The porn president: It takes a Wolff to know a wolf

Trump appreciates the power of fantasy. Con artists sell their too-good-to-be-true stories with such great ease because people want to believe them. The eagnerness to believe is what make’s a con artist’s mark a mark — the mark always participates in his own deception. Bernie Madoff ripped off a lot of well-off and financially sophisticated people and institutions who really should have known better than to trust his unwavering above-market returns, but they wanted to believe. Every basically literate person who goes to Las Vegas knows what the odds are, that past results are no guarantee of future returns, and that the stripper isn’t really in her last year of nursing school and doesn’t really think you’re a really interesting guy.

Pornography works in precisely the same way. It is an invitation to insert yourself into the fantasy of your choosing. (The migration of pornography to the Internet has made all sorts of data about our sexual fantasies readily available, and the results are not encouraging.) And that is the secret to Trump’s success both in marketing and in politics — which are, in the end, the same thing. With his phony gilt Louis XV chairs, his casinos and beauty pageants, and his succession of prom-queen-jerky paramours, Trump has spent his career performing, and the role he has chosen is that of a poor man’s idea of a rich man. He went so far as to create an imaginary friend, John Barron, to lie to the New York press about his sex life. He claimed, falsely, to have been involved with Carla Bruni, a fantasy the former first lady of France publicly ridiculed. He boasts in his memoirs about his involvement with “top women,” writing: “Oftentimes, when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world, I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, ‘Can you believe what I am getting?’”

Who is “you” in that sentence? Marks. The people to whom he wants to sell ugly polyester ties and third-rate condos, with his name on the building in big gold letters.