How to Deal With the Lies of Donald Trump: Guidelines for the Media

On a single day during the campaign, Trump claimed that the National Football League had sent him a letter complaining that the presidential-debate schedule conflicted with NFL games (which the NFL immediately denied), and then he said the Koch brothers had begged him to accept their donations (which they also flat-out denied).

Most people would hesitate before telling easily disprovable lies like these, much as shoplifters would hesitate if the store owner is looking at them. Most people are fazed if caught in an outright lie. But in these cases and others, Trump never blinked.

.. For instance: Bill Clinton survived “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” but he was damaged then, and lastingly, when the truth came out. To close the loop, knowledge of the risks of being caught has encouraged most politicians to minimize provable lies.

None of this works with Donald Trump. He doesn’t care, and at least so far the institutional GOP hasn’t either.

.. I highly recommend this new essay by Ned Resnikoff at the Think Progress site. It explains the chaos-generating logic of Trump’s seemingly illogical stream of nonstop lies big and small, which Resnikoff traces to reality TV, to Breitbart and Steve Bannon, and to Vladimir Putin’s advisor Vladislav Surkov.

.. If the United States is to remain a liberal democracy, then Trump’s non-linear warfare needs to fail. Politics needs to once again become grounded in some kind of stable, shared reality.

.. Journalists need to understand what Trump is doing and refuse to play by his rules. He is going to use the respect and deference typically accorded to the presidency as an instrument for spreading more lies. Reporters must refuse to treat him like a normal president and refuse to bestow any unearned legitimacy on his administration.

They must also give up their posture of high-minded objectivity — and, along with it, any hope of privileged access to the Trump White House. The incoming president has made clear that he expects unquestioning obedience from the press, and will regard anyone who doesn’t give it to him as an enemy.

.. But there are common-sense meanings for terms to describe behavior, which we can use without relying on a medical diagnosis. We can say someone seems cruel without saying he’s a psychopath; that he seems amoral without claiming he’s a sociopath; that he seems moody or depressed without implying a clinical diagnosis. And in common-sense terms, anyone can see that Trump’s behavior is narcissistic, regardless of underlying cause.

.. Nobody seems to realize that normal rules do not apply when you are interviewing a narcissist. You can’t go about this in the way you were trained, because he is an expert at manipulating the very rules you learned. It’s clear to me that reporters (and anyone else) who will deal with DT directly need to take a crash course in handling someone displaying these behaviors.


The Times got in trouble by trying to make sense of his words. It’s an easy mistake for people in a word-saturated medium to make, but anyone who’s dealt with a narcissist knows you never, ever believe what they say—because they will say whatever the person they are talking to wants to hear. DT is a master at phrasing things vaguely enough that multiple listeners will be able to hear exactly what they want. It isn’t word salad; it’s overt deception, which is much more pernicious.

.. someone needs to teach reporters the difference between naming narcissism—[JF note: which, to emphasize, there is no point doing]— vs. dealing effectively with a narcissist.

There’s a ton of information out there about how to deal with narcissists.

Welcome to the post-truth presidency

Oxford Dictionaries last month selected post-truth — “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” — as the international word of the year,

.. Hannah Arendt, writing in 1967, presciently explained the basis for this phenomenon: “Since the liar is free to fashion his ‘facts’ to fit the profit and pleasure, or even the mere expectations, of his audience, the chances are that he will be more persuasive than the truth teller.”

.. Corey Lewandowski at Harvard University, making the astonishing assertion that the media’s failing during the campaign was not that it scorned Trump — it was that it believed him.

“You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally,” he said. “The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people . . . you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

.. Trump said, he saw the Carrier worker say “‘No, we’re not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving,’ and I never thought I made that promise. Not with Carrier.”

.. Then, Trump said, “they played my statement, and I said, ‘Carrier will never leave.’ But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in.”

This was a telling moment, and not just because Trump doesn’t quite understand what euphemism means. The episode simultaneously shows Trump, confronted with Trump on tape, willing to recognize reality and Trump telling us straightforwardly that his promises are not to be taken seriously. They are truthphemisms.

..“If you tell the same story five times it’s true,” said White House press secretary Larry Speakes.

Trump likes to be ‘unpredictable.’ That won’t work so well in diplomacy.

And the ambiguity of a president who contradicts himself frequently could sow confusion among rivals of the United States. The problem is that it will also sow confusion among key allies and partners. Ultimately, Trump’s bluster and impulsiveness will hurt our national interest. If allies — or enemies — stop believing what they hear from the White House, Trump is likely to blunder into conflicts that are not of his own choosing.

.. His rise to political prominence came from lying about President Obama’s citizenship status. During his presidential campaign, Trump and his aides gaslighted on a regular basis: In one debate, Trump flatly denied that he had called global warming a Chinese hoax — when he very clearly had . According to every reputable fact-checker, Trump lied far more frequently than Hillary Clinton.

.. As Salena Zito put it in the Atlantic in September, Trump’s voters took his rhetoric seriously but not literally; the press, meanwhile, took it literally but not seriously.

