How Do You Like Them Apples?

We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple!” — President Donald Trump, March 6, 2019, referring to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and President Donald Trump

A minor gaffe. Very minor, and hardly worth discussing, except for what it reveals about the president.

Most people would have laughed it off. “‘Tim Apple.’ silly me. A slip of the tongue. You know, I have a lot on my mind, and just confused “Apple” with “Cook.” Of course, I know the CEO of Apple is Tim Cook.” Most people would have said something like that.

But, not Donald Trump. Since he is never wrong, the president had to lie about what he said — twice, in conflicting lies. First, Trump told Republican donors attending a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida that he said, “Tim Cook Apple” really fast, and the “Cook” part was not heard. But, the president insisted, the “fake news” media only referred to “Tim Apple.” Then, a few days later, he tweeted, “At a recent round table meeting of business executives, & long after formally introducing Tim Cook of Apple, I quickly referred to Tim + Apple as Tim/Apple as an easy way to save time & words. The Fake News was disparagingly all over this, & it became yet another bad Trump story!”

So, a lie about a lie! The president lies so much, he cannot even keep his lies straight. First, he claimed he merely elided “Cook” in speaking quickly, then the story became, “an easy way to save time & words.” This from the man who once bragged, “I know words, I have the best words.” For the record, The Washington Post calculated that Trump saved 0.27 seconds by skipping “Cook.” I guess when you are president, every 0.27 seconds counts. He, no doubt, has spent more than 0.27 seconds lying about and explaining his mistake. So much for saving “time & words!”

Now, no one likes to be the butt of jokes, especially when the jokes are mocking. Even Cook got in on the fun, changing his name on Twitter to Tim plus the Apple icon. And, late night TV hosts wasted no time joking about Trump’s gaffe.  Seth Meyers pointed out that if Trump really wanted to save time, he should just not talk at all. And, Stephen Colbert referred to “Applegate.” Colbert added that people on their deathbed always say the same thing, “I have one regret that I wasted so much of my life on saying last names instead of occupations. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, little Johnny Paper Route.”

Barack Obama in 2008

As Trevor Noah, another TV  comedy host, pointed out, “This should have been just a fun slip of the tongue. We laugh, we move on.” Other presidents have said obviously foolish things. Barack Obama, when he was a candidate for president in 2008, once said, “It is wonderful to be back in Oregon. Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states. I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii!” Obama was obviously tired, and his gaffe elicited laughter at the time. The future president did not lie about it. Later that day, in chatting with reporters, he referred to the error.

Trump, however, can never admit mistakes. The president is never wrong. In his thinking, he is the smartest person, knows the most science, has the best words, and so on. It is a sign of his narcissism that he insists he never errs. Narcissists pretend they have high self-esteem, claiming they are great at everything, make no mistakes, and are better than anyone else. But, in fact, narcissists are deeply insecure. A self-confident person can admit a mistake, laugh about a gaffe, but not an insecure individual like Trump, who must lie to cover up his mistakes. And, while “Applegate” is a minor blip on the map of Trumpian crimes and sins, the fracas proves, once again, that the coverup is worse than the crime. We laughed about “Tim Apple”; we mock Trump for lying about it. 

Even the people at the Mar-a-Lago fundraiser were incredulous about Trump’s lie. These were Trump supporters, at his private club to donate money on his behalf. One of the attendees told Jonathan Swan of Axios, “I just thought, why would you lie about that? It doesn’t even matter!” Evidently, it did matter enough to Trump to lie about it. I am not sure whether Trump even gave the issue much thought. Rather, I suspect he lied reflexively about the gaffe. Yet, it strikes me as another example of how dismissive and smug Trump is about his supporters. He must think they are idiots, ready to believe anything he says. So he can err, tell one lie about it, then another entirely different lie, and believe no one cares. Maybe, in Trump world, they do not.

This president is an inveterate liar. The Washington Post claims, that as of February 17, 2019, the president told 8,718 lies since his inauguration. In his first year in office, Trump averaged just under six lies a day. In his second year, the average hit 16.5 lies a day, almost triple the pace. The rate has spiked recently. This is breathtaking, but so many lies eventually inures the public to the lying. What is two more lies, especially over such a trivial matter? Besides, it is not as if Trump has not garbled names before. Last year, he referred to Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson as  “Marillyn Lockheed.”

The default position on such a compulsive liar is to assume he is lying. That assumption is unimportant when the matter is insignificant. It matters greatly on issues of public policy and international affairs. I am not so naive as to think Trump is the first president to tell a fib. But, I do think he is the first inveterate liar to sit in the Oval Office, the first president who we assume is telling a lie every time he opens his mouth.

Posted March 15, 2019

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