To the best of my knowledge, virtually every Donald Trump speech and press conference and many of his tweets contain statements of fact which fact-checkers later discover to be partially or completely at odds with real facts.
Though I am naturally a cautious person, this has led me to consider the possibility that our President cannot prevent himself from lying, even when he doesn’t need to.
I had another Trump nightmare last night, but in my dream, I got a clear explanation of why most of the President’s outrageous statements are not really lies.
In my dream I ordered a little device called “the translator.” The device came with simple instructions: “Plug into your computer and type in any statement by Donald Trump.”
The device also came with a background explanation: “The first definition of ‘lie’ as a noun is this: ‘A false statement deliberately presented as being true.’ The President, being wealthy, always had people to read for him, which is why he can’t read and write beyond a fifth-grade level, as exemplified by the grammar, vocabulary, and spelling of his tweets. Because he has so little control of the English language, and because he is used to being rich enough to get people around him to agree with whatever he says, he never deliberately lies — he just uses his limited vocabulary to express a different reality.”
I plugged in the translator and two empty boxes came up on the screen entitled “Trump Statement You Want to Understand” and “In common English, it means…”
I wanted to understand how he could lie — wait, I mean present false information but not deliberately — about such evident things as the terrible federal response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico compared to the excellent federal response to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. I typed a sentence directly from an Associated Press story into the box:
“Really nothing short of a miracle,” he [the President] said of the recovery, an assessment at odds with the despair of many still struggling to find water and food outside the capital city in wide swaths of an island where only 5 percent of electricity customers have power back.”
The translator device made some chugging noises, and then this appeared in the explanation box:
“Really nothing short of a miracle that you got any help at all considering that most of you are brown-skinned people, not white like most of the Texans and Floridians, and considering that although you are U.S. citizens, you aren’t allowed to vote in presidential elections, so not one of you voted for me.”
In my dream, I had to admit that, properly translated, the statement wasn’t a lie. Next I typed in verbatim some of the promises Trump made about the replacement for Obamacare:
“Our replacement for Obamacare will cover everybody… The premiums will be a lot less… There will be no cuts to Medicaid… People with pre-existing conditions will have coverage and all the protection they have under Obamacare… Nobody will suffer financially because of our bill.”
The translator spit out:
“I would like our replacement to cover everybody, and cost less and blah, blah, whatever, but I couldn’t get the votes for that and what I really wanted is a win, even if it is the opposite of what I said, so I promised some things (but my fingers were crossed) to keep the public off our backs but it didn’t work, so none of my statements count, because I’m a winner, and only winning counts.”
“That’s a total witch hunt, the whole Russia story. It’s a hoax.”
“The Russian interference in the election, in addition to the hacking, made use of a number of hoaxes including fake Facebook accounts and ads. However, it was for a great and worthy cause, and as some great man said, ‘The end justifies the means.’ Oh wait, that great man was me.”
I typed in the first third of a single sentence from a verbatim transcript of a Trump speech in 2016:
“Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me……”
The translator replied:
“I have so much on my mind, the best mind in history — we have to build the wall so we can stop, what’s his name, Kim Young Jong, and the Democrats who killed my health bill, not mine, the Republican losers, McConnor and Ryan, they aren’t Puerto Ricans, but they praised the best response in history, even Frederick Douglas said so, but I don’t let little details keep me from the big goals, hugest goals ever, I get on them like a bloodhound who never loses the trail and — Squirrel!!”
I woke up refreshed. Translated into non-Trump English, all his statements aren’t really lies. I feel much better now.