It was just a few weeks ago when Donald Trump's Defense Department announced that it's diverting $3.8 billion from military operations to cover construction costs for border barriers -- or as the White House likes to call it, the president's "wall." It was a striking reminder of the president's willingness to raid the Pentagon budget, indifferent to worthwhile priorities that have suddenly been stripped of funding, including schools and daycare facilities for the children of American troops.
But Trump doesn't quite see it that way. Consider, for example, what the president said over the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):
"[T]hey like to say, 'All right, so he's building the wall, but Mexico is not paying for it.' Yes, they are, actually. You know what I mean, right? They are paying for it. They're paying for it.... They're paying for it. And they're okay with it because they understand that's fair. But, no, Mexico is paying for it."
None of this was true. What's more, Trump didn't try to explain why he believes Mexico is both "paying for" a wall and "okay with it"; he simply asserted it, as if the line between fact and fiction did not exist.
Last night, at a campaign rally in North Carolina, he did it again.
"We're building the wall, we're building the wall, we're building the wall, we're building the wall. Mexico's paying for the wall, by the way."
By way of an explanation, the president added, "You'll see, you'll see. You'll understand. Some of you understand because I told a few people last week and it got leaked to the fake news media."
None of this is tethered to reality at all. Mexico isn't paying for a wall; Mexican officials are not "okay with" payments that don't exist; and there was no secret plan that "got leaked" to news organizations. (He might have been referring to possible changes regarding remittances, but if so, he was talking about the implementation of a policy that does not currently exist in reality.)
There have been points in recent years in which the president has tried to go through the motions, asserting that he'd eventually figure out a way to get Mexico to give the United States billions of dollars for border barriers. Now, however, Trump isn't bothering with pretenses; he's simply peddling a foolish lie and telling people to believe it.