Just How Removed From Reality Is Donald Trump?

Ting Shen/Xinhua via ZUMA

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Yesterday Donald Trump tweeted this:


This is, obviously, wrong. The modernization of our nuclear arsenal has been in progress for years, and it will continue for many more. The only thing Trump has done is to issue an executive order that states: “The Secretary shall initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.” Needless to say, “initiating a review” does nothing to renovate or modernize anything. That requires actual plans and actual money.

That, however, is not the point of this post. The point is this: was Trump lying? I’m prompted to ask this by a headline in the LA Times today:

Trump makes false claims about U.S. nuclear arsenal

The article itself makes it clear just how wrong Trump is. But was it just a “false claim,” or was it a lie? The difference, obviously, is state of mind: Did Trump know he was saying something false? Let’s consider the possibilities:

  • Trump knew it was false, but he said it anyway. He lied.
  • Trump literally doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He continues to consider his lies to be “truthful hyperbole,” the term he applied to generalized puffery during his real estate career.
  • Trump is delusional. He thinks that ordering a review magically makes things happen.
  • Trump is surrounded by sycophants who have assured him that the US nuclear arsenal is stronger than it was six months ago. He believes them.
  • Trump is losing control of his faculties. He vaguely remembers some kind of nuclear order and figures it must mean that our nukes have gotten better.

I think this mostly covers the bases. There’s literally nothing that’s actually happened to our nuclear arsenal since January that he could have misunderstood as modernization. So that’s not an option. He was either lying or else the explanation is something worse.

Personally, I think it’s some of both. He was lying, but he’s also starting to lose control of his faculties. Not a lot, maybe, but enough to make him kinda sorta believe his own lies. This is not good. This is something to take seriously.

He’s either lying or else his mind is declining. We’d best figure out soon which it is is.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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