The Great Pretender
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“Oh, yes I’m the great pretender
“Yes, pretending that I’m doing well
“Yes, my need is such I pretend too much
“I’m lonely but no one can tell.”
— The Platters, “The Great Pretender,” November, 1955
It was a monumental bluff, as huge as Mount Rushmore, seemingly impervious to destruction, where he imagined himself to be carved with the greats.
“In the face of lies meant to divide us, demoralize us, and diminish us, we will show that the story of America unites us, inspires us, includes us all, and makes everyone free.” Donald J. Trump, as president, intoned those lofty, insincere words standing before that chiseled mountain with his wife July 4, 2020.
Why Fake? That same month, four months before an election he was to trample as “rigged,” Trump and his allies concocted a plan to declare victory even if he lost. So testified Trump’s onetime campaign manager, Brad Parscale, before the Jan. 6, 2021 House committee.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., quoted Parscale’s testimony at Thursday’s probable final hearing of the panel investigating Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection. She said, “President Trump planned, as early as July , that he would say he won the election even if he lost.”
“This big lie, President Trump’s efforts to convince Americans that he had won the 2020 election, began before the election results came in,” Lofgren said. “It was intentional, it was premeditated, it was not based on election results or any evidence of actual fraud affecting the results or any actual problems with voting machines.”
Trump’s senior advisers told him after more than 60 federal and state courts ruled against his claims of fraud that he should acknowledge he lost the election. But he just couldn’t bring himself to do the right thing. That’s not rare for him.
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told the committee in a recorded interview, “He said something to the effect of: ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing.’”
And there you have it: the truth spoken before the country behind the Big Lie, told by a member of Congress and a former White House staffer. What more proof is needed that Trump lied about his loss to help engineer a phony comeback?
This was — and still is — his contribution to the free society in which this masquerading president was born — to destroy it for his own purpose to retain power. This will be his legitimate legacy, forever.
“Oh, yes I’m the great pretender
“Adrift in a world of my own
“My need to be all I am not
“You’ve seen and you’ve left me to dream all alone.”
This lie that he beat Joe Biden for the presidency, to which tens of millions of people danced, was more than a fraudulent act of pretense.
And he’s still at it. There’s no remorse for duping his fans, no lessons learned, no acknowledgement that he lied, no apology for what perhaps is the biggest, unscrupulous lie ever told to and repeated to the American people by a national politician.
Quite the opposite of repentance, in capital letters, no less: “The presidential election of 2020 was rigged and stolen!” Trump opened in a scathing, rambling 14-page letter reacting Friday to the committee’s hearings.
“You have not gone after the people that created the fraud, but rather great American patriots who questioned it, as is their constitutional right,” he wrote. “These people have had their lives ruined as your committee sits back and basks in the glow.”
Wrong. The committee has gone after those who concocted the fraud and spread the lies: Trump and his allies.
He not only crossed the 74 million people who voted for him in 2020. By his phony act, he crippled democracy and destroyed the integrity of one of the country’s two major political parties and shamed all of its members who supported his repeated lies.
He created a cult with himself “basking in the glow” of its center, a tool of the dictators of former Soviet bloc countries.
His Big Hoax created a tumultuous atmosphere in which some of the most violent Americans and thousands of others staged a serious attempt at overthrowing the government by interrupting the final counting of ballots during the storming of the hallowed Capitol in which five people died and 140 police were injured in the “Stop the Steal” rioting.
Yet the real steal was in the fiery words of a sitting, twice-impeached president who invited to Washington what became a mob that Trump whipped up to stop the certification of a legitimate president-elect and egged on to hurt his own vice president, Mike Pence.
That mob had set up a gallows on Capitol grounds, complete with knotted rope and noose, that apparently was intended for Pence, whom Trump cursed for refusing to decertify Biden’s victory.
“All of this demonstrates President Trump’s personal and substantial role in the plot to overturn the election,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) a committee member. “He was intimately involved. He was the central player.”
“Too real is this feeling of make-believe
“Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal.”
“President Trump knew the truth,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans on the panel. “He heard what all his experts and senior staff were telling him. He knew he had lost the election, but he made the deliberate choice to ignore the courts, to ignore the Justice Department, to ignore his campaign leadership, to ignore senior advisers, and to pursue a completely unlawful effort to overturn the election.”
“His intent was plain: ignore the rule of law and stay in power,” he wound up.
The nine-member committee voted unanimously to subpoena Trump. He may ignore it or appear and again invoke the Fifth Amendment. He did that about 450 times in taking a deposition in a business-related civil suit in New York in August.
“We are obligated to seek answers from the man who set this all in motion,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the other Republican on the panel and its vice chair, in asking for a vote on the subpoena. “And every American is entitled to those answers.”
The big question, of course, is what reaction, if any, these hearings and ironclad proof of Trump’s actions through testimony under oath will have on his tens of millions of supporters. Many could turn a blind eye, as they have for years. Trump has teased he will run again in 2024.
Can you believe anything he says, especially after these hearings unveiled a jarring truth that nevertheless has been suspected by millions of “Never Trump” Americans.
“Yes, I’m the great pretender
“Yes, just laughing and gay like a clown
“Yes, I seem to be oh, yes what I’m not you see
“And I’m wearing my heart like a crown
“Oh, yes, I’m pretending and praying that you’re still around.”
Pretending is a child’s game and cannot last forever. (See “Puff the Magic Dragon,” Peter, Paul and Mary, 1964.) Time to indict, Mr. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
As for Trump and Mount Rushmore, he reportedly tweeted Aug. 10, 2020 that it would be a “good idea” for his face to be carved on the big rock alongside such presidential luminaries as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Problem: There’s no more space. Fortunately.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East, the Pentagon and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.