Andrew Sullivan's latest essay on Trump as a conman perfectly encapsulates just how crooked the leaked Michael Cohen tape shows the president to be, and how breathlessly cynical his lying is. Sullivan, perhaps better than anyone, has always managed to nail Trump's deeply damaged psychology, and the audio from the tape is where we see Trump's true character being revealed:
What this tiny glimpse into reality reveals is something quite simple. It’s not that it’s a shock that Trump has been lying about this incident from the very beginning. That has long been clear. But there’s something about listening to his voice acknowledging this in such a breezy, matter-of-fact tone that exposes the purity of the cynicism behind the lies. “We have no knowledge of any of this,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks, had, after all, originally told The Wall Street Journal when it broke the story days before the 2016 election. The idea that Trump had had an affair at all, let alone organized hush money to the National Enquirer, was “totally untrue.” And yet here, as the curtain is pulled back, we hear Trump himself figuring out how to finance its cover-up.
This is not a man embarrassed by something unusual in his private life, lying defensively in a panic. It’s a world-weary operator in sleaze and outright deception, dealing with an item of everyday business. The euphemisms — “info,” “financing,” “our friend David,” etc. — are those of people who know they’re doing something shady. He even talks of “using” a religious-right figure. It’s the tape of a con man, discussing the con with an underling in a kind of consigliere code. And this revelation is therefore dangerous. It demonstrates that Trump is, in fact, just another crooked pol — and does so in his own voice.
Of course the Trump teams claims the president was in fact arguing that Karen McDougal should be paid by check, not cash, even going as far as providing their own fake transcript of the meeting. While this is to be expected from a lying president who keeps a team of professional liars around him, the brazenness of their lying still continues to amaze me. The lying is so egregious, so frequent, and so transparent that anyone who believes anything the president says is either mentally impaired or a complete fantasist. You can hear with your own ears Trump talking about paying cash to shut a woman he has denied sleeping with up, then see with your own eyes the fake transcript released by the White House, and yet still they insist the "Fake News" media is distorting what we see.
"Just remember," the president said at a rally recently, "what you’re seeing and what you're reading is not what’s happening and what you are reading is not what’s happening
This Orwellian command is truly frightening given his followers genuinely seem to believe it. To insist that your leader is telling the truth despite incontrovertible evidence that he isn't requires a level of cognitive dissonance only possible with years of media indoctrination and training. Trump supporters have quite literally been brainwashed by Fox News to the point where reality is whatever Trump says it is. Sean Hannity and other hosts on the network get their orders from the White House (or whatever is on Trump's twitter feed), and then go about convincing their viewers that what they are seeing is not what is actually happening. This has created a powerful feedback system that sees the president watching Fox News all day to convince himself of his own insane world view. Republicans are enabling this too, writing if off as "Trump being Trump". Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), for example, puts this down to Trump being a "businessman".
“In business, a problem is something money won’t solve," he told Neil Cavuto over the weekend when speaking about the affair he had with McDougal. "If you’ve got somebody making an allegation, true or false, suing you for something true or false, you often make a pragmatic decision: make it go away and get back to the important things.”
In other words, you lie, cover it up, then lie more about it. But of course there are "the important things" like gigantic tax cuts for the rich and separating immigrant children from their parents at the border that make this all OK.
It could be possible that the increasing frequency of Trump's lies are a sign his giant con running out of steam. As Don Lemon noted, Trump's lies really are picking up speed at an unprecedented pace.
While the majority of Americans are repulsed by this incessant fibbing, the real question is, and always has been this: when will his supporters finally see what is right in front of their faces?