Christopher Ruddy, a good friend of the president and a conservative media baron, has spoken. When asked to comment on President Trump’s bizarre and troubling compulsion to deny what he had already admitted, to believe wholeheartedly in conspiracy theories, to cling to his repellent birtherism and, recently, to insist that the voice on that notorious “Access Hollywood” tape is not his, Ruddy lost his own mind, mixing metaphors and proper nouns. Trump, in the end, renders his defenders stupid.
“I’m not a presidential historian, but I think many other presidents have written and shaped their own myths,” Ruddy, who had just spent part of Thanksgiving weekend with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, told the New York Times. “Look at what happened with John Kennedy. If you read Theodore White’s books on it, he was given a story line about Camelot. I don’t think President Trump has gone that far —he’s not describing this as Camelot,” he said. No, it’s more like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Ruddy is right about not being a presidential historian. The rest of the statement, however, makes no sense. It was not John Kennedy who applied the term Camelot to his tenure in the White House; it was the newly widowed Jacqueline Kennedy who used it in an interview with the journalist and author Theodore White. It was an inspired piece of branding, and while it has since been ridiculed, there is no doubt that it has also stuck. In any case, it’s not a lie.
That cannot be said about Trump. His insistence that it is not his voice on the “Access Hollywood” tape is simply not true. He himself has admitted it’s him and has apologized for what he said. This is a wholly different category of Trump lie. He is not merely exaggerating — as he did about the height of one of his buildings — but compulsively denying the undeniable. It is deeply troubling behavior.
The New York Times also reports that Trump cannot let go of his insistence that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Last year, and under considerable pressure, Trump reluctantly renounced that claim. Now, he’s back at it, clinging to that obsession as he also does to the insistence that his inaugural crowd was the biggest in history or that he would have won the popular vote had not a gazillion illegal immigrants materialized at the polls for Hillary Clinton. There is absolutely no evidence that anything like that happened. But for Trump there need not be.
Is Trump delusional? As a minor in psychology lo these many years ago in college, I am hardly qualified to make such a diagnosis. But as the shrinks say, he sure “presents” as one. He babbles inanities to aides in the White House and visitors to Mar-a-Lago, which has taken on the aspect of yet another Florida sanitarium. He tenaciously clings to a reading of events that are factually not true and which he himself has denied. There is something wrong with the man.
Does it matter? It must. If not now, then soon. If not soon, then eventually. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) likened Trump to Winston Churchill, who like any politician — or any spouse, for that matter — did not always tell the truth. But Churchill always knew the truth, whatever he might have told others or the British people. That is not the case with Trump. He operates with facts of his own in a world of his own. He makes fools of his friends, enemies of critics and truth out of lies. He may not be danger to himself, but he is to the rest of us. On a daily basis, he makes an increasingly strong case for removal.