Among South Carolina Republicans who preferred above all else a candidate “who tells it like it is,” 77 percent voted for Donald J. Trump.
That is astonishing, given that Donald Trump’s entire life has been an extended exercise in deception.
Start with his wealth. How much is Donald Trump worth? $1.7 billion? $6 billion? “TEN BILLION DOLLARS,” as he claimed in his presidential filing? Tim O’Brien, then a reporter for the New York Times, wrote in his book TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, that in one 24-hour period, Trump claimed two different net worths differing by $3.3 billion. He has never permitted an independent, third-party audit of his finances. The closest anyone has come is Deutsche Bank, which in 2005 estimated that Trump was worth . . . $788 million. Several sources with knowledge of Trump’s finances have put the number significantly lower.
And Trump has admitted to lying about his wealth. “Have you ever exaggerated in statements about your properties?” he was asked during a deposition in the mid 2000s. “I think everyone does,” Trump replied. “Does that mean that sometimes you’ll inflate the value of your properties in your statements?” the lawyer followed up. Trump: “Not beyond reason.”
RELATED: Trump, Lies, and Bankruptcy
Translation: “Yes,” as evidenced by this exchange about a Trump-owned property in Westchester County, N.Y., which Trump claimed had doubled its value in twelve months. “Did you have any basis for that view other than your own opinion?” he was asked during a different deposition. “I don’t believe so, no.”
Trump’s wealth-related lies abound. Did he actually receive $1 million for a 2005 speech, as he told Larry King?? No. He was paid $400,000. He lumped in promotional efforts on behalf of the address to inflate his compensation.
Was Trump actually $9 billion in debt in the 1990s, as he said in two of his books? No. The New York Times reported that Trump later declared the claim a “mistake”: “I don’t know how it got there.”
And, as my colleague Kevin Williamson recently documented, Trump has lied expansively about his (count ’em!) four bankruptcies.
Then there are Trump’s lies about his personal life.
How was it that the star athlete at the New York Military Academy received a deferment for bone spurs in both heels? And how is it that those maladies seem to have disappeared, a miracle otherwise unknown in medical history?
Presumably Trump’s affair with Marla Maples during his marriage to his first wife involved some serious deception, as did the affairs he claims to have had with married women. (Or is he lying about those affairs?)
#share#And, now, there are Trump’s political lies.
Was Trump actually against going into Iraq, as he has claimed on multiple occasions over the past months? No. When Howard Stern asked him in 2002 if he was “for” invading Iraq, he answered, “I guess so.”
RELATED: Donald Trump: Thin-Skinned Tyrant
Has he always favored the war in Afghanistan, as he told Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s New Day in October? No. On the same show two weeks earlier Trump declared: “We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place.”
Is Trump actually committed to rolling back government-run health care? No. Last fall — on a Republican debate stage, no less — he touted the virtues of single-payer health care.
And on abortion, Planned Parenthood funding, the crisis in Syria, Syrian refugees, his opinion of the flat tax, and a host of other issues, it’s simply impossible to know what Trump actually thinks, because he has repeatedly taken contradictory positions.
Trump’s entire personal and professional history is Obama-esque: When it serves his interests, Trump lies.
The conservative desire for a “truth-teller” and a “straight-shooter” is entirely defensible. For the past seven years, conservatives have grown exasperated by a president who has not hesitated to lie whenever doing so is expedient. Al-Qaeda was “on the run” — when it wasn’t. The Islamic State was the “jayvee team” — when intelligence clearly showed it was formidable. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” — when the president knew that was not true under his signature health-care legislation. But he lied, often, because it seemed to strengthen his position to do so.
A president with a higher tolerance for the truth would be a welcome change.
#related#But there is no reason whatsoever to think that Donald Trump would be such a president. Trump’s entire personal and professional history is Obama-esque: When it serves his interests, Trump lies. He has lied to business associates, employees, friends, spouses, and now to millions of prospective voters. Anyone who thinks that Trump will not lie to them, or that he will at least tell the truth about “important things” — immigration or ISIS or whatever — is deluding himself. When it becomes expedient for Trump to lie, he will.
“You can’t con people, at least not for long,” Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal. “If you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” His supporters may prove otherwise.
— Ian Tuttle is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.