Context is everything

Democratic congressperson Elijah Cummings has been one of the most vocal critics of Donald Trump. So when, in an interview after meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Trump said to a reporter, “Elijah Cummings was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country” pretty much nobody believed him and put that down to yet another falsehood by this pathological liar.

Aaron Blake explains what happened:

The most logical explanation is the one offered by Cummings, a Congressional Black Caucus member from Maryland.

He explained in a statement to The Fix: “During my meeting with the president and on several occasions since then, I have said repeatedly that he could be a great president if … if … he takes steps to truly represent all Americans rather than continuing on the divisive and harmful path he is currently on.”

This is Trump’s fabulism in action. He hears a comment like that, lops off the all-important “if” part, and takes it as a compliment. And then he takes that perceived compliment and amplifies it by a factor of about four; “great president” becomes “one of the great presidents in the history of the country.”

The CBC had presented Trump with a 130-page policy memo titled We Have A Lot to Lose about all the challenges facing the black community and it is likely that Cummings spoke the way he did because he knows how Trump is susceptible to flattery and craves praise. And of course, Trump only hears what he wants to hear and what he wants to hear is unconditional praise.

Paul Simon in his great song The Boxer wrote, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”, except that Trump does not simply disregard the rest, he simply adds on to what he likes to make it even stronger.

Now that I’ve mentioned it, we might as well hear the song, performed live by Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park in 1981. Interestingly, they added a new verse to the original recorded version.


  1. grasshopper says

    A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

    Well said Mano. And there is further relevance to Trump in the song: the refrain is

    Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie

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