At post time, as Donald Trump prepares to give his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, the Washington Post's Fact Checker catalogues and details more than 20,000 lies he's told since taking office as president.
Nothing in that vast list of deceit, falsehoods, fibs, fabrications and fictions, however, compares for utter shamelessness with the out-and-out alternative identity he has tried to forge in this week's convention, as an endless stream of sycophants and spaniels, lackeys and toadies, lickspittles and bootlickers, many in his will or on his payroll, unceasingly have sung his praises.
Not content merely to deliver fawning paens more suitable to Pyongyang or Minsk, his stooges and suck-ups instead have sought to imbue him with a character and record precisely antithetical to the attitudes and behavior he has exhibited in the White House - portraying Trump, for example, as a champion of immigration, racial harmony, feminism and gay rights, who acted swiftly to combat the coronavirus, stopped North Korea's nuclear build-up, protected health care and achieved energy independence for the nation. As if.
So rank was the spectacle of re-invention on display that we were sent to Hannah Arendt's "Origins of Totalitarianism" for a recollection of the true purpose behind this toxic style of up-is-down, black-is-white form of authoritarian propaganda:
"The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end---is being destroyed."
It was ever thus. None of this is new for Trump, of course, whose bilking and bankruptcy-laden business career was based on a genius for marketing, reinvention and the audacity of the con, as Michael Kruse recounts in the must-read "How Trump Mastered the Art of Telling History His Way."
"But the rewriting (or even pre-writing) of his past is a lifelong Trump trademark. He is who he is, is where he is, is seen the way he’s seen by so many, because of it. He’s self-made! (He’s not.) He’s a businessman with a Midas touch! (He’s not.) He’s an outsider! (He was an insider—thanks to his father’s political connections—the day he was born.)...
“He takes his own failures, and he just rewrites what you see in front of your eyes,” Julian Zelizer, the Princeton political scientist, told me. “This is what he’s always done.”
And yet this week’s effort represents a championship game, of sorts, not only an intensification of his efforts since March to recast the narrative of the pandemic but the apex of his lifelong gambit. It is the stiffest test because Trump is not just trying to rewrite the past, or even the very, very recent past, but the actual present—the ongoing present—of this public health crisis and the attendant economic calamity."
Sixty-eight days until the election.