The Chutzpah of Paul Manafort and the Trump Campaign

Donald Trump acts as if he isn’t a regular politician. One sense in which that is true: His political organization is even more mendacious than the lying norm.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Anyone who watches the video juxtaposing Melania Trump’s speech at this year’s Republican National Convention with Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention can spot the obvious plagiarism:

It is tempting to describe it as “undeniable.” But the political profession is rife with people who are willing to deny what is obviously so—to brazenly lie to the American public. One such professional is Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort. “To think that she would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night, is just really absurd,” he told CNN.

There is no way of knowing if Melania Trump herself, or a speechwriter, was the guilty party. But of this we can be certain: Whoever included the plagiarized passage in the speech knew how scrutinized the speech would be, and yet, carelessly or deliberately, included it anyway. The takeaway is that the Trump campaign is totally capable of absurd behavior.

For another example of such transparent absurdity, here’s more from Paul Manafort:

There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family. To think that she'd be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy.

To think Michelle Obama’s words were cribbed is, in fact, totally rational. And although the words in question were indisputably common ones, the problem is that in addition to being common, they were also arranged into the exact same order, sentence upon sentence, as a previous speech. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” are common words and values. If I claimed original authorship you’d scoff!

Then there’s Chris Christie:

“I just don't see it,” Christie told CNN's Jamie Gangel in an interview Tuesday, adding later, “If we're talking about 7 percent of a speech, that was really, universally considered to be a good performance by Melania. I know her. There's no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama's speech.”

Know this, reader: Chris Christie totally sees it.

Since lying is so common in politics, Trump supporters who can’t quite bring themselves to lie outright in order to shill will point out that Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and most other prominent politicians on the other side have told blatant lies in the past. And Trump critics will retort, also correctly, that the Trump campaign takes lying to a new level due to the combination of its frequency and brazenness.

At bare minimum, the takeaway is that a central part of Trump’s pitch to voters, that he is unlike all the other crooks and liars who seek higher office, is yet another absurdity. If Trump is any different than the typical politician on the subject of blatantly lying to Americans and treating them like credulous fools, it is only because he departs from the norm in the wrong direction. His campaign is mendacious to the core.