George Washington couldn’t tell a lie. Donald Trump can’t help telling a lie. At his press conference today Trump suggested that not only wouldn’t Democrats vote to confirm the father of our country to the Supreme Court, but that Washington may not have had a spotless record when it came to his private affairs. ‘He may have had some, I think, accusations made,’ Trump said. ‘Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?’ Who will Trump exhume next to besmirch? Honest Abe? The Gipper?
However outlandish, the presser was no laughing matter. World leaders didn’t laugh at him, he said, but with him yesterday as he proclaimed that he was the greatest president in American history. ‘They didn’t laugh at me,’ he said. ‘People had a good time with me. We were doing it together…the United States is respected again.’
If you say so. The press conference, a rollicking and rambling affair, came complete with colour commentary from Trump, as he sought to subvert the format. The reporters with their earnest questions were simply props for him to laud, mock or berate. Trump’s real audience was his base. Not even congressional Republicans seemed to be on his mind, apart from a few dutiful nods to the sagacity of Republican Senators. He pulled in his horns on deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, indicating that he might not meet with him Thursday. And he seemed remarkably blasé about the fate of Brett Kavanaugh who has been a dead man walking for several days. He declared that it was always possible that he might say, ‘hey, I’m changing my mind. Hey, that’s possible.’
The only time he became aroused, as it were, about Kavanaugh, who now faces a third and fourth accuser, was when pressed about whether or not the battery allegations of sexual allegations against him had helped to shape his perception of the mounting attacks on his nominee. ‘Absolutely,’ Trump said. You can also be absolutely certain that both Kavanaugh and his Senate backers were dumbfounded by Trump’s foray into the thickets of his own pulchritudinous past. Trump kept hacking away. ‘I was accused by, I believe it was four women… who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me.’ Actually, it’s almost two dozen. It was also a tactical mistake for him to describe the groping he’s been accused of by Jessica Leeds on an airplane in the mid-1970s.
Trump also reiterated that for him size matters. In this instance he wasn’t referring to his sexual prowess. Rather, he invoked Michael Pillsbury, a China expert, who, according to Trump, made a flattering allusion on Fox News to ‘Donald Trump’s very, very large brain.’ Trump’s almost poignant insecurity about his grey matter was palpably evident as he extolled his own bargaining genius. But he wasn’t able to point to any trade deal, other than a putative NAFTA agreement with Mexico that he will never be able to get through Congress absent Canada’s signing on. Instead, he apparently made up the story that he refused to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as ‘we don’t like their representative [Chrystia Freeland] very much.’
Throughout, Mr Big kept referring to ‘Schumer and the con artists’ or to a ‘con job’ by Democrats who are conspiring to block the public from recognising his immense accomplishments. One thing was clear: by Trump’s standards, whether or not he succeeded in conning anyone other than his hardcore supporters, his lengthy press conference was undeniably a fairly convivial occasion.