Bluffers bluff, and President Trump just tried to bluff his way through one of the worst weeks of his administration.
It’s not working. Donald Trump is a terrible poker player. His tells are so clumsily obvious and that we mistakenly give him credit for guile where none exists, and for some cinematic, supervillain cunning where there is only a howling, feral mass of insecurity and need.
The delta between reality and spin with Trump is always broad, and last week it was unspinnably vast. It’s also been a stunning illustration of just how powerful the division between reality and fantasy has become in the two hermetic media silos that now exist in America.
For some Americans — a minority, I pray — Trump is a pied piper luring the credulous and the uninformed into accepting lies over truth, comfort over reality and conspiracy over fact. In Trump’s world and that of his angry minions, the winning doesn’t stop, the vast left-wing conspiracy’s witch-hunt against him is both broad and insidious, and the truth is what he wants it to be on any given day.
Maintaining the Trump illusion requires an endless suspension of disbelief; denying facts, logic, reason, the law and the utterly evident cluster-you-know-what that this administration represents. The pinnacle of that illusion-at-all-costs philosophy came after the revelation that an FBI informant followed up on leads that Trump campaign foreign policy aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos had been playing footsie with the Russians.
On Fox News, talk radio and in the Trump-right online media armies, the innocent Trump campaign was the victim of FBI spying against them, ordered by notorious Kenyan Muslim sleeper agent Barack Obama, evil sorceress Hillary Clinton and their army of Deep State apparatchiks.
The President wants you to call the FBI’s Russian counterintelligence program Spygate, but rational people have declined to indulge him. Stupidgate is instead just a ludicrous new chapter in the long chronicle of Trump dumbassery.
It’s only one of the many examples of Trump’s behavior of which historians in the far future will look upon with the same stunned disbelief and discomfort as we now consider tulip manias, Beanie Baby investment schemes, Milli Vanilli and acid-washed jeans. There might have been a moment where those ideas were intriguing, but in the hard light of history, they’re grim reminders that fads and passions are fleeting.
For the FBI actions Trump calls Spygate to be a real concern, it would require malice. Instead, we’ve seen justification after justification for a robust counterintelligence response to Russian malfeasance. Drawn to the Trump campaign like flies to the biggest manure pile in the universe, the FBI wasn’t after him, but rather — quite properly — the Russians who sought to (and may have succeeded) in subverting American democracy and corrupting our elections.
There’s a line in the 1990s film “Grosse Point Blank” where John Cusack’s assassin character defends his line of work. He says, “If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.” […]
No matter how much he spins it, no matter how many cute brand names and catchphrases he tries to jam into the media flow, at his core, Donald Trump is a man in a rising sea of legal peril, political risk and catastrophic failures. This explains his increasingly erratic behavior and dangerous efforts to corrupt the special counsel process, the Justice Department, and American institutions more broadly.
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