In Trump’s imagining, the United States is an unexceptional nation. It is beset by outside forces to which it can only respond with cruelty and plunder, by sealing itself off from a troubled world, and by rooting out violent prejudice inside its borders by reviving some of the darkest chapters of its history. To justify these harsh prescriptions for what ails the nation, however, Donald Trump has erected a complex web of fantasies and falsehoods.

Trump’s pledge to pursue a new, more productive form of isolationism in a prepared speech on Monday pivoted quickly to one such falsehood. Namely, that he had enthusiastically opposed the Iraq War prior to the 2003 invasion. He hadn’t. The only means by which he could defend his rewrite of the history books was to insist that he had told a cable news host that “maybe we shouldn’t” invade Iraq before the economy picked up. Of course, before March of 2003, Trump had expressed support for the war and regime change both in interviews and print.

“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” Donald Trump declared to the unreserved applause of his audience. Indeed, the new era of nation-raping is upon us.

Ah, but “who’s doing the raping,” as Trump asked of the Mexican migrants who flee to the United States—a quip that won him a special place in the hearts of his plurality of primary voters. Apparently, it will be the United States.

America must “take the oil,” Trump then insisted, but only to deprive ISIS of the oil fields that it exploits (the vast majority of which are in Syria, and the export revenues from which are facilitated by Bashar al-Assad). But he also insisted that he always held this view, well before groups like ISIS began taking and holding Middle Eastern territory. So, which is it? Pillage or prudence? And to what lawful mechanisms would Trump exploit in order to extract the resources of a sovereign and independent power? They’ll figure that out later. For Trump and his eager audience, the order of the day was vengeance.

This wasn’t the only outright lie that Trump has spouted on the campaign trail that inexplicably found its way into his prepared policy speech. “I had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats,” Trump insisted. Wrong. NATO developed the Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T) in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks, after which the United States became the first and only nation to trigger the treaty’s mutual defense provisions. Trump took credit after NATO created a new post related to counter-terror intelligence sharing in June, a role that was envisioned in the wake of the 2015 attacks in Paris.

Similarly, Trump ad-libbed a line in his speech in which he insisted that political correctness had prevented those who were suspicious of the couple that would execute the San Bernardino massacre. He insisted that witnesses saw signs—“bombs on the floor”—that they did not report. There were suspicious neighbors, but there were no “bombs on the floor.” This is, like so many conspiracy theories, a reference to early and debunked reports out of a chaotic crime scene, but to which conspiracists become attached.

When Trump was talking about America’s external political affairs, he was rewriting history. Not only did Trump fail to oppose the Iraq War, he also failed to oppose the war over Libya, the hasty withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in 2010, or the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a popular revolution. In order to force the historical record to comport with the myth of his own infallibility, Trump claimed in his speech that he never held those positions.

It is no small thing that Donald Trump seems incapable of retreating from indefensible ground to the point that he must embed a lie into a prepared text on foreign affairs. There is no engagement from which Donald Trump can tactically retreat; no circumstance that would compel him to seek a face-saving withdrawal. In a man, this obstinacy is ugly and transparently juvenile. In a commander-in-chief, it will cost lives.

This irresponsibility has consequences. When Donald Trump speaks, he’s now speaking for a major American political party, and that party’s leader routinely gives aid and comfort the clinically paranoid, anti-American dictators, and Iran-backed terrorist organizations.

The meat of Trump’s so-called “national security” speech, the stuff he really gets jazzed about, was saved for last: his support new proscriptions on immigration and new, stricter citizenship tests. These things are governed by constitutional restraints, however, and in which Congress has a say. That is not so on the international stage, where the president can act almost unilaterally. His fans might have heard “America first” in Trump’s address, but the world heard a craven and immoral defense of the “stable” despotisms of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad.

Trump’s speech wasn’t entirely ignoble. His critiques of the Obama administration’s record on foreign affairs and terrorism were cutting and accurate. His defense of moral clarity in war fighting was admirable. His insistence that all would-be Americans should embrace its pluralistic values and aspire to assimilate into its culture was laudable. But all this was undercut by Donald Trump’s appeals to America’s basest instincts. It is testament to the American ideal that Donald Trump’s discredited and conspiratorial programs appear set for to be rejected by the public in November, and by potentially historic margins.

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