Donald Trump is like a character from "Alice in Wonderland." He has his own unusual look, his own surreal life and, most of all, his own curious logic. Disney could have cast him in the studio's new movie, "Alice Through the Looking Glass," if only he were not so busy rhetorically lopping off the heads of his opponents, the media and anyone else who crosses him.
In that way, Mr. Trump very much resembles the Queen of Hearts who screamed "Off with their heads!" at any slight provocation. Mr. Trump's press conference at Trump Tower in New York City last week was like that. When reporters asked perfectly normal questions about his curiously tardy contributions to various veterans' organizations and about the dubious business practices of the now defunct Trump University, he responded with insults and aggression. He called ABC's political correspondent "a sleazy guy." He called the press, in general, dishonest and said he finds "the political press to be unbelievably dishonest."
Mr. Trump is not the first political figure to make a habit of criticizing the media -- an odd thing, since his campaign has benefited greatly from constant media attention and dozens of lightweight, obsequious interviews -- but he is setting a new standard for redefining reality. When confronted with his own provocative statements, he will deny he ever said them. On Wednesday, for instance, he insisted he never said Japan should have nuclear weapons, even though the New York Times has recordings of him saying that very thing in an interview with the newspaper's editorial board.
When asked by reporters why he failed to give details about his money-raising for vets, he said he wanted to keep it all hush-hush. "I wanted to keep it private because I don't think it's anybody's business if I wanted to send (money) to the vets," Mr. Trump insisted. The man has a strange definition of "private," given that he kicked off the fundraising in a nationally televised event that was competing with a FOX News Republican candidates' debate that he was pointedly skipping.
And now, with the release of court records that detail the loathsome tactics his minions used to bilk suckers out of their money through his bogus "university," he makes up his own facts and deflects queries by claiming he is being wrongly disparaged by an antagonistic judge who appears suspiciously "Mexican." (The federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing the class action lawsuit brought by former Trump U students, was born in Indiana.)
Truth simply does not matter to Mr. Trump. He prefers fantasies that reinforce his preconceived notions or that help him in his ceaseless self-promotion. Four years ago, he invested his time and attention in the "birther" cause -- the crazy and subliminally racist accusation that America's first black president was born in Kenya, not Hawaii. At a pivotal point in this year's primary battle, he latched onto fictitious reports that Ted Cruz's Cuban father hung out with Lee Harvey Oswaldin the days before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Last week in California, he seized on the blatantly bizarre notion that the years-long drought that has cut deeply into the state's water supply is a hoax.
In March, Politico magazine scrutinized every Trump statement and speech over one week of the campaign and found a steady stream of mischaracterizations, exaggerations and clear falsehoods -- little lies that came at the rate of one every five minutes. For anyone who has listened with a sharp ear as Mr. Trump talks, the only surprise in the Politico analysis is that the fibs did not clock in with even more frequency.
It is not hard to recognize Trumpian logic in this exchange between Humpty Dumpty and Alice in "Through the Looking Glass":
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."
Mastering the opposition, mastering the media, mastering anyone who has the temerity to question or criticize him -- that is all that matters to Mr. Trump. In last week's press conference, an alarmed reporter asked Mr. Trump if his new level of contentiousness was a passing thing or "is this what it's going to be like if you are president?"
"Yes, it is," said Mr. Trump.
Finally, a simple, honest answer.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go tolatimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.