Alternative facts and the puerile Trump Administration

The Thinker by Rodin

I went to bed January 20th having largely succeeded in tuning out Donald Trump’s inauguration. Mission accomplished, at least in preserving my sanity that day. Instead I read brief snippets of online news summaries and went to my comfort zone. My comfort zone is to watch Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings on DVD, but I felt increasingly uneasy every time I saw Sauron’s eye of fire.

“Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?” spake Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) to the lovely Lady Eowyn in The Two Towers which I watched that night. Around 4 a.m. I awoke to distant rumbling sounds that I could not place. In my fevered imagination it was the sound of nuclear weapons exploding and heading my way. Fortunately not even President Trump could act so rashly so quickly. My fears slowly faded, but I staggered through most of Saturday wondering if I was just unusually prescient. Time will tell.

Our newest president had bigger fish to fry on Saturday, mainly solving his huge case of cognitive dissonance. He had the biggest inauguration ever, the best! It was hugely huge but as usual the media were brazenly lying about it. Those must have been doctored photos of the Mall showing underwhelming crowds. Those many empty bleachers along Pennsylvania Avenue, must have been taken some time long before or after the parade:

Trump’s memories were completely different. After all he saw thousands of Muslims cheering as the Twin Towers went down on 9/11. On Saturday when up to a million protestors swarmed the Mall to protest Trump’s agenda, Trump sent out his newly minted press secretary Sean Spicer into the pressroom to tell the media they were lying about the crowd size at the inauguration. Sunday saw Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that Spicer was presenting “alternative facts”, an opening oxymoron from an administration sure to be full of them. Monday found our new president fuming that he won the popular vote somehow because of three to 5 million votes that illegals cast for Hillary got counted, for which of course there is zero evidence.

Thankfully, at least at that moment, the press wasn’t having any of it. The media was rife with reports that this new administration was spewing lies. This of course only got Trump’s dander up more, which may explain why he wants to limit press briefings only to media friendly to him, as well as move the pressroom to the Old Executive Office Building. It’s much easier to believe in alternative facts when the press can’t confront you so easily.

This sure is plenty embarrassing, and it is likely to stay this way for the next four years, not to mention childish in the extreme. This is what happens when you put the crazies in charge, and when you populate your administration with “reporters” from Brietbart.com, that’s what you get. No fact that doesn’t agree with their prejudices needs to be considered. You simply change the facts instead or invent new “facts” that are in fact not even facts. Problem solved!

Except of course this is totally crazy. Imagine going to the dentist to complain about a tooth pain and they decide to amputate a toe instead. That’s his “fact”. It won’t do anything to solve your tooth pain except maybe put you in such agony that you forget about it for a while. But, hey, it fits the narrative! That’s what counts.

I doubt our enemies will be so anti-fact based. Instead they will take action based on observed reality. When the administration takes action based on false information, the results are unlikely to be effective. But perhaps to Trump is doesn’t matter. No failure no matter how objectively provable matters. You just invent some alternative facts. Your supporters will follow like sheep … until possibly they hit that point where actual reality intercedes with these alternative facts and it causes them huge personal pain, such as when they lose their Obamacare for Trump’s new non-existent health plan. Then maybe they will wake the hell up.

Women were certainly awake on Saturday, protesting in the millions nationwide and across the world. As they plot a political comeback, don’t expect them to follow our foolish president. Expect them to use facts and a provable strategy to wrest political power from our anti-fact-based oligarchy and back to the people.

See no evil

The Thinker by Rodin

To some extent, all political parties suffer tone deafness. Democrats are not immune. Bernie Sanders supporters are a little tone deaf to the reality that he will not be the party’s nominee. Uber-liberals were tone deaf in 2008 when John Edwards was running for president, excusing as unfounded pretty damning testimony that he was a womanizer. Liberals in general are pretty tone deaf to how difficult it will be to implement their progressive vision (for example, ending poverty) if they can win the political war.

Still, political tone deafness has hit staggering new levels with the elevation of Donald Trump, the presumed nominee of the Republican Party for the president of the United States. In January, Trump himself said that he could shoot people in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York and he would not lose voters. Clearly he was right. Over and over again Trump has proved that there is nothing he can do or say that will dissuade his supporters.

