TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2020
Stelter says he might: Last Thursday night—actually, it was early Friday morning—we watched the videotape of Donald J. Trump's latest press event.
Thanks to the invaluable Rev, you can watch the full videotape and read the full transcript. The commander in chief gone on and on for some 43 minutes—insisting, during the bulk of that time, that he'd actually won the election on November 3.
We're going to make a small confession here. As we watched him rant and rail, a question kept worming its way into our mind:
Does Trump believe his crazy claims? Frankly, it seemed that he did!
Trump ranted and railed, and howled at the moon, and then he ranted some more. Despite the craziness of his claims, it almost seemed that he believed the crazy things he said.
On Sunday morning, the commander spent the better part of an hour ranting and railing, in similar ways, on Maria Bartiromo's Fox Business Network show. A few hours later, on CNN, Brian Stelter devoted the bulk of his weekly Reliable Sources program to the strange performance by Trump.
(Also, to the pathetic performance by Bartiromo. Today, we'll focus on Trump.)
Stelter spent his opening, 14-minute segment with two guests, Oliver Darcy and Amanda Carpenter. During the bulk of the segment, the trio assailed Donald J. Trump for his "lies."
Then, a commercial break occurred. When Stelter returned from the break, he started by saying this:
STELTER (11/29/20): Welcome back to Reliable Sources. I'm Brian Stelter.
I remember a day early in the Trump years when there were all these debates about whether to say the president was lying. Remember that? Was he lying? Was he just fibbing?
I remember Jeff Greenfield saying, "Brian, there is something worse than a lie. There is something worse in a lie. There's a delusion.
"When you are lying, you know it. When you are delusional, you don't." He wanted to remind me there is something more dangerous than a liar—someone who is delusional.
What do you think is going on now? What do you see happening with the White House, with the Trump White House? Is it delusion? Is that what's happening?
Stelter had spent the bulk of his first fourteen minutes assailing Trump for his "lies." Now, he raised a possibility at which he'd only occasionally hinted during that opening segment:
Now, Stelter suggested the possibility that Trump hasn't been lying at all. He suggested a possibility he said was even worse:
He suggested the possibility that Trump believes the crazy things he's saying—that the commander in chief is "delusional."
Full disclosure! After directly raising that possibility, Stelter continued in the manner shown:
STELTER (continuing directly): Well, my next guest says that the president's behavior, the outgoing president's attacks against the election integrity are attacks on reality itself.
Jonathan Rauch wrote this back in 2018. He was early onto this. He called it "The Constitution of Knowledge." He is now turning it into a book, and he joins me now. He's a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributor for The Atlantic.
Jonathan, "delusion." I've always been afraid—not afraid.
I've always been sensitive about using that word, cautious about using that word in the Trump years, not wanting to know—not wanting to assume I know what's going on in the president's head.
What do you see? What do you see? Is "delusion" a fair word for these election lies?
Was "delusion" a fair word for the commander's "Lies?" Yes, that's what he said.
By now, Stelter was almost completely confused. And when Rauch began talking, it turned out that he wasn't much better.
In how many ways did Stelter's statements in that passage fail to make sense? Let us count the ways! But in the interest of maintaining our own sanity, let us do so some other day.
For now, we'll summarize our main point:
Stelter raised the possibility that Trump believes his crazy claims. Seeming to agree with Greenfield, he said that such a person isn't lying, or a liar.
He said a person like that is "delusional."
For today, let's stop right here. But please remember the basic point:
Stelter raised the possibility that Donald J. Trump believes his crazy claims. We've wondered about that possibility too.
We'll continue this rumination in the days which follow. It's a rumination about Donald J. Trump, but also about the remarkably limited intellectual skills of the upper-end mainstream press.