Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Trump testing the depths of his supporters' loyalty, gullibility

Donald Trump keeps telling us that he opposed the invasion of Iraq, because he knew that it would destabilize the Middle East. Invariably, he cites that stance as proof of his extraordinary insight. “Frankly, I’m one of the few that was right on Iraq,” he said just this week on “60 Minutes”.

Of course, he was not “right on Iraq”; he did not oppose the invasion. Only months later, after it became clear that we were not “going to be greeted as liberators,” etc., he did begin to criticize the decision. That’s like picking the lottery numbers after they’ve already been announced and then insisting that you won $500 million.

And on and on it goes. In a Fox interview on Monday, Trump took credit for the decision to hold the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland, casting it as evidence of his support for Ohio, an important swing state.

“I wanted it to be here, and we had lots of choices,” he said. “I wanted it to be in Ohio. I recommended Ohio. And people fought very hard that it be in Ohio. It’s a tremendous economic development event, and you look at the way it’s going so far, it’s very impressive. I wanted it be here, the Republicans wanted it to be here.”

The GOP announced its selection of Cleveland in July 2014, a full year before Trump even entered the campaign for president. There is no evidence whatsoever that Trump had shown any interest in that decision, let alone that he drove or influenced it.

Again, on the GOP convention’s opening night, speechwriters for would-be First Lady Melania Trump sent her out to introduce herself to the American people armed with a speech that cribbed extensively from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama. The words, thoughts and sentiments were so identical that party chairman Reince Priebus insisted that the campaign fire those responsible for the scandal.

But the Trump campaign, insistent on its own version of reality, flatout denies that plagiarism had even existed.

“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told the press. “I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

Yes, that would be crazy. It would be even crazier to tell America that it had not seen and heard what it saw and heard. And it would take full-blown lunacy to, say, try to blame it all on Hillary.

So Manafort went there: “This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down.”

Think back to where this began, with Trump claiming that he sent private investigators to Hawaii to prove that President Obama was ineligible to be president, and “they cannot believe what they’re finding.” It continued through Trump claims of millions given to charity that can’t be found, through claims that he never invented a fake spokesman to brag about his sexual conquests when he clearly did. He has also told us repeatedly that he hires the best people, the smart people, people so smart that you can’t believe how smart they are, but based on the incompetence of his campaign staff, that too is a lie.

Basically, he is testing the depths of his supporters’ desperation: How many truly unbelievable things are they willing to pretend to believe? How much self-respect are they willing to sacrifice on his behalf? A lot, it appears.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.