“We have it totally under control,” Donald Trump said on January 22, regarding the coronavirus. “It’s going to be just fine,” he prophesied. It was not just fine, but that didn’t stop Trump from adding in February: “It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”
The question lingers: Why would he say this? Why would Trump downplay the threat of COVID-19, when (a) he knew better, and (b) Politics 101 says you should always under-promise and over-achieve? There are a myriad of plausible reasons, including fears of spooking the stock market and thus hurting his re-election chances. Or maybe he just thought he could fake it till he made it—that the problem would resolve itself, and he’d get lucky. Or maybe he’s just a pathological liar?
Yes, but… It would be wrong to dismiss Trump’s penchant for hype as merely a cunning attempt to gaslight us (though that is certainly one byproduct). A closer look suggests that Trump actually believes some of the things he wishcasts. As Ted Cruz once observed, “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies…Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it.” I would take it a step further: It’s not just that Trump believes the things he says, it’s that Trump believes that by believing them, he can actualize them.