Do you remember “50 First Dates”? It was a Drew Barrymore movie about a woman with short-term amnesia who wakes up every morning with no memory whatsoever of the day that went before.
I am thinking it’s the perfect Donald Trump analogy.
In the past, I’ve always presumed that when Trump completely changed his position on health care or the Mexican wall or nuclear weapons in Japan, it was due to craven political opportunism. But it’s much more calming to work under the assumption that he doesn’t remember anything that happened before this morning.
Think about it next time you hear him bragging about his big margin of victory. “We won in a landslide. That was a landslide,” he told a crowd in Ohio on Thursday. It was perhaps the first time in history that a candidate used those terms after receiving 2.5 million votes fewer than his competitor.
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It’s stupendously irritating, unless you work under the assumption that he no longer recalls the real story.
This week, Trump was on a victory lap in Indiana, where United Technologies just agreed to keep about 1,000 jobs at a Carrier gas-furnace factory that had been slated to be moved to Mexico. Trump had repeatedly vowed to save the Carrier jobs during the campaign, and even though there is no reason to believe this will have any effect whatsoever on other jobs in other factories, it seemed like a nice symbolic win.
But during his remarks to his ebullient fans, Trump cheerfully explained that he had no memory whatsoever of having promised to protect the Carrier workers. Until he heard it on TV.
Trump told the folks in Indiana that he had been watching the news one night last week and saw a feature in which a Carrier worker said he was not worried about the company’s plans to move his job to Mexico because Donald Trump had promised to save it.
“I said, ‘I wonder if he’s being sarcastic, because this ship has sailed.’”
But no, Trump said he then watched a clip of Donald Trump the candidate, “and he made the statement that Carrier’s not going anywhere, they’re not leaving.”
What a surprise for Donald Trump! Who then felt he needed to deliver, and then made a call to Greg Hayes, the head of UTC.
Nobody believes Trump’s story about having won the day by promising Hayes that in his administration, businesses would get so many breaks on taxes and regulation, they’d have no incentive to move to a country where workers cost about $3 an hour.
But the bottom line is that our next president is entirely a creature of the moment. So much so that he had no problem wiping one of his most publicized campaign promises out of his mind the second he made it.
Once he heard it on TV, Trump said he did recall vowing to save the Carrier jobs, “but that was a euphemism.”
It was not a euphemism, which is an effort to substitute a milder term for something harsh or displeasing. Trump seemed to have another word in mind. Perhaps “lie.” But it’s easier for me to deal with the idea that it slipped his mind.
He is just like Leonard, the hero of the movie “Memento,” who had to tattoo the clues to a murder on his arm because he couldn’t remember anything. Although Leonard made way more effort.
I am not the only person trying to come up with an overarching explanation for Trump’s failure to keep a constant position, but I think I’ve got the most flattering theory.
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told a postelection panel this week that the media’s negative response to his candidate’s constantly switching stories was due to an insistence on taking him “so literally.”
American voters, Lewandowski continued, understood “that sometimes, when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar, you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”
Some of you may find it disturbing that one of Trump’s chief apologists was basically saying that he talks policy like a drunk at happy hour. Some of you may hear Trump constantly contradicting today what he said yesterday and decide he’s an idiot.
From now on I’m going to try to think of him as a little bit like my dog, Frieda. Frieda is extremely intelligent, but her memory is only good for about 90 seconds.
When you listen to Trump’s inaugural address, or his first State of the Union, keep reminding yourself that he’s reserving the right to forget everything he’s said as soon as he says it. No way we can believe him long term. Unless he tattoos it on his arm.