Ever see an interview with Donald Trump dating about 25 years ago? It’s interesting. Not only is his voice different, but his lexicon, his speech inflection, his tone and phrasing, and even his body language are a far cry from the man today. It’s not just that age has changed him. There’s more to it.

Not only was he a liberal Democrat then and hung around the Clintons and other Democrat celebrities, but he spoke their political language. Now granted, he was doing business in many major cities including NYC and being an Ivy League, UPenn, Democrat was good for business. But when Trump, being a savvy entrepreneur and marketer, decided to make politics his business everything about his image seemed to change and change quickly.

Which leads us to the question, why would a silver spoon Ivy League Democrat change spots well into his 60s and emerge a populist Republican? Because he saw the political market and acted accordingly. Ergo, is his whole man of the people vibe a charade, a wave he rode into the White House because he saw it as an effective way of gaining personal power? Is his image merely shtick, an act? Not real, but completely a successful effort to channel the biases, prejudices, and opinions of his supporters and throw their noxious views right back at them? I think it’s very possible this is the case.

He’s pulling the same number George Wallace did in his presidential campaign of 1968, per the most insidiously effective political billboard of all time. It simply said, next to a picture of a combative looking Wallace, “He says what you think.”

Trump wouldn’t be the first to do this. Think of it as a game face. The move is a traditional gambit of leaders. In his brilliant book The Mask of Command, Sir John Keegan details how successful leaders like Wellington, Eisenhower, and Patton had a public image at great variance with their private views and demeanor. It recalls the scene in the film Patton when, after violently screaming at his staff during a battle to “Come back with your shields or upon them!!” an aide tells him, “Sometimes general, the men don’t know when you’re acting.” Patton responds, “It’s only important that I know.”

The most glaring American political example of that effect was in the image makeover of Bobby Kennedy. Before his brother’s administration, Kennedy had been know for 15 years in DC as a vicious hatchet man and reactionary. He had worked for Joe McCarthy. His rabid tough guy reputation was known to all. He absolutely loathed organized labor. But he and his brother were, like Trump, canny political marketers. They smelled the liberalism in the early 60s air. So they changed tack to a certain point.

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However, after the president’s death Bobby went whole hog. The one time McCarthy aide marketed himself as St. Francis of Assisi. On Vietnam, civil rights, and a host of other left wing issues he came across as a caring, almost shy, politician. The public, media, and many fellow Dems bought it. But behind the scenes, as his personal life told, he was still the brutal enforcer. One face for work, the other, hidden, for life.

That’s what I think Trump has done. Not that he hasn’t internalized his own populist claptrap, he probably has convinced himself of it by now. But it at least started out as an act, a subterfuge, and has proceeded from there. As such, he is guilty of the greatest political sin: He believes his own press releases.