-apology in which he might as well have actually said: “Come on guys. What do you want? Do you want me to apologize for being who I am?” In other words, he turned this ostensible act of contrition on its head and came back with his usual counterpunch, signaling to his supporters that they already knew who they were backing and that media attention on the tape was just a distraction.

With some help from James Comey, Trump’s gamble paid off.

That Trump would have chosen to begin his apology by making a claim that was demonstrably false — that he has never pretended to be someone he is not — now looks like a hint that he might also have anticipated that he would later retract his apology and claim his actions had been misrepresented.

The New York Times now reports on Trump’s loyalty to Roy Moore:

[Trump] sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitalia, and the flood of groping accusations against him that followed soon after. He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently.

It took three journalists to fudge their own reporting with “it was not authentic,” leaving it somewhat unclear what “it” was.

Careful parsing would indicate that “it” refers to “the response” to the tape, not the tape itself — although several reports have jumped to the conclusion that Trump is now questioning the authenticity of the tape.

What Trump has indisputably created is a Laingian knot which goes something like this:

I lied about sexually assaulting women.

My lies were then misrepresented as truths by more than a dozen women who were themselves lying.

The media then failed to expose these lies.

None of this would have happened had the press been honest enough to accurately report on my lying.

And this brings us back to Trump’s claim that he has never pretended to be someone he is not.

He said this immediately prior to claiming that when he was bragging about assaulting women, he was actually pretending to be someone he is not — it was just “locker room talk.”

Now if Trump actually wanted to come clean and clear away the confusion he’s already created, he should probably start out by saying: “You know what, guys? I’m full of shit — but you already knew that.”

But therein lies America’s enduring Trump problem: this is a president who enjoys the support of millions of Americans who don’t care about his lying.

He can lie about lying and then get praised for his honesty. He can make false statement after false statement until no one can keep count — the flow of his deceptions is so unremitting, the more often he lies, the less chance (or so it seems) he will ever be held accountable.

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