Trump's lies are a loyalty test for his followers

This week there have been some cracks in the façade. Trump’s attacks on Heidi Cruz unsettled even Ann Coulter. And his abortion remarks are still sending tremors through the granite foundations of Trump can-do-no-wrong-ism. Joe Scarborough and Breitbart’s John Nolte are talking about what a bad week he’s having and gravely warning Trump to get his act together.

As Jim Geraghty has been writing, the problem with such second thoughts is the assumption that something is amiss with Trump or his campaign. This is Trump. This is his campaign. The Trump we see before us is the same Trump. It’s a bit like when Barack Obama said that the Jeremiah Wright he saw denouncing America wasn’t the man he knew. That was nonsense. Obama knew exactly who Wright was, having attended his church for 20 years. It was only when Wright’s act moved to a larger national stage that all of a sudden he became inconvenient to Obama.

The analogy isn’t perfect, of course. But the basic point is the same. The Donald Trump of the last week is the exact same Donald Trump many of us saw a year ago or five years ago. He’s always been full of sh*t. He’s always been a total ignoramus when it comes to public policy, lacking the simple sense of patriotic duty to do his homework on the issues. He’s always been a nasty and boorish cad. He’s always pretended to be a conservative while working on liberal assumptions of what conservatives want to hear.

His “punish the women” comments were of a piece with his refusal to condemn the Klan on CNN. It’s not that he wants to punish women who have abortions — I’d bet he’s paid more abortion bills than he will ever sign — it’s that he thinks that’s what pro-lifers want to hear. It’s not that he’s a Klansman or that the pillowcases at Mara Lago come with eyeholes cut out in advance. It’s that Trump thinks lots of his fans like the Klan and he wants to pander to them. I have heard first-hand stories from people who’ve worked with Trump about how he disparages women’s appearance routinely. That’s who he is. If you’re attacking him because he retweeted a bad picture of Heidi, that’s not you being principled, it’s you getting cold feet.