Having lashed himself to a baldfaced lie, Donald Trump can’t even hide inside the Fox News cocoon.
Nobody, except for maybe propaganda minister Sean Spicer, believes that President Obama tapped the phones in Trump Tower. And Spicer probably believes the boss only because he’s paid to be a parrot. The Republican chair of the House intelligence panel doesn’t believe Trump (“I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower”), the Republican chair of the Senate intel panel doesn’t believe Trump (“no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government”), and Paul Ryan doesn’t believe Trump (“we see no evidence”).
This paranoid farce, which has dragged on for nearly two weeks, is best understood as an urgent character issue. This alleged leader is incapable of admitting error; when confronted about his lying, his instinct is to simply dig his hole deeper. His disgraceful habit, borne of a lifetime of cons and hustles, was on vivid display during a Wednesday night interview on Fox News. I’ll annotate the key exchanges:
Tucker Carlson: “So on March 4th, 6:35 in the morning, you’re down in Florida, and you tweet, the former administration wiretapped me, surveilled me, at Trump Tower during the last election. How did you find out? You said, ‘I just found out.’ How did you learn that?”
Donald Trump: “Well, I’ve been reading about things. I read in, I think it was Jan. 20th, a New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article. I think they used that exact term. I read other things…I’ve been seeing a lot of things…We will be submitting things…”
OK. First of all, the longer we hear this guy, the more he sounds like Robert DeNiro’s whacked-out boxer in “Raging Bull,” when he falsely accused his brother of boffing his wife (“I heard things! … I heard some things! … I heard things!”). This is not good. But let’s keep going:
Carlson: “Why not wait to tweet about it until you can prove it? Don’t you devalue your words when you can’t provide evidence?”
Bravo, Tucker! A conservative Fox News host framed those questions better than any “elitist,” “liberal” journalist could’ve done. He asked why Trump didn’t first gather evidence before charging Obama with illegal wiretapping. “Why not wait,” he asked. And this was Trump’s response:
Trump: “Well, because the New York Times wrote about it. Not that I respect the New York Times. I call it the failing New York Times. But they did write on Jan. 20th using the word wiretap.”
Wow, where to begin. That Times article said absolutely nothing about Obama ordering anything. The article reported “communication intercepts that officials believe show contacts between associates of Mr. Trump and Russian officials during the campaign.” Most importantly, the article specifically said: “The Times has never reported that intelligence or law-enforcement officials were themselves spying on Mr. Trump.”
So, on Fox News, Trump did one of two things: Either he consciously concocted a new lie to defend his Obama lie, or he demonstrated to us that he can’t read for the purpose of comprehension.
Note, also, his admission that he rushed to tweet “because the New York Times wrote about it.” Suddenly, he believes the New York Times! But then, having realized his goof, he quickly said that he didn’t respect it and that it’s “failing.” But if he doesn’t respect the “failing” Times, why did he believe the Times story? Which he then mischaracterized? Anyway, onward:
Carlson: “But you’re the president. You have the ability to gather all the evidence you want.”
Trump: I do. I do. But … if you watched the Bret Baier and what he was saying and what he was talking about and how he mentioned the word ‘wiretap,’ you would feel very confident that you could mention the name. He mentioned it. And other people have mentioned it. But if you take a look at some of the things written about wiretapping and eavesdropping …”
Carlson suggested that a president can gather all kinds of insider evidence — and Trump responds by citing what he thinks he heard “other people” in the media “mention.” And by the way, Bret Baier on Fox News has said nothing about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower. But Trump was still running his mouth, referencing his March 4 fusillade of tweets:
“And don’t forget I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes … And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing.”
Actually, it’s a very important thing that, in two of his tweets, he specifically accused Obama of specifically wiretapping him — without putting the word in quotation marks. Like when he thumbed that “a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to the Election!”
Where’s his specific factual evidence that Obama tapped his phones in October?
“We will be submitting things.”
Sure, DeNiro, whatever you say.
Orwell would’ve loved the proposed Trump budget (which is DOA in the Senate anyway). Trump’s budget director said yesterday that cutting the Meals on Wheels program for seniors is “compassionate.” And Sean Spicer said: “There’s this assumption that if you get less money, it’s a cut.”
Put that one in a fortune cookie.