As President Shit-Gibbon’s predilection for lying became more and more obvious, a defense cropped up on the right, that we’re making a mistake if we take him literally instead of seriously. His supporters do they opposite: they don’t take his words literally because they know he’s serious about making America great again. So journalists should stop focusing on Trump’s words because they’re just not as important to him as they are to writers (of course if that was true, he wouldn’t keep having hissy fits about words saying he lost the popular vote).
The argument is probably correct about a lot of Trump voters. They’re fine with his lies as long as it annoys liberals (who are constantly persecuting them with all this talk of science). They didn’t think he’d defund Planned Parenthood. They didn’t think he’d take away their health-care coverage and probably didn’t anticipate losing Meals on Wheels. Or Trump making it easier for federal contractors to violate labor laws. And some farmers are genuinely shocked that the guy who ran on an anti-immigrant platform is going to restrict immigration, which could kill their labor force (there’s notably little concern for what will happen to the immigrants). They didn’t take him literally and you know what? That was a mistake.
There is no circumstance under which “his voters don’t care Trump spews bullshit” is a good excuse for reporters not pointing out the bullshit. The article I refer to argues that as the public doesn’t care, there’s no point to reporting it — but his rationale is that “the public” equates to “Trump voters” when he was, as we all know, the minority choice for president.
But beyond that, assuming he doesn’t mean what he says is just contradicted by the facts. We should assume he means everything literally except when it’s about providing his voters with better welfare benefits, creating a superior health-care plan that will cover everyone (as opposed to the Trumpcare shitpile) and doing anything to make people’s lives better. Except where he can make them better by dumping on women and minorities. Oh, and when he talked about bringing death and destruction to the Middle East, and it turns out that was literal too.
A number of Republican pundits are perfectly happy not to take Trump literally, such as Peggy Noonan, who saw potential in Trump to be a kind of recyled Reagan: strong but not aggressive on defense, supportive of free enterprise, supportive of churches, “realistic and nonradical” on social issues. At the link she bemoans that it hasn’t happened, but does her best to blame his staff.