.. But after a campaign in which he faced almost no consequences for lying or exaggerating, Trump will be moving to a far different arena. Getting caught bluffing in international politics is embarrassing. Getting caught in an outright lie is more dangerous.

.. John F. Kennedy lied to hide the fact that Soviet removal of nuclear weapons from Cuba in 1962 was contingent on the United States withdrawing Jupiter missiles from Turkey. But that was a lie to the American people.

In his book “Why Leaders Lie,” political scientist John Mearsheimer came to the surprising conclusion that foreign policy leaders rarely lie to other governments.

.. On the other hand, it’s not always clear that Trump knows when he’s lying. He simply doesn’t care at times whether he’s telling the truth or not. But even if he’s just winging it rather than lying, that will be a marked change from past commanders in chief.

.. As the Atlantic’s David Frum noted this week, “It’s really a terrible thing that the word of the president-elect of the United States cannot be believed or trusted.”

.. Trump’s impulsiveness alone won’t pose as much of a problem as it will in conjunction with his inability to tell the truth.

.. Furthermore, for all Trump’s fits of pique, it is worth remembering that he also reverses course frequently. Trump raged against Kelly but eventually sat down for a one-on-one interview with her.

.. According to “Frontline,” Obama’s 2011 roasting of Trump inspired his presidential run, but since winning the election, the president-elect has been nothing but complimentary toward his predecessor. Just this past week, Trump tweeted that he had canceled a scheduled meeting with the New York Times, only to reverse course later in the morning and show up for an on-the-record interview . In that interview, he backed away from some of his core campaign promises, which only underscores how hard it is to know when Trump means what he says.

.. Trump and his brain trust clearly believe that candor is a sign of weakness.

..  His preference was for a “sneak attack ” (despite doubts among military experts that such an operation would be possible).

..  This sentiment echoes what Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, told the Wall Street Journal this week: “Politics is war. General Sherman would never have gone on TV to tell everyone his plans. I’d never tip my hand to the other side.”

.. But most presidents have been slow to anger and reluctant to lie in world politics. And there are pretty good reasons for that.

.. When foreign policy leaders get angry as a theatrical tactic, the idea is to get more in negotiations. What happens the first time the president loses his cool — and then just plain loses? Then the anger will be seen as a bluff.

.. leaders don’t bluff much in world politics because they want their promises to be believed by other countries. That is the nature of deterrence.

..  Trump pilloried Obama during a debate for not following through in August 2013 on his declaration that using chemical weapons would be a “red line” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (though Trump supported Obama’s decision at the time ). To many in the foreign policy establishment, that decision signaled American weakness in the Middle East. The more the Trump administration makes threats it doesn’t carry out, the more other countries will not take subsequent promises seriously. They will be perceived, as Trump put it, as “just words.”

.. Being hot-headed as a tactic only works if other leaders are not hot-headed in response. The very leaders most like Trump — Putin, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan — are the ones most likely to respond to anger with anger, escalating any dispute.

.. however, the president-elect doesn’t seem to have thought about what will happen after other countries adjust to his bluffing and dissembling.

How It Happened

by the latest count she won 400,000 more votes than Trump, who got fewer votes than either Mitt Romney or John McCain.

.. Trump won Florida by one; Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 30,000 votes.

.. nearly 10 percent of millennials voted for third-party candidates

.. On the reasonable assumption that by far most of those who voted for the third-party candidates would have otherwise gone for Clinton, Gary Johnson, the odd-duck Libertarian, with 3.2 percent of the popular vote, and Jill Stein, of the Green Party, receiving just 1 percent, damaged and perhaps destroyed Clinton’s chances.

.. A CBS News exit poll found that if those who voted for Johnson or Stein had had to choose only between Clinton and Trump they would have supported Clinton by nearly two to one. It’s not a stretch to conclude that, absent the third-party candidates, Hillary Clinton would have won the election.

.. Hillary Clinton wasn’t giving people a reason to vote for her. “Stronger together” meant what?

.. Bill Clinton worried that the leaders of his wife’s campaign were too fixated on their supposedly fearsome get-out-the-vote drive and were failing to craft a coherent message for her

.. Bill Clinton worried that the leaders of his wife’s campaign were too fixated on their supposedly fearsome get-out-the-vote drive and were failing to craft a coherent message for her

.. The “moral” of the story may be that if you’re going to lie in the course of a public contest, lie so often that people can’t keep up with you

.. she started off being dismissive, and then sarcastic: asked in a press conference if she’d wiped her server she replied, “With a cloth?” And her explanations were often legalistic and evasive

.. she got nearly five million fewer votes than Obama did in 2012—resulted in the lowest voter turnout in twenty years

.. Trump channeled the anger at Washington institutions that particularly the working class felt had failed them, while Clinton came across as the very symbol of those institutions. Though Trump was a wealthy man, his populist message—even the baseball caps—made him seem accessible

.. The Clintons’ greed kept getting them in trouble.

