I’ve called Trump a liar,
citing as evidence a few of his outrageous statements and tweets, Obama’s supposed wiretapping of Trump’s phones for example. But now I would revise the liar epithet changing it to smack-talking. Smack talking is Donald’s mother tongue. That’s what he has been speaking all along. Not too different from the pre-fight talk of Muhammad Ali who in the 1960s evidently released a popular full-length album consisting largely of smack or trash-talk “poetry.”
Muhammad Ali called his “poetry” collection, I Am the Greatest! And as I think about that now isn’t this exactly how Trump would come onto the stage at the presidential candidate debates, projecting himself as “the greatest?” In any case he would always give all importance, not to his ideas which I might charitably say he doesn’t have, but to his great numbers in the polls, the very sort of smack-talk he would do later during and after the presidential election, as if by his superior numbers (for the most part probably made up by himself of whole cloth) he was putting down his opponents, much as Muhammad Ali would put down his opponent by his “I’m the Greatest” trash talk prior to the fight. Of course the big difference between the two is that Muhammad was the greatest, heavyweight boxer anyway.
It was an article in the Los Angeles Times, by David Horsey (yes, that’s right, “Horsey”) entitled, Smack-talking Trump tweets his way toward legal trouble, that first got me thinking about all this. Who was the first to make the connection between Trump’s tweets and trash-talk? I didn’t and I probably should have. And it probably wasn’t Horsey no matter how well he now writes about the subject. The tweets were more smacking than lying although I didn’t see it at first.
In any case I was never comfortable with the liar moniker on Trump. Smack-talk is better. While smack-talk is all lies these lies are somehow less offensive than real lies, and we see Trump as an adept in locker room trash talk rather than a full member of any circle of conspiracy theorists including the real liars out there, and helas many of whom are within Trump’s inner circle of strategic advisors, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, the Infowars guy, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk, these people, and there are tens of thousands of them, being much more than our child-president, the greatest threat to our liberal democracy.
Trump was probably never up to the level of being a real, authentic liar. For me he doesn’t come across as an evil person, rather hugely ignorant, full of himself, impatient with others and a playground bully. He probably never saw himself, still probably doesn’t see himself, as telling lies so much as smacking down others who are his competition on the playground, be it real estate where for many years he was smacking together deals, and now in our national politics where he is at least trying to do the same thing, although so far with little success. Also I don’t think Trump ever hated Hillary, or President Obama, but saw himself as being obliged to talk smack to both of them, and thereby smack both of them down that they be no threat to him. And in these two instances, at least, he does seem to have eliminated the competition.
Here’s the Horsey article (March 13, 2017) I refer to without the author’s illustrations. For that I’d encourage you to follow the link.
Our put-upon president has spent a lifetime talking smack, like a street kid in a pickup basketball game in Queens. Insults and demeaning remarks are just part of the game and part of his persona. When he called Mexicans “rapists” and said “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz’s father helped kill JFK, it was all in fun, right? Who could fail to see what was really in his heart (the biggest heart anyone has ever had, by the way)?
This is a man who built his business on boasts. Everything he did was “big league,” “huge,” “tremendous.” He never expected anyone to fact-check his endless claims that whatever he did was the best and biggest in the history of the world (or to sue him for fraud when they discovered their Trump University degree was worthless). Who knew some smarty-pants would count how many people really showed up for his inauguration, rather than taking his word for it that it was the largest crowd in history?
Poor Donald. He has now blustered his way into a job where his every comment is analyzed and picked apart as if the wrong phrase might start a war or set off an economic panic. What is he supposed to do, change his ways at age 70 just because he is president of the United States?
Apparently, the answer is yes, because not only has he gotten himself in trouble for what he says, but for the things he says that he subsequently tries to edit. The chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, have sent a letter to the White House warning the president that, every time he deletes or alters a tweet, he may be violating the Presidential Records Act. Pretty much everything a president says in public is, by law, part of the official record, even a poorly spelled, ill-conceived tweet dashed off in the wee hours of the morning.
The day Trump discovered Twitter must have been better than his wedding day (or days). Wives come and go, but tweets are endless. Finally, he had a way to share every malign observation and crackpot rumor that lodged between his ears — not just with whoever happened to be in the room, but with the whole adoring world. Obviously, it has become addicting. Asking him to stop would be like asking Winnie the Pooh to forgo honey, like asking Elvis never to move his hips, like asking a nymphomaniac to become a nun. Like a meth addict looking for the next rush, Trump cannot resist tweeting out boasts and smack talk. It seems not to matter to him that he is making trouble for himself and his administration.
Just days after giving a speech before Congress in which he inspired a tremulous hope that he might have the capacity to do more than be a caricature of the worst president imaginable, Trump sent off another early-morning tweet. This one accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of committing a major felony by wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
FBI Director James Comey quickly urged the White House to make clear that the accusation lacked any basis in fact. Instead, Trump’s minions doubled down and demanded that Congress investigate. Republicans rolled their eyes. Giddy Democrats jumped at the invitation. They knew an investigation offered two possibilities: either they would quickly expose the truth that Trump had mindlessly latched on to a fallacious rant by a right-wing talk radio performer, or they would find that there really was a wiretap — one authorized by law to follow connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers who subverted the U.S. election. For Democrats, it would be a win, one way or another.
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe took to Twitter to argue that Trump’s accusation against Obama was “an impeachable felony in reckless disregard of truth.” Nevertheless, Trump did not retract anything, though insider reports said the president was privately admitting he had taken things a step too far this time.
Sad, isn’t it? How could one impetuous tweet cause so much trouble after he had gotten away with so many others? The president must feel so misunderstood, so beset by unpoetic literalists. After all, Trump has never been especially concerned with connecting the things he says to actual facts or deeply held beliefs. It’s all just smack talk, baby. All of it.