"Nice guy; good-looking guy (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) comes in (and says), 'Donald, we have no trade deficit.' I said, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' I didn't even know . . . I had no idea. I just said, 'You're wrong.' "
So said our president to a private fund-raiser. Someone with a tape recorder shared it.
What is most serious when it applies to a global leader? Not knowing what one is talking about or knowing what one is talking about and simply lying about it?
Tragically, in the Age of Him, the distinction hardly matters.
In tried-and-true form, what we know to be Trumpism can be summed up over and over by actions based on claims that can't be backed up by facts.
True -- some lies seem benign, even quaint – like Trump's assertions about the size of his inaugural crowd.
Other lies beget really bad public policy. Trump's assertion that 3 million Americans voted illegally (and illegal voters were trucked into New Hampshire) resulted in a commission on voter fraud and the demand that states hand over voter data.
That commission, ultimately disbanded, turned out to be the only fraud.
A claim that Canada has a massive trade surplus with the United States is used to rationalize tariffs on our northern neighbors. In fact, the Department of Commerce's own 2017 statistics show a $2.8 billion trade surplus with Canada.
With a NATO summit approaching, Trump has been doing what he does best, misrepresenting the truth.
In a speech in South Carolina, he got his supporters frothy by saying that the United States is responsible for 90 percent of NATO spending.
If that were the case, a major change in our relationship with your NATO allies would be in order. The fact is, however, that the United States provides 22 percent of the NATO budget.
Maybe 22 percent is too much. Maybe we need to renegotiate. But Trump's hysterical claim is beyond irresponsible and most of us would not accept such a story from our children, spouses or siblings or best friends.
Trump was beyond incorrigible in claiming that the tax cuts he signed would not benefit him. Of course they did – spectacularly. The alternative minimum tax (AMT), which the measure abolished, was one of the few means by which the federal government got anything out of Citizen Trump.
Though we haven't seen recent tax returns (he can't release them, under audit – another lie), we do know that in 2005 Trump paid $35 million via the AMT. CNN reports that he was liable for only $5.6 million without it.
So, why didn't Trump simply level with Americans, say, "I will benefit quite a bit from these changes and it will be good for the economy"? No, he had to lie in the most bald-faced way.
Why? Because our president simply cannot tell the truth. And he is arrogant enough to know that among his supporters, disrespectful untruths do not matter one bit. Because he's lying for the people.
Recently I encountered an individual who said matter-of-factly that he supported Trump because Trump had financed his own campaign, something the campaigning Trump said he could do. It's a claim that the National Rifle Association and its $21 million in donations will find interesting.
Trump, by the way, harvested more from the gun lobby than any presidential candidate in history. Throw in Cambridge Analytica's part-owner Robert Mercer ($25.5 million) and casino king Sheldon Adelson ($20 million). Yep. Self-financed, Bub.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, noting that a vast majority of Republicans have no problem with Trump's abject lack of credibility, calls it "motivated gullibility."
His supporters choose not to acknowledge the lies. After all, truth is immaterial in the Age of Him.