So, for instance, President Donald Trump might be able to believe that 3 million people voted fraudulently in this country while also believing that his win was historic in nature. Never mind that the studies he cites as evidence do not provide any evidence. (One study, by the Brennan Center for Justice, concluded
that the rate of voter fraud was minuscule --between 0.00004% and 0.0009%.)
Or that Hillary Clinton actually did win the popular vote by about that margin (even his own lawyer and now White House counsel Donald McGahn said after the election that, "All available evidence suggests the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.")
Donald Trump won the election with a majority in the Electoral College, but somehow seems intent on undermining himself. Case in point: He now wants a nationwide search for 3 million phantom voters. Your taxpayer dollars at work.
The slight bit of good news here is that no actual, current policy necessarily depends on this ridiculous assertion. This invented problem is internal to Donald Trump alone, and his inability to accept inconvenient portions of reality.
This is not new for the new President. A bit of history: When he starred in "The Apprentice," he was more ratings-obsessed than any TV news executive.
Jim Dowd, his recently deceased former PR rep for the show, described the gyrations executives went through as ratings started to drop-- and they had to tell Trump. "It was horrible, absolutely horrible," he told me last June. "He wanted me to continue to say it was the Number One show, which it was, at some point, maybe six seasons ago."
So maybe it would be easy to say this is just Trump being Trump, and he should get on with the business of governing. But that's exactly the problem: governing becomes impossible when the man at the helm sees nothing larger than himself. Truth and credibility count, a lot. He can tweet all he wants about crowd size at the inauguration because, really, no one cares except him.
But in challenging the machinery and the outcome of an election -- WHICH HE WON -- he's challenging the outcome in every political race up and down the line. So, in order to prove a point of vanity, he's undermining himself, the entire Congress -- in fact, the entire electoral system. Oh, and democracy, too.
It's no surprise that Republicans are trying to gingerly convince him to get past this. "...the election is behind us," offers Republican Sen. John Thune. And there's no chorus of Republicans defending him -- just the opposite. We all heard Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's plea for sanity. "This is not about voting anymore," he told CNN's Manu Raju. "It's about him. The more he does this, the more troubling it will be for his presidency."
President Trump has started to make good on some campaign promises with the machinery at his disposal -- executive orders. On immigration, on building a wall, on approving oil pipelines, to name a few. He met with labor leaders, which had more than a few Democrats worried about the progress he could make with that once-Democratic constituency. But every time he holds a well-planned photo op, he backs off of the governing and shifts into a knee-jerk campaign mode.
As a source close to the President told me, "He will figure out that campaign rhetoric is no longer interesting to anybody." Maybe, except for Trump himself.
It's hardly comforting that no one at the White House yet seems able to tell the new President that calling for an investigation into a fake problem is not a good idea. That may be because loyalty is key to Trump -- and disagreement may be seen as being disloyal, especially for those who have not been with him from Day One.
If the President thinks the system that elected him is corrupt, then he taints his own victory. And it's hard when Orwell's Doublethink requires a big leap of faith from the public: How can a President ask for trust when he trusts nothing himself? Including, it seems, the system that put him in the Oval Office.