When Carl pulled his bedroom door closed behind us, when I heard the old metal latch click into place, I knew what would come next: the mounting of his defense.
“You think you’re doing her a favor,” he said, reaching out, laying his hand soft on my arm. “But you’re wrong, and you’re going to look ridiculous. I haven’t been sleeping, maybe she told you, so I’m exhausted, jet-lagged, getting over something, I don’t know what, but I’m not feeling like myself, know what I mean?”
Carl was my best friend’s husband. Handsome, charming, successful, a hard worker, a man’s man, family man, the life of the party. And a closet alcoholic. I’d come over that evening to tell his wife what had happened at her 50th birthday party the week before, but Carl was there to head me off. So I stood there, trapped in my best friend’s darkening bedroom, and let her husband call me a liar.
Living with Donald Trump as president is a lot like living with an alcoholic although he is known as a non-drinker. His behavior, however embarrassing or reprehensible, must never be questioned; everyone outside his very tight circle has an ulterior motive and cannot be trusted; if he has offended you, it is somehow your own fault.
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And most importantly, he alone tells the truth.
As media outlets investigating Russian meddling into the 2016 election closed in on the president’s eldest son’s emails, as well as a secret meeting of top Trump campaign officials, the president — who has not held an official press conference in five months — lashed out on Twitter: “Remember, when you hear the words ‘sources say’ from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist.”
At 3:30 a.m on Sunday, July 16, he kept at it: “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country! Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?”
His point: The media has an ulterior motive. They can’t be trusted. Believe me.
On his recent trip to Europe for the G20 Summit, the president took the opportunity to bash the American press on foreign soil — a first for a sitting president. “They have been fake news for a long time. They’ve been covering me in a very, very dishonest way,” Trump said, singling out CNN, then went on to say, “NBC is equally as bad.”
The president’s behavior is textbook. How dare they question him.
In the darkening bedroom with Carl, I stated the facts. At his wife’s party, he was already slurring his words when I arrived at 7 p.m. He didn’t so much hug me as fall on me, only to do the same an hour later as if he’d never seen me before.
He grabbed one friend by the face and begged unendingly to kiss her, cornering her again in the laundry room. He yanked me down on his lap, refused to let me up, and petted my hair like I was the dog.
And he remembered none of it.
But Carl, as he always did when confronted with embarrassing, unwelcome facts, mounted a loud, belligerent defense. “Did you see me with a drink, did you? No, because I rarely drink. When was the last time you saw me with a drink in my hand? Never, that’s when. Maybe you were the one who was drunk!”
At his one and only official press conference back in February, the president brushed off questions about his administration and used his time, not to tout his accomplishments or his plans for our future, but to attack the free press.
“The press has become so dishonest,” he said, “the press, honestly, is out of control. You can talk all you want about Russia, which was all fake news.” Believe me.
Five months have passed. Russia, it turns out, was never fake news. And yet the president continues to ask the American people: who are you going to believe, me or the fake media?
The night after my bedroom lecture from Carl, I told my friend about the party. She listened, and was sometimes horrified, but in the end she could not let herself believe a word of it.
Carl had already explained. He was just having a good time, and he really had not been feeling well, he was exhausted, plus you know how jet-lag can affect a person.
“Besides,” she said, “the one thing he has never done is lie to me.”
Like the president, he alone tells the truth. It’s textbook.