There is a story Donald Trump liked to tell on the campaign trail. The story of the snake.
The fable goes like this. A “tender-hearted” woman finds a wounded snake on the road. She takes it in and nurses it back to health. The snake, revived, bites her. The woman, dying, asks why.
Trump loves recounting the story. He makes a performance out of it. He puts on his reading glasses. He lingers on the antiquated, florid language. And when he reaches the climax, he delivers the punchline with particular showmanship, deepening his voice and switching to a sharp, declarative cadence.
“‘Oh, shut up, silly woman,’ said the reptile with a grin. ‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.’”
One of the most striking features of the early Trump administration has been its political uses of lying. The big weekend story was the obviously false claim of Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, that Trump pulled in the largest inauguration crowds in American history. This raises the question of why a leader might find it advantageous to promote such lies from his subordinates.
One of the many things that is remarkable about the Trump administration is its devotion, even in its first days, to a particular variety of pointless falsehood.
Shortly after the end of his inaugural parade, President Donald Trump issued his first executive order: instructions for the federal government to dismantle the Affordable Care Act “to the maximum extent permitted by law.”
In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp. It was late October, Friday the 21st, and the president had spent many of the previous weeks, as he would spend the two subsequent weeks, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Things were looking up. Polls in the crucial states of Virginia and Pennsylvania showed Clinton with solid advantages. The formidable GOP strongholds of Georgia and Texas were said to be under threat. The moment seemed to buoy Obama… Three months still remained before Inauguration Day, but staffers had already begun to count down the days. They did this with a mix of pride and longing—like college seniors in early May. They had no sense of the world they were graduating into. None of us did.
One year ago this month, when a Donald Trump administration was still a surreal fantasy, Trump was interviewed on the radio. After a brief exchange, Trump paid the host a compliment: He’d been captivated by the show. True, this was because the host had been talking about Trump. But there was something about the host’s delivery, his way of cutting through, that impressed even Trump. “That just shows your talent,” Trump said. Colin Cowherd, the host, beamed.
Among the political figures who congratulated Donald Trump on his surprise election victory was the politician to whom the billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star has most often been compared: Silvio Berlusconi. The rightwing former Italian prime minister and billionaire media mogul, who was dogged by claims that he used an underage prostitute at his infamous “bunga bunga” parties and counted Vladimir Putin as a close ally and friend, said the comparisons between the two were “obvious” and that Trump would rule with “authority and equilibrium”.
“Is anyone surprised that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t feel responsible? One of the luxuries of power in Silicon Valley is the luxury to deny that your power exists. It wasn’t you, it was the algorithm.”