The Numbers Game of Donald Trump

For 18 months, Donald J. Trump the candidate described polling leads he did not always maintain and vote tallies he did not always receive — and, especially, crowd sizes he did not always have.


After his inauguration on Friday, President Trump’s first appearances also involved talking about numbers: the collective IQs of his cabinet picks, how many military members voted for him and, again, the size of a crowd, this time the one that turned out to see him sworn in.

Mr. Trump said of his inauguration crowd: “It looked, honestly, like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.” In fact, the crowd was significantly smaller. A comparison of photographs from Friday to ones taken of Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration showed that the crowd on the National Mall for Mr. Trump was about a third the size of the crowd for Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Trump, who has branded himself as everything from a world-class developer to a reality-television star to, later, a plausible presidential candidate, has long deployed what he described in his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” as “truthful hyperbole,” and others might call lies.

It is “an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion,” he wrote. It was a way of faking it till he made it for a businessman who decided early that success was measured in large numbers. He said he was a “winner,” and metrics not his own were needles.

“The crowds, the ratings, the estimate of his wealth, the legitimacy of his presidential victory all are intrinsic to being synonymous with success,” said Sam Nunberg, a longtime aide to Mr. Trump who worked for him early in his campaign. “So the major issue is, how does he go forward with this new paradigm of being able to translate this into the Oval Office?”

In the decades between Mr. Trump’s first book and his election as president, he has been accused of exaggerating his wealth (he has bitterly denied doing so, but has refused to release his tax returns); of overstating his ownership interests in properties around the world; and of falsely promoting himself as a great philanthropist, a claim shredded during the campaign. Read in full: The Numbers Game of Donald Trump

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