By any fair measure, Tuesday's impeachment hearings were brutal for Donald Trump and his allies. An NBC News analysis said plainly that it was "a bad day" for the president and Republicans, while Vox added, "Tuesday's impeachment hearings were a disaster for Republicans."
And yet, as the dust settled on Tuesday night, Trump declared on Twitter that it was "a great day for Republicans."
Yesterday's impeachment proceedings were, by most metrics, considerably worse. One of Trump's ambassadors confirmed a White House quid-pro-quo scheme, while directly implicating the president and top members of his team. Soon after, lawmakers heard from a top Pentagon official who shredded a key GOP talking point.
As the president's defense imploded, the day's events left Republicans "scrambling ... to contain the damage."
Trump, however, claimed exoneration. In fact, the president went to an event in Texas, where he boasted, "Not only did we win today -- it's over."
It's obvious that Trump was lying. It's equally obvious that the president's strained relationship with reality reinforces concerns about his stability. But watching Trump pretend that devastating news is actually good for him, I was reminded of something Billy Bush, to whom Trump bragged about sexual assault during the infamous Access Hollywood recording, wrote in a 2017 piece for the New York Times:
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."
As we've discussed, 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."
I'm not in a position to say with certainty whether the president believes his own nonsense, but I think it's worth acknowledging the importance of his guiding principles. Trump pretends he's winning when he's losing because he seems certain that many will simply go along, unaware of his indifference toward reality.
Up is down, bad is good, right is wrong -- what Trump appears to care about is what he can get people to believe, facts be damned.
Why "scramble to contain the damage" when it's so much easier to tell people there is no damage?