It is often said, and with ample reason, that much of what Donald Trump says isn’t worth a jot. As Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter, noted last year, “lying is second nature to him.” When he isn’t telling outright whoppers, he exaggerates things outrageously, and his utterances often bear little resemblance from one day to the next. On Tuesday, he said that Republicans should let Obamacare crash and burn. On Wednesday, he said that he wanted to see it replaced.
But, whereas Trump’s statements often fail to withstand inspection when examined individually, analyzing a group of them together can sometimes provide valuable insights into his mind-set, which, at this time, appears to be even more addled than usual. The interview that Trump gave on Wednesday to three reporters from the Times offers us that opportunity.
A partial transcript of the interview, which the Times posted online, shows him eager to impress his interlocutors despite the fact that they work for a publication he has many times described as “failing” and “fake news.” He boasted about the response he received to the speech he recently gave in Poland, and how much the French President, Emmanuel Macron, likes him. (“He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.”)
At one point, Trump even played the role of amateur historian, pointing out how the armies of Napoleon and Hitler came to grief in the Russian winter, and adding that Napoleon “didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.”
That claim might be dubbed “fake history,” but it wouldn’t do to dwell on it because the interview also covered many more consequential subjects, including the Russia investigation and the now infamous meeting that his son, Donald Trump, Jr., arranged at Trump Tower last June. The overwhelming impression from the transcript is of a President who considers himself above the law, and who believes himself to be, through no fault of his own, besieged by internal and external enemies, particularly in the Justice Department and the F.B.I. As he put it at one point, “I have headaches, that’s what I have, I have headaches.”