.. white voters, whom Trump won almost across the board: not just among the working class, as expected, but also among college-educated voters, except for college-educated white women, whom Clinton won by a small margin. Among white men overall, Trump dominated, winning 72 percent of non-college-educated ones and 54 percent of those with a college education.

.. For many women voters, culture and class mattered more than gender.

.. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, by an innovative method he devised: look at how people voted in the 493 counties that have Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, and in the 184 counties with Whole Foods stores. In 2012 Obama carried 75 percent of the counties that had a Whole Foods and 29 percent of the counties with a Cracker Barrel. But that spread was exceeded this year—in the other direction—with Trump winning 76 percent of counties with Cracker Barrel stores and just 22 percent of counties with Whole Foods.

.. Clinton came across to them as an creature from another, urban, world—a wealthy woman who liked big government and didn’t understand them.

.. He uses a critical word in describing how Trump wins the support of so many of his people: relatable. “People who are drawn to Trump are drawn to him because he’s a little outrageous, he’s a little relatable, and fundamentally he is angry and spiteful and critical of the things that people feel anger and spite toward,”

.. Trump did a good job instilling fear of an America overtaken by immigrants and it didn’t take much imagination to understand his dark prophecies of where, when blacks were also counted, this country was headed. Trump’s presidency won’t be a good time to be poor, especially a black person who is poor. And in Trumpland, with a president who ran a racist campaign, divisions between the races are set to deepen, as already shown in incidents of harassment and violence against minorities since the election.

.. His ideas for education play to those who don’t care for integrated schools

.. I always tell my clients, If you lose, lose big. Then you won’t chew over for the rest of your life what you should have done differently.” The close election is all the harder to shake off

.. Steve Bannon, of Breitbart News, pushes the “alt-right” theme of white supremacy and is believed to have been the guiding spirit behind Trump’s chillingly anti-Semetic final campaign ad, which charged that Clinton associated with three people who happen to be prominent Jews: George Soros (“those who control the levers of power in Washington”); Fed chairman Janet Yellen (“global special interests”); and Lloyd Blankfein (“put money into the pockets of large corporations”). It’s hard to see how it could have been more blatant. These weren’t “dog whistles,” they were dogs barking loudly.

.. Trump has led his followers to expect a lot. He promised to end Obamacare “on day one,” which will be difficult because it was passed by Congress and therefore isn’t his to eliminate.

  • Iran deal
  • renegotiate trade agreements to get better terms for America
  • bring back jobs to the US

.. In probably our most divisive and ugliest election ever, he prevailed in part because he intuited much about the voters’ psyche and he’s an experienced entertainer.

.. He knew how to appeal to the angry and discontented, who saw in him someone who would “shake up Washington” and deliver on his campaign slogan to “Make America great again.”

.. what happens if Trump fails to deliver to his followers? Who, and what, will they turn to next?

Ari Fleischer: Here’s how I figured out whom to vote for

The numerous lies she told about her private email server and classified records are a window into how she operates. When she needs something to be true, she lies and says it. From her false claim that she had nothing to do with the travel office firings to landing under sniper fire in Bosnia to her statement suggesting that a YouTube video caused the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya, her pattern is to lie. Those lies were the warm-up act — get ready for really dishonest Clinton if she wins.

.. I will vote for Republicans up and down the ballot. But when it comes to the presidency, I’m going to leave my ballot blank.

Donald Trump’s Playbook for Smearing

“This is a classic example of where Trump begins to demonstrate something he talks about all the time today, which is he’s a counterpuncher. So somebody comes after him and says that he’s done something nefarious and horrible, and he just goes back at them with all guns blazing you know, boom, boom, boom. And admits nothing, never admit anything, never say you made a mistake, just keep coming.

And if you lose, declare victory. And that’s exactly what happened there. He lost as clearly as you could lose but he loudly proclaimed his victory.”

.. But of course the description also applies to so much else — including Trump’s support for the Iraq War, his “birther” conspiracy theory, his refusal to release tax returns and, most recently, his history of sexual assault.

.. “His lawyer said to me, ‘Donald is a believer that if you repeat something enough, people will start to believe it,’” the journalist Marie Brenner says in the same episode of Frontline that includes the Schwartz interview I quote above.

.. When Trump is feeling cornered, in business or politics, he has a go-to strategy: He lies, and he just keeps lying.

The Barroom Brawl in St. Louis

for all of his repeated claims that he would be the president of everybody, Donald Trump doubled down with his base, repeating all of right-wing radio’s talking points: emails, conspiracy theories, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

.. The many television commentators, who have served us so badly throughout this election season, will judge him on these points and not on his constant lies, shameless distortions (“I was against the war in Iraq”), messianic pretensions (“Captain Khan would be alive today if I’d been president”)

.. Perhaps the worst part was that, during the warmest fall in recorded history, there was not a single question on climate change, and only one on energy, at the very end of the debate. Just the same old trivia that has dominated the last year and a half of this interminable campaign. We, the media, have failed the country in this election.