Look away from shiny objects
President Donald Trump is not the most gifted orator of all presidents; he is not the most compassionate among our leaders historically; and he is far from the most well read, historically informed president. In many ways this president is not gifted to suit the presidency, but in one way he is superior to all our previous presidents; Trump is a master of deception.
As a campaigner, Trump quickly discovered and mastered the powerful skill of keeping his messages simple, with “Build the wall” and “Lock her up” serving as two memorable examples of the simplicity that audiences responded to and engaged with Trump in chants of the same. It was political brilliance when compared to Hillary Clinton’s detailed and boring policy laden speeches.
And as president, Donald Trump continues to dominate the media with his Tweets and his phone calls to Fox and Friends and his close connection to Sean Hannity at Fox. Hannity mimics Trump so closely the two could wear the same skin or color their hair together in their free evenings.
But successfully dominating the media is not, in and of itself, deception. That Trump gift is a fine-honed talent from his years as a marketer for the only product he ever had to sell, himself. Whether broke, bankrupt or simply puffing his resume, Donald Trump spent his career trying to get everyone to look at the shiny objects he would parade past them, not at the acts of ethical shortcuts that characterized his interactions.
The ethically-challenged Trump found a way to make even gambling fail to be profitable. He also found creative ways to not pay vendors for their work, and to scramble from one bank to another to keep funding his oft-failing ventures. And all of this led to Russia and the 2016 election.
As Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller seems to be reaching an apex of his investigation, the leaked questions Mueller wants Trump to answer fall generally into two categories, conspiracy with Russia to benefit the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice to impede the FBI investigation.
In the first category we have known for some time that the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 with Russian government representatives was to discuss the possibility of conspiracy (collusion). The only open question is, did the Trump campaign act on the offer?
Donald Trump seems worried about collusion, because his personal media campaign repeats, “no collusion,” about as often as he tweets. Fully one-third of the over 40 Mueller questions leaked have to do with collusion, yet Trump announces, “See, no collusion.” Now what Trump does with this message, over and over, is plant the seeds within his supporters that there is no evidence of collusion no matter how much evidence there is of collusion.
Trump, likely fearing the discovery of collusion, wants his followers to disbelieve any fact that conflicts with his claim.
Much the same is the obstruction issue. The president openly told NBC’s Lester Holt on national TV that he fired FBI Director James Comey for the Russia investigation. That is a definition of obstruction. But only beginning this week has Trump now added to his, “No collusion,” the, “and no obstruction,” claim, suggesting he does understand the danger he faces and now seeks to convince his followers to ignore any upcoming facts by the special prosecutor.
And, ultimately, Trump hopes his followers will recall and repeat, when the time comes that he may face indictment or Impeachment, that all of it is just a “witch hunt.”
Ignore the shiny objects.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.