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Carter Wrenn: Rules don’t apply to Trump

By Carter Wrenn

Talking About Politics

Day in and day out for years I sat in meetings watching and listening to men who lived and breathed politics and, almost to a man every one looked on telling a lie (or, more precisely, being caught telling a lie) as a risk they dreaded.

A lie was like a cancer. It could grow and metastasize.

So they deceived carefully, using half-truths and omissions, and when they decided they had to risk an outright lie they trod even more cautiously, meticulously laying plans to avoid being caught and leaving themselves lines of retreat if their plans failed.

Watching Donald Trump is like watching a different world. He’s like no other politician. The old rules don’t apply. Take his tweet: Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

Trump woke up that morning, heard or read a story, and his instinct said, That’s true.

His fabrication didn’t spring from a need to deceive, instead it seemed to be the child of a rare kind of vanity (which, I guess, a psychiatrist would call narcissism) that made him certain of his own infallibility. He didn’t need facts. Facts were fallible. But his instinct was infallible.

His deception wasn’t calculated. It wasn’t even meant to deceive. In a way, it was meant as a revelation — Trump was sharing a voila moment. So sure he was right, he tweeted: Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

Later when Time Magazine asked him whether his tweet was true Trump said: The country believes me. Hey, I went to Kentucky two nights ago. We had 25,000 people.

And when the reporter, growing bolder, asked more pointed questions, Trump told him, Look, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not.

In Trump’s eyes the proof he was right was his victory over Hillary. Victory proved his infallibility. And infallibility proved he was right.

Trump’s unusual in one more way: In the past a president caught telling a lie had a fight on his hands — a trial by ordeal — to survive. But not Trump. What’s saved him each time hasn’t been his strength or courage — it’s been his opponent’s vices. You heard it said over and over last year, I’m not crazy about Trump but Hillary’s worse.

So while Trump believes Trump’s infallible, he’s actually living off his opponents’ vices. And all it will take is an opponent stepping forward who doesn’t share those vices for the unraveling — that will lead to Trump’s trial by ordeal — to begin.

Carter Wrenn was a campaign aide to former Republican U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and executive director of the National Congressional Club, a conservative Republican political action committee.

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