Imagine an alternate recent history. Imagine if, on Friday morning, Donald Trump were asked about the times he pretended to be his own publicist when talking to reporters, and he replied, "You know, 'John Miller' and 'John Barron' were jokes that went awry. This was years ago and I was just kidding around."
Except the Republican candidate just can't help himself. Trump felt compelled to lie reflexively, denying what he's already admitted, and pretending his voice on a recording isn't really his.
The new challenge is coming up with a defense. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, for example, hasn't quite figured out exactly what he wants to say on the subject. CBS's John Dickerson asked Priebus
about this yesterday on "Face the Nation."
DICKERSON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask you about a report that Donald Trump in the 1990s served as his own spokesman under another name. What do you make of that? PRIEBUS: It's just -- it's a little bit odd, but I will just tell you that I think, of all the things facing this country right now, and after being through this primary for a year, I can assure you that that particular issue is not going to move the electorate.
Maybe, maybe not. Trump has no record of public service, and no real policy platform, so voters are left to evaluate the presumptive Republican nominee on some of his more personal qualities. The fact that he pretended to be his own publicist, making up an alter ego to brag to reporters about his professed greatness in third person, only to lie about it years later, might very well move some of the electorate.
TAPPER: In 1990, under oath, he testified that he did use the name John Barron. And in 1991, he told People magazine that he did use the name John Miller. So, this has already been admitted previously. I don't understand why now. MANAFORT: I don't -- I don't know those facts to be true or not. I just know that he said it's not him. I believe him. I don't even know the relevance of this, frankly, other than it's 25 years old.... Why the media is spending so much time going back 25 years old to talk about a People magazine interview -- article -- tape that may or may not be Trump, totally irrelevant.
That might be a decent response, were it not for a few glaring problems. First, Manafort believes the recording of Trump isn't a recording of Trump, which is a little silly. Second, again, if all we have to judge Trump on is the force of his personality, it's relevant for Americans to know he's the kind of guy who makes up alter egos in order to pretend to be his own publicist.
Third, he lied about this a few days ago, not 25 years ago. When presidential candidates get caught lying in the middle of a campaign season, it's "relevant."
And finally, as Tapper was quick to remind the candidate's aide, Donald Trump has spent a fair amount of time recently making the case that Bill Clinton's sex life in the 1990s is of great interest in 2016 -- and Bill Clinton isn't even a candidate. In other words, as Team Trump sees it, Americans should care about Bill Clinton's misdeeds from 25 years ago, but not Donald Trump's behavior from the same period.
The Republican candidate's allies have had a few days to come up with a compelling explanation for Trump lying about his bizarre alter ego. So far, they evidently haven't come up with much.