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Portrait of the President As a Con Man

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by Andrew Sullivan

The leaked tape recording of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump discussing how to handle the payoff to silence yet another extracurricular paramour, Karen McDougal, is more important, it seems to me, than has been generally acknowledged.

It’s only a shade under three minutes long. But unlike the Billy Bush tape, Trump is not performing or bragging or trying to charm someone he doesn’t know that well. He’s at work, with an intimate, trusted wingman, every single guard down. It really feels like the actual Trump, the man behind the curtain. And this Trump is quite clearly in charge. He’s not some addled 70-something, delegating large swathes of responsibility for day-to-day operations to underlings. He’s clearly aware of everything that’s going on: “Let me know what’s happening, okay?” he says to someone — Pam (Bondi)? — on the phone at first. He talks about how some issue will blow over: “I think this goes away quickly … in two weeks; it’s fine.” He then asks Cohen, “Can we use him anymore?” referring to an Evangelical pastor, and Cohen says absolutely.

Then they briefly discuss “the financing” for the National Enquirer’s capture and withholding of the McDougal story. “So, what do we got to pay for this? $150?” Trump asks at one point, meaning $150,000. The question of “cash” is raised by Trump (the precise wording is hard to make out from the audio), and Cohen strongly rules it out: “No, no, no.”

What this tiny glimpse into reality reveals is something quite simple. It’s not that it’s a shock that Trump has been lying about this incident from the very beginning. That has long been clear. But there’s something about listening to his voice acknowledging this in such a breezy, matter-of-fact tone that exposes the purity of the cynicism behind the lies. “We have no knowledge of any of this,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks, had, after all, originally told The Wall Street Journal when it broke the story days before the 2016 election. The idea that Trump had had an affair at all, let alone organized hush money to the National Enquirer, was “totally untrue.” And yet here, as the curtain is pulled back, we hear Trump himself figuring out how to finance its cover-up.

This is not a man embarrassed by something unusual in his private life, lying defensively in a panic. It’s a world-weary operator in sleaze and outright deception, dealing with an item of everyday business. The euphemisms — “info,” “financing,” “our friend David,” etc. — are those of people who know they’re doing something shady. He even talks of “using” a religious-right figure. It’s the tape of a con man, discussing the con with an underling in a kind of consigliere code. And this revelation is therefore dangerous. It demonstrates that Trump is, in fact, just another crooked pol — and does so in his own voice.

I suspect that this was what was worrying even Franklin Graham this week, as he tweeted: “Everyone in the media is talking about the just-released tape & what the President said or didn’t say, what he meant or didn’t mean. It is a good moment to point out that everyone should realize that every word that is spoken or thought is recorded by God … We won’t be judged by media spin masters or forensic audio analysts, but you will be judged by truth & righteousness — by God Himself.” Is Graham telling his followers simply to banish the evidence of the tape from their minds and stop gossiping? Or is he actually condemning Trump for his secret shadiness? Neither is good news for the White House.

Con men usually know that a con has a life span, and not a long one. At some point, it will collapse because it is, in fact, bullshit. By then, the best con men have made the sale — think of “Trump University” — and moved on. They also know that keeping the suckers sealed off from other sources of contrary information is essential until the deal is done. You have to maintain a fiction relentlessly, dismiss or delegitimize external information that might get your marks to think differently, and constantly make the sale. You have to humor and flatter and bullshit all the time, until you’ve sealed the deal.

And Trump is really, really good at this. In fact, it’s his chief skill, along with his instinct for the easy mark and another human being’s vulnerable spot. It has worked many times before. It’s at the root of his entire shady business career. His problem now, however, is that this is the biggest of all cons, if you’re playing at a presidential level, and is also the longest. It has to be sustainable for at least four years. And that’s an extremely long time to keep it alive.

This is why, it seems to me, Trump tweets so often and so aggressively. It’s his chief mechanism for keeping his dupes under his spell, for sustaining the narrative of the con while reality tugs at it. He’s making the sale every news cycle of every day because the alternative is the whole thing crashing to the ground. It’s also why he keeps holding rallies. You need that kind of mass crowd hysteria to sustain a con — “America Is Great Again!” — that might otherwise be fraying at the edges. It’s why he lambastes the media. Their role in undercutting the con — in presenting the arguments against it, in raising suspicions about the con man himself — is deeply destabilizing to the project. And it’s why he has to lie, and lie with greater and greater intensity and frequency.

