by Charles M. Blow
The con Donald Trump committed on his voters is slowly coming undone. He is not honest. He is not a brilliant deal maker. He is not even competent.
His entire life, Trump has sold shimmer and called it silver. It was and is all an illusion, a brand built on selling banality with braggadocio. He shaped vapors into dreams and delivered them to those hungry for a taste of the showy, hollow form of the high life he came to represent. He was successful at exploiting those with an ostentatious appetite for the air of success. Trump’s life story is a pyramid scheme of ambitions.
He took that history to a people struggling through a drought of opportunity and he exploited their weaknesses: a shrinking sense of economic security and growing nativist tendencies.
But Trump doesn’t speak so much from facts as from feelings. For him, the truth is malleable and a lie is valuable. He creates his own reality rather than living in the reality of others. Deception is just a tool; betrayal is just an inconvenience.
Now even some of the people who once supported him with vigor are being forced to remove the scales from their eyes. They are now the betrayed disciples of a false prophet.
Furthermore, there is mounting evidence of connections and contacts between the Trump team and Russia, a country that proof-positive interfered in our election in an effort to help Trump and hurt his opponent.
The rolling disaster of the Trumpcare repeal and replacement plan is increasingly imperiled as even Republicans run in fear from the damage it would do and the electoral price that would be paid.
Trump’s scurrilous accusations against President Barack Obama — that he ordered his phones in Trump Tower wiretapped — are being met with increasing disbelief, having no demonstrable basis in fact, at least as of yet.
One thing that I find fascinating is to go back and reread the transcript of Trump’s presidential bid announcement in light of what we now know. So much of it consists of lies or of him criticizing others for things that he would later be proven guilty of doing. It is as damning a document as exists about this man, at least that is publicly available at this point.
Two of the central pillars of that speech, and in fact of his entire candidacy, were the border wall and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Trump said during the speech:
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
First, the price tag for the wall has ballooned by billions of dollars. As Bess Levin noted in Vanity Fair:
“According to an internal report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it’s going to cost about $21.6 billion. That number is significantly higher than Team Trump’s $12 billion estimate, or Republican leadership’s $15 billion estimate, because it takes into account pesky little things the White House did not factor into its back-of-the envelope calculations, like the fact that many areas where the wall would go are privately owned and need to be purchased and paid for.”
Then, when Mexico steadfastly refused to pay for the wall, which objective observers knew would happen, Trump changed his tune, saying instead that Mexico would reimburse Americans for the wall after American taxpayers paid for it.
Now this idea of Mexican payments has all but disappeared. When he spoke to a joint session of Congress a few weeks ago, Trump didn’t even mention a demand that Mexico pay for the wall.
Trump also said during his announcement speech:
“We have to repeal Obamacare, and it can be — and — and it can be replaced with something much better for everybody. Let it be for everybody. But much better and much less expensive for people and for the government. And we can do it.”
But, as the Congressional Budget Office assessment this week of the replacement plan makes clear, it would cost tens of millions of Americans their health insurance. It would be a boon to more well-off Americans and a bane for those not so well-off. Specifically, costs could skyrocket for many elderly people.
The greatest of all ironies is that, as Nate Cohn of The Upshot of The New York Times pointed out: “The people who stand to lose the most in tax credits under the House Republican health plan tended to support Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.”
Some of these Trump voters who are literally being kept alive because they gained care under the Affordable Care Act voted for a man and a party who promised to take it away. Indeed, a Fox News Poll released Wednesday found that only 35 percent of American voters approve of Trump’s handling of health care.
The many lies Trump told between that speech and today have only compounded his flaws and his betrayals. But now, the bill is coming due. A price must soon be paid for these deceptions.
Trump’s lies, his brand and his presidency are like a house of cards and the truth is a box of matches. It’s becoming ever more likely that the consuming flames — destined to reduce the entire edifice to ashes — are imminent, as Trump slowly converts former acolytes into disappointed adversaries.
(This column originally appeared in the New York Times MAR 16, 2017 under the title “Disciples of a False Prophet”)
Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at email@example.com.”