You may remember Billy Bush — he’s that Bush who went into entertainment instead of politics but still almost had a dramatic effect on US politics. He’s the guy who was chatting with Donald Trump in the leaked “Access Hollywood” recording while Trump bragged about sexual assault.
Interestingly, he was on an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” recently and shared another anecdote that I think is one of the most damning I’ve heard about Donald Trump. The problem, as usual, is that people who see through “Don the Con’s” lies will realize this is obvious whereas fans won’t see it or won’t believe it. However, I strongly wonder how much people “in the middle” will figure out that this is Trump’s default mode. On to the clip …
The specific line starts at 4:39 into the video. Billy Bush apparently has a story of one particular show in which Trump said falsely for the umpteenth time that The Apprentice was the #1 rated show. Billy Bush had heard this repeatedly from Trump even though he knew it wasn’t true and he had gotten a bit fed up with it. He noted to Trump that the show hadn’t been #1 for something like 5 years — not in any category and not in any demo. Trump made up some ridiculous stat on camera to defend the statement, but then off camera told Billy Bush something like, “Billy, look, look — you just tell them, and they believe it. That’s it. You just tell them, and they believe it.”
That’s the story of Donald Trump — and one of those instances where he admits that he outright lies. It’s not just that he’s uninformed or can’t figure out nuanced, complex situations — even if both of those things are often true. It’s not just that his memory failed. No, he actually decides to lie on countless occasions because it makes him look better.
This was so obvious to so many people that it was a shock when Don the Con was elected. However, millions of people have bought into his bluffery and puffery and self-praise. Furthermore, even many of his staunchest critics buy into his longest, biggest, most important lie of all — that he was a really good, successful businessman. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole right now, but the truth is that he did so badly at business that US and European lenders largely cut him off. He resorted to reliance on Russian oligarchs and other mobsters to save his real estate business, it seems — based on accounts from his own family members and certain investigations. He did learn to make money selling the use of his name, which has been a decent revenue source for him because of his skill at doing one thing — pumping up his shallow brand. Overall, though, his business past is pretty shoddy and shameful.
How would his candidacy have gone if people kept saying “a lousy businessman” instead of what they were saying about him? How much different would it have gone if Trump hadn’t convinced much of the population through a phony reality TV show that he was a smart businessman.
Anyone who had dug in a little bit to his business experience is surely not surprised that he has been running the White House in the same sort of lousy way as he ran his businesses, and that he has often resorted to two things he’s actually good at — reality TV performances and brand puffery based on lie after lie after hyperbolic lie.
The divergence between fact and what Don the Con states has been shocking, even to those of us who more or less knew what we would be getting. It’s an onslaught of gaslighting. It’s shocking that it works. It’s shocking that people bought the initial lies, but also that they haven’t caught on by now. How long does it take a conned person to realize they’re being conned? Well, sometimes more than a lifetime.
But sooner or later you’d think that some people in the middle start to see what’s happening. You’d think that one ridiculous lie or another would wake people up at some point. For Billy Bush, it sounds like that comment about the lies about ratings was an eye-opening moment — it wasn’t that Trump was ignorant, uninformed, or slightly right; the point was just that he lies through his teeth for personal benefit. The fact that many Evangelicals and other Christians still won’t acknowledge that supporting him is indeed completely at odds with their supposed values is one of those other shocks of his political life. However, some of them must have woken up to certain elements of reality.
Some Trump voters have woken up to the fact that Trump was never in it out of a sense of civic duty — he was in it for himself. They must have realized Trump is doing nothing for them or the rest of the US middle class. They must have realized that he has lied repeatedly about matters they care about. Whether it concerns climate change, clean energy, pollution, jobs & the economy, or Stormy Daniels, they must of realized that he lies over and over again — that the line connecting his various jobs throughout his career is a reliance on conning people.
If you still don’t realize it and you’ve gotten this far, I refer you back to the Billy Bush comment as well as the Access Hollywood recording. Trump indicated to Billy Bush in that chat about the ratings that he wasn’t mistaken — he was simply well versed in the tactic of lying to people to make himself look better. In the Access Hollywood recording, you can either believe that, again, he was just lying, or you can believe that he was legitimately proud of sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because he was famous. Or, going to a more recent claim he’s been making, you could believe the recording is a fake and that’s not him talking. Frankly, given the many absurdly incorrect statements Trump makes and people apparently believe, I guess some of his supporters would actually believe that one.
And I guess that all brings us to the bigger underlying questions: How long will ⅓ to ½ of the population believe the many lies Trump pushes and they wish were true? How much will they believe other political lies (like the lie that trickle down economics helps the economy) and support politicians who work against their own interests? How much can we rely on voters to make sensible decisions? And how much can we expect certain politicians will lie through their teeth in order to win votes they could not honestly get?
I have a slight hunch I don’t want to know the answers to those questions. But turning away from politics because of those underlying points is precisely why we’re in the situation we’re in. Try to get or remain informed. Try to consider what he biggest challenges facing society really are, where politicians really stand on them, and who you should support in order to make more progress, in order to not go backwards again.