In a piece for The New York Times headed ‘Why Does Manafort Lie?’, an American philosopher referred to the remark of Aristotle that some people lie because they boast, and some people lie to flatter others. Manafort – the man with $15000 ostrich jacket – looks to be a prime example of both. The philosopher began his piece:
Maybe Paul Manafort simply has more chutzpah than the rest of us. Here’s a man convicted of financial fraud, facing further criminal prosecution for the lies he’s accused of telling, who makes a deal to protect himself and proceeds, according to a memo sent to a federal judge on Friday, to lie to the prosecutors. Accused of lying, he offers as evidence in his defence … what appear to be more lies. There are no good reasons to believe him, and yet he seems to brashly lie nevertheless.
Another liar, Cohen, looks like a beaten man – not repentant, but beaten. Manafort looks determined to remain pleased with himself. There is every chance that his lying is so compulsive – so much part of his everyday life – that he no longer knows or cares if he is lying. By contrast, Cohen looks like a common garden crook who had the misfortune to get caught. Cohen does not look remorseful either – he just looks bloody guilty.
Donald Trump is a compulsive liar who does not follow either pattern. But if you had to choose, you would say he is far closer to Manafort than Cohen. Among other things, Trump is incapable of anything like remorse, much less apologising. The only time I have ever seen Trump look like he might be conscious of the fact that he was lying was when he was asked if he accepted the explanation of the Saudis for the murder of Kashoggi. He said that he was, but this was too preposterous even for Trump, and his response lacked all conviction. Both have since conformed to type. The Saudis have given about five contradictory explanations – about as many as Trump gave for sacking Comey – and Trump has confessed that the dollar trumps decency.
There are two reasons why people commonly lie. One is that they want to improve on the truth. These are the boasters. They quickly get known. You choose your own factor for their golf handicap or their income. They just can’t help themselves.
Another reason for lying is that the truth might hurt. Did you buy that second property so that the children could learn about life on the farm, or in order to profit from its subdivision? If you have lied about that, you must hope that your bank manager’s diary notes do not show a more mercenary mindset.
There is another occasion for lying – what is called, dangerously, a white lie. Sometimes we might have to choose between doing something wrong and causing someone pain. ‘Well, Son, are you looking forward to meeting my second husband – indeed, your new father – again at Christmas?’ Well, if it’s a choice between hurting your mum, and putting a mild blot on your escutcheon of honour, most of us would stay with mum – because we prefer real life to abstract value or theory. Goodness, just look at how all hell broke loose when Cordelia could not bring herself to butter up to her cranky old dad, King Lear. But, in discussing the mendacity of Donald Trump, there is no such out on those lines.
In short, Trump lies because he can. People who get more power than they can decently handle commonly feel the need to stretch that power beyond its limits. That is Donald Trump all over, the spoiled child who never grew up or got beyond breaking his best toys. He has no friends. He is very dangerous to be near. You could never turn your back on him. And when the end comes, it will be sudden and final. And on one charge alone, he would looking at a minimum of three years in a late bid by the nation to introduce him to the concept of humanity.