Trump, again and again, describes a world detached from reality

  • On Twitter, at the White House, and on the campaign trail, Trump did more than get facts wrong.
  • Over and over, he painted fundamentally false portraits of people and events to flatter himself, discredit predecessors and rivals, and promote his political objectives.
  • Some highlights from Trump's week include inflating Germany's crime-rate and claiming Canadians smuggle shoes over the border to avoid tariffs.
Trump Twitter
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images

This week repeated a striking, if familiar, pattern: President Trump described a world detached from reality.

On Twitter, at the White House, and on the campaign trail, Trump did more than get facts wrong. Over and over, he painted fundamentally false portraits of people and events to flatter himself, discredit predecessors and rivals, and promote his political objectives.

Some highlights:

Monday

At 6 a.m., Trump sought to contrast his immigration policies with Germany's, tweeting crime "is way up" there. German government data show crime at a 25-year-low.

Two hours later, in the wake of a Justice Department report criticizing former FBI director James Comey, Trump called special counsel Robert Mueller "Comey's best friend." No evidence suggests that is true.

To make his economic stewardship sound more impressive, Trump said he has cut more regulation than the US president who served 16 years. No US president has served 16 years.

"The whole world is looking up to the U.S.," he declared, making the country "respected again." Gallup reports that the worldwide image of U.S. leadership is weaker than at any point under presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

Tuesday

Justifying his tariffs, Trump said the US suffers a trade deficit with Canada. U.S. government data shows the opposite.

Citing a newspaper report, Trump said Canadians smuggle shoes from the U.S. to avoid import tariffs. Neither Canada nor the U.S. imposes tariffs on shoes made in the other country.

Trump called himself the first president since Ronald Reagan to achieve a major tax cut. Bush did it twice.

Trump claimed credit for adding 3.4-million jobs since Election Day 2016 – which "nobody would have believed" back then. Since 4.1 million jobs were created in the previous 19 months, the claim makes no sense.

Wednesday

Recounting a meeting with House Republicans, Trump tweeted that "they applauded and laughed loudly" when he demeaned Rep. Mark Sanford, a Trump critic who lost his seat in a primary. GOP lawmakers called the assertion untrue.

Trump falsely said Obama admitted he lacked legal authority for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program even as he implemented. He falsely said wages for US workers had begun rising for the first time in 20 years; they rose during the latter years of Obama's term.

At his packed rally in Duluth, Minnesota, Trump tweeted, at least 10,000 people were turned away. The mayor of Duluth said 2,000 people were turned away.

Thursday

After the Supreme Court allowed states to impose some new online sales taxes, Trump called it a "great victory for consumers." It was not; consumers will pay more.

Justifying his assault on trade agreements, Trump asserted that "nobody ever looked at trade deals" over the previous 25-30 years. Administrations of both parties continually negotiated new trade terms during that time.

Touting the document he and Kim Jong Un signed at their summit, Trump declared, "If people actually read it to the public, you'd see: number one statement, we will immediately begin total denuclearization of North Korea."

The document includes no such commitment. It observes "mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

Friday

Throughout the week, Trump justified border policies separating immigrant children from their parents. Without his tough approach, the president said, millions of illegal immigrants would pour into the U.S. and unleash a crime wave.

He invoked the horrors of MS-13 gang members, boasting his administration was deporting them "by the thousands." He closed the week alongside survivors of people killed by illegal immigrants.

That painted a false picture. Illegal immigration across the southern border has been declining for more than a decade. Illegal immigrants, studies show, commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. MS-13 has roughly 10,000 US members, and authorities told Politifact roughly 1,200 were arrested between Oct. 2016 and the end of 2017.

The president's aides and critics have offered multiple explanations for his misstatements.

He's new to politics, unconventional and sometimes ill-informed. He exaggerates for salesmanship and negotiation – as Trump himself has acknowledged. He is, as GOP Sen. Ted Cruz once charged, a "pathological liar."

Tony Schwartz, who got to know Trump as co-author of their 1987 best-seller Art of the Deal, offers a different explanation. He says narcissism warps Trump's perception of reality about himself and others.

"Every move he makes is a response to this distorted inner world he lives in," Schwartz told me. That condition, he warns, is "getting progressively worse."