And sure enough, the rate of Trump’s lies is accelerating, as the con ages. All six of the last six weeks rank in the top ten most dishonest of his presidency, as the indefatigable Daniel Dale has noted. Last Tuesday, Trump actually made the subtext text, in a speech to a Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening … Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” Some have analogized this to Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism. But it is not as sophisticated as that. It’s just a con man getting a little rattled, as his trade war is beginning to wreak havoc in the Midwest.

When you have brazenly declared that such wars are easy to win, and agriculture in the heartland is nonetheless reeling, and manufacturing is increasingly jittery about the cost of imported steel, what else are you going to do? Well, you can bribe the farmers with some $12 billion. Or ask companies and their workers to be patient. But some in the middle of the country will still start doubting — and his polling in three Midwest swing states that gave him the presidency is now slipping. He’s at 36 percent approval in Wisconsin and Michigan in the latest NBC poll, and 38 percent in Minnesota. That VFW appeal — and his visit to Illinois and Dubuque, Iowa, yesterday — is a sign, it seems to me, of a little desperation.

Desperate is insisting that what is clearly the word would — from the tape and the tone and the sentence structure of his Helsinki press conference — is actually the word wouldn’t. Desperate is responding to the Carter Page FISA documents by insisting that they say the opposite of what they actually say. Desperate is insisting that when the president said no directly to a reporter asking whether he believed that the Russians were still meddling in American democracy, he was actually not answering the question, even as he was looking at the journalist when he said it.

Desperate is banning a CNN reporter from a press conference because she had previously asked difficult reality-based questions about Michael Cohen — and then quibbling over the term ban. Desperate is a sudden Obama-like truce with the E.U. on trade. Desperate is the attempt by some House Republicans to impeach Rod Rosenstein, a move that has not even been cheered by the far-right media, and that is swiftly deflating. Desperate is doubling down on the “witch-hunt hoax,” while the chief money guy for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, gets a subpoena, and Michael Cohen’s lawyer says of his client, who knows far too much, “He has hit the reset button; he’s made a turn — to be on his own, speaking the truth.” More desperate still is Rudy Giuliani saying of Michael Cohen last night, after Cohen told CNN that Trump did indeed know in advance of the meeting in Trump Tower with an agent of the Russian government: “He’s been lying all week; he’s been lying for years.”

No, this is not an unraveling. But the con is definitely fraying badly. And it is not going to get easier to keep patching it up as time goes steadily by.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/andrew-sullivan-portrait-of-the-president-as-a-con-man.html

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Floridatexan wrote:
by Andrew Sullivan

The leaked tape recording of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump discussing how to handle the payoff

So, where's the crime?

Payoffs for non-disclosure disagreements are neither illegal nor uncommon among the rich and famous. The Clintons, even, have done it.

Much ado about nothing.

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Cohen is going to be disbarred and sued into oblivion if he leaked that tape.

Even the raid on him was outrageous. Is this how Hillary et al were handled? Obviously not. Trump is investigated w subpoenas, raids, and indictment of underlings... Hillary got immunities, softball interviews, and a corrupt pass. That this can't be observed objectively by leftists is the sure sign of conditioning.

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PkrBum wrote:Cohen is going to be disbarred and sued into oblivion if he leaked that tape.

Even the raid on him was outrageous. Is this how Hillary et al were handled? Obviously not. Trump is investigated w subpoenas, raids, and indictment of underlings... Hillary got immunities, softball interviews, and a corrupt pass. That this can't be observed objectively by leftists is the sure sign of conditioning.

The President will get around to cleaning up the DOJ and our intelligence agencies.  Just give him a little time.

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-"Ow. Vladamir, your ring hurts."
-"Is my wristwatch, Donald. Tell them again the "no collusions."

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PkrBum wrote:Cohen is going to be disbarred and sued into oblivion if he leaked that tape.


Even the raid on him was outrageous. Is this how Hillary et al were handled? Obviously not. Trump is investigated w subpoenas, raids, and indictment of underlings... Hillary got immunities, softball interviews, and a corrupt pass. That this can't be observed objectively by leftists is the sure sign of conditioning.

