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Donald Trump and the 'just tell them' approach to the truth

"People will just believe you," Donald Trump reportedly said about his public deceptions. You just tell them and they believe you."
Image: FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn looking at U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn looks at U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as he talks with the media at Mar-a-Lago estate where Trump...

Donald Trump boasted two weeks ago that that the more Americans learn about the Republican tax plan, "the more popular it becomes." Even at the time, that was wrong to the point of delusion.

And yet, there was the president this morning, describing the regressive GOP package as "very popular."

We already know how ridiculous this is. It's not a subjective question: every  recent  independent  survey has pointed in the exact same direction. The latest report on the USA Today/Suffolk University poll noted that the GOP tax plan has the lowest level of public support of "any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades."

All of which leads to the obvious question of why in the world the president would lie so brazenly. The usual Republican line is to acknowledge that the polling exists, but to deny its relevance. Trump, however, prefers an up-is-down alternate reality in which woefully unpopular ideas actually enjoy broad public support.

Does the president believe the nonsense or is he trying to deceive the public? Billy Bush, to whom Trump bragged about sexual assault during the infamous "Access Hollywood" recording, recently wrote a piece for the New York Times, which included an interesting anecdote.

In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency. The man who once told me -- ironically, in another off-camera conversation -- after I called him out for inflating his ratings: "People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you," was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country.

"People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you."

It's like "Field of Dreams" for propagandists incapable of shame. Instead of "if you build it, they will come," we're effectively witnessing "if you say it, people will accept it."

Trump wants the Republican tax plan to be popular, so he declares it "very popular." Does he know that the plan is unpopular? I suspect he simply doesn't care.

As has been clear for quite some time, what matters to Donald J. Trump isn't what's true; it's what he can get people to believe.