After all, they are not voting for a man based on policies; they are voting for him because they like his packaging. The Donald himself changes his mind almost daily. With Bill Clinton, this periodic triangulation looked smart as it pushed him into positive approval ratings territory while infuriating many in the Democratic Party. But at least Clinton was selectively wishy-washy. He could smell a lost cause and tack away toward one that was doable. His pragmatism was almost refreshing and was in the spirit of horse-trading that used to be how Washington ran.

With Donald Trump, opinions change daily. He said going to bar all Muslims from entering the country. He made the point over and over again in rally after rally. Now he said it was just a suggestion. As for the new Muslim mayor of London, well, he’ll invite him over. He lies over and over again, even when repeatedly caught with his pants down for the same lie. Maybe you missed the latest: that recording of one of his media spokesmen “John Miller” back in the early 1990s, who was actually Trump, and which he admitted in court. Just a couple of days ago, he wholly disclaimed it was he. Then he said, what does it matter? It was so long ago.

None of this of course is a problem for his supporters, as he predicted. They see him as someone who will get the job done (whatever that is). Maybe they figure that to get it done it requires someone who just doesn’t give a damn about being consistent, or telling the truth, or having any character. It’s pure faith but faith based on information that shows he is probably the least qualified person for anyone to place faith in. After all what he wants to do one day for the country could easily be what he does not want to do the next day. The pinging back and forth will drive Congress and bureaucrats crazy. By never really sticking to some position, he ensures none of it will actually get done.

This is after all a man who cheats on his wives, allegedly raped his first wife, harasses women routinely and cheats his investors. His record of misogyny would appall even wife beaters. This is a man who brags about his financial prowess despite many failed businesses, who cheated students out of a real education (Trump University) and who let others purchase his brand but won’t mentor them in his business acumen so they can succeed.

None of this seems to matter to Republicans, except to a few die-hard conservatives, most of who are finding it expedient to look the other way. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus says, “people just don’t care” about Trump’s mouth or his controversies. By “people” he doesn’t mean most Democrats and many independents. However, it’s clear that Republicans mostly don’t care. Some things are more important than principle, and that’s power. And The Donald is their only ticket to power, so they either sink or swim with him. The pragmatic ones are hoping a kind-hearted Democrat throws them a life preserver. (It’s probably not covered by Obamacare.)

Bear in mind many of these same Republicans were hypocritically up in arms about all sorts of transgressions by Democrats, but mostly the Clintons. In the late 1990s I inhabited a carpool filled with Republicans gleefully chortling in Bill’s misdeeds with Monica. They just loved this proof that he was poor white trash in a suit with no morals or convictions and that he lied. Apparently Clinton’s real problem was that he was born “poor white”. This was never The Donald’s problem, as he came from wealth, but it’s clear that his lack of morals or convictions don’t bother him, or his womanizing. At least Bill Clinton was discreet about his occasional womanizing. Reince Preibus says it’s unimportant. IOKIYAR: It’s okay if you’re a Republican.

I’m not surprised. Republicans are highly selective in applying principle. They are for protecting the unborn but support policies that won’t even provide formula to poor kids once they are born. Just last week House Republicans voted to cut $23 billion in food stamps. They are for religious freedom, but apparently only for Christians and Jews, and only those Christians who are not religiously liberal, anyhow definitely not Muslims, and not if your religion tells you it’s okay to have an abortion. After all they support Trump’s call to keep Muslims out of the United States. They are for an opportunity society but won’t give anyone the opportunity to succeed who doesn’t come born with moneyed parents; in fact they keep cutting off the lower rungs of the ladder to make sure the poor cannot succeed.

Donald Trump though has at least provided clarity: all that principle stuff Republicans say forms the core of their party was just a bunch of hoo-ha. It used to be that inconsistency between principles and action would set up a case of cognitive dissonance, i.e. you’d lie about the inconsistency but you didn’t even know you were lying because you couldn’t face the hurt the truth would cause. Donald Trump though has at least allowed Republicans to progress. They no longer suffer from cognitive dissonance. Now they know they are being wholly inconsistent to their principles and acknowledge that at best their principles were wholly aspirational, not something they actually intend to live or govern by.

So there should be some sort of award given to every Donald Trump supporter. It would be for bravely and completely denying the obvious truth that Trump is the worst possible candidate probably ever with a chance of winning the presidency and being so knowingly indifferent to it.

As far as I’m concerned, all Trump supporters won the Washington Post’s Worst Week in Washington award. As Chris Cillizza (its author) puts it: “Congrats, or something.”