The Corner

White House

Trump’s Tell

(Leah Millis/Reuters)

The president continues to remind us of his mania for telling easily disproved lies in public, boasting over the weekend how “easily” he’d won the Electoral College. The president is in the habit of citing his Electoral College victory when facing questions about the Russian shenanigans. E.g., when the claims first started being investigated in the wake of the election, the Trump transition team released this statement denouncing the U.S. intelligence community: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

“One of the biggest Electoral College victories in history,” Trump says. In fact, there have been few smaller margins—only twelve winners took in a smaller share, while 45 winners enjoyed larger margins. Never mind the smashing 49-state victories of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, Donald Trump (at 57 percent of the electoral votes) came in well behind such mediocrities as James Polk (62 percent) and Bill Clinton (69 percent, then 70 percent). Trump came in well behind Barack Obama, though he did best Rutherford B. Hayes.

(Speaking of Clinton, that Trump transition team statement, with its invocation of the characteristic phrase of the scandal-plagued Clinton years—“move on”—confesses more than its authors intended.)

Strange thing about Trump and his superlatives: It isn’t enough for him to be rich—he is compelled to pretend he is richer than he is. It isn’t enough to be a playboy who disposes of used wives like old newspapers—he is compelled to lie about his sex life to the press he claims to hold in contempt, inventing imaginary friends such as John Barron to peddle lies to reporters on his behalf. And it isn’t enough that he was elected president—he is compelled to pretend that he was elected in a landslide, by a historically large margin rather than a relatively small one. Trump is an odd specimen, indeed: a confidence man lacking in confidence.

In his weekend tweetstorm, the president (typing the preceding words is dismay-inducing) lied about having denied Russia’s election adventure. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” he wrote. In fact, he said that a number of times. E.g. this Fox News postelection interview: “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. I don’t know why, and I think it’s just — you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week, it’s another excuse.”

And the next sentence out of his mouth was: “We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”

Trump has some pretty obvious tells. No wonder he lost his shirt in the casino business.

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