So what is the problem? Is it that the Republicans are just too stupid and can't get a charge on her? Apostle trump was sent from God can't he get some divine intervention to make Jeff sessions put some charges on her.

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Here's another article that takes a look at the President's mental state, which includes being a con. link to full article

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/07/27/inside-the-mind-of-donald-trump-219074

Why is President Donald Trump behaving in ways that seem ever more irrational, impulsive, self-destructive, dangerous and cruel? Many Americans have been shocked by Trump’s behavior, most recently by his taking the side of a known enemy in Vladimir Putin and Russia over his own intelligence community.

It isn’t possible to reliably diagnose any individual from a distance, but it is reasonable to flag clear, observable signs of impairment and to make inferences based on repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a significant difference between diagnosing a specific disorder and analyzing the meaning of the qualities Trump exhibits, such as paranoia, grandiosity, lack of empathy and pathological deceit. Trump’s behavior, we believe, is the predictable outgrowth of this psychological disposition, exacerbated by the stress of the intensifying criminal investigations he faces.

Our assessment is based on descriptions from those who have worked with him, his own voluminous responses to real situations in real time, and above all by our unique vantage points. One of us is a forensic psychiatrist who has treated more than 1,000 individuals with characteristics similar to Trump’s. The other spent 18 months shadowing, observing and interviewing Trump in order to co-write The Art of the Deal.

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othershoe1030 wrote:Here's another article that takes a look at the President's mental state, which includes being a con. link to full article


Oh, my!   He's doing (or trying to do) all the things he said he would during the campaign.  (which, he WON, btw) A politician trying to do what he told those who voted for him he would do. How craaaazzzzy is that?    Rolling Eyes

This from the same elitist, Trump haters who were so sure he couldn't get elected and have no idea who could possibly vote for him are going "inside the mind of Donald Trump".    They just can't understand know how any politician would do what he promised to do or care about the "unwashed" who voted for him.

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ConservaLady wrote:
othershoe1030 wrote:Here's another article that takes a look at the President's mental state, which includes being a con. link to full article


Oh, my!   He's doing (or trying to do) all the things he said he would during the campaign.  (which, he WON, btw)    A politician trying to do what he told those who voted for him he would do. How craaaazzzzy is that?    Rolling Eyes

This from the same elitist, Trump haters who were so sure he couldn't get elected and have no idea who could possibly vote for him are going "inside the mind of Donald Trump".    They just can't understand know how any politician would do what he promised to do or care about the "unwashed" who voted for him.

The article was not speaking to his campaign promises but to his general mental condition.

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I had hopes that obama would better the situation in the ME... tho I didn't vote for him. I'm still a bit shocked that trump is the potus... but my hopes were/are that he'd balance trade,  shrink military adventures, and end the fed. So objectively he's failing imo. He's not dumb... and he's not insane... get a clue. Results matter.

Objectively Obama failed in even the most strident leftist objectives. Which of you would bail out Goldman Sacs and screw over countless citizens? Why wasn't the home owner made whole? Who bombed more Muslim countries than bush2? Who was already known to have wiretapped the public? (nsa and even reporters)

Finally... how did minorities fair under Obama? Results matter.

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Cohen tapes indicate that the president had full knowledge of an in kind payment which was necessary to improve his election.  The conspiracy to commit a crime does not need the completion of the deed.  Inchoate crimes are just as good at getting you convicted as the actual completion of the crime.  What part do people not understand?

In regard to Hillary Clinton, she committed no crime.  Never even close to a criminal act.  However, mindless chants of lock her up are just that.....mindless.

This is almost going to be pop some popcorn and sit back and watch the drama. Trump is done.

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So you can "see" crimes indicated by trump... but nothing when gross negligence is turned to extreme carelessness. You really need to check your bias. The laws and rules that she took upon herself to circumvent are in place for a reason. That being to protect from hostile actors such as Russia. Doesn't that matter?

It certainly does when "lesser" citizens break them. Why you give her a pass can only be partisanship.

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Strong supporters of Trump do not make up a terribly large portion of the public but they are nearly blindly supportive. Even after many news organizations have documented several thousands of his lies over his term they still stick with him. In a poll released yesterday this is where they stand.



https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/trump-backers-stand-by-president-in-face-of-russia-criticism-cbs-poll/

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