President Trump thinks that Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, is a secret plot to disrupt the hearings of Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.
“If you look at it, it was put out to interfere, in my opinion, at this time with the Kavanaugh hearings, which I don’t think it’s done. Because so many people have come out against it, so many people who have been written about have said ‘I never said that,’” the president said in a Wednesday afternoon press availability.
This is untrue. The date of publication for the Woodward book was announced before the Kavanaugh hearings were scheduled. In order to schedule around Kavanaugh, the book’s publishers would have needed a time machine.
But the president of the United States making stuff up is banal at this point. What’s more interesting here is the reasoning.
Trump is alleging that Bob Woodward — one of America’s most storied reporters, one of the two men who broke Watergate — is conspiring with one of America’s leading publishing houses, Simon and Schuster, to hurt him. Their plan is to release a book full of false quotes at the same time as the hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, which would interfere with the hearings in some unspecified way. The plan is only failing because Trump’s own cabinet has denied quotes in which they call Trump “an idiot” and a “fifth-grader,” among other insults.
Pres. Trump claims Bob Woodward book was "put out to interfere, in my opinion, at this time to interfere with the Kavanaugh hearings, which I don't think it's done." https://t.co/SPeCAoYgF1 pic.twitter.com/y5cruvjabZ— ABC News (@ABC) September 5, 2018
This is one of the most outlandish conspiracy theories I’ve ever heard, and I watch Alex Jones videos for my job. It only makes sense if you think that the world always and necessarily must revolve around you — which it so happens that Trump does.
The president’s narcissism is well-known, but it’s underrated as a source of his political views. Trump is generally receptive to conspiracy theories, like birtherism, but a lot of his favorite ones, like the false claim that Obama was wiretapping Trump Tower during the campaign, revolve around him. They seem to be borne out of Trump’s sense that everyone is always thinking about him and everyone is always out to get him.
This worldview, combined with the president’s well-documented disinterest in the truth, leads him to just make up stories that explain away his political failures. When something bad happens, it’s never his fault, but the product of nefarious forces who hate Donald Trump — like the “13 angry Democrats” allegedly masterminding the “witch hunt” Russia investigation, or the “fake news” reporters who are constantly making up anonymous sources to say bad things about him.
Trump’s ideology, a conspiratorial right-wing populism that has proven immensely popular with a large segment of Republican voters, isn’t merely a product of his nativism or instinctive authoritarianism. It’s also a product of his narcissism.