It’s time to Break It Down!
As I hear, speak, read, and write about, and watch the current events of the day unfold, it has become increasingly evident over the past few years that the ideological chasm that divides our country is deep, wide, and firmly entrenched. For example, if you like #45, or perhaps more pointedly, if you dislike Hillary Clinton, there is apparently nothing that the Commander-in-Chief can do or say to cause you to second guess, or regret the fact you voted for him, and/or that he won. A number of polls suggest that up to 96% of the people who voted him have no regrets, and that only 2% do.
A never-ending series of counter-positioned narratives began emerging as soon as he was inaugurated. The Administration started spinning immediately. The day after the Inauguration reports surfaced claiming the crowd gathered on the National Mall was the largest in history. At his maiden press briefing, Sean Spicer, White House press secretary attacked the media (a recurring theme), accusing them of deliberately misleading the public about the size of the new administration’s inauguration crowd. As Mr. Spicer put it:
“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular Tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”
The press secretary offered scant facts to disprove the media reports of comparatively low turnout, and most of it was misleading or inaccurate. The overall contention that the 2017 inaugural drew the “largest audience” ever is just untrue.
Among Spicer’s flawed assertions were, he claimed:
- It was the first time floor coverings were used to protect the grass on the Mall. It was not. The coverings were used in 2013.
- It was the first time usage of fencing and magnetometers on the Mall for preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the mall as quickly as in the past. False. According to a 2017 Congressional Research Service screening magnetometers, or metal detectors, have been used in past inaugurations. The claim was further disputed by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who tweeted that two unnamed law enforcement officials told him “Magnetometers were not used in the areas of the of the Mall that Spicer indicated.
Spicer chastised the press for tweeting out “inaccurate numbers involving crowd size:”
- “No one had numbers because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out. We do know a few things. So let’s go through the facts.”
- We know the platform from where the President was sworn in to 4th Street holds about 250,000 people
- From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000.
- From the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people.
- “All of this space was full when the President took the oath of office.”
Many news organizations, including PolitiFact, note that it’s difficult to gauge crowd size. The National Park Service discontinued the practice in the National Mall after the Million Man March in 1995. If Mr. Spicer’s claims of full spaces were correct, which photographs contradict, it would put the crowd size at least 720,000, which is higher than the preliminary estimates reported in the media, but on par with the 700,000 to 900,000 organizers expected to attend. #45 touted 1.5 million on January 21 at CIA headquarters.
The catch is that still would not be the top figure.
Here are the attendance estimates for the 2017 and 7 previous inaugurations:
|Trump, 2017||250,000 to 600,000|
|Barack Obama, 2013||1 million|
|Obama, 2009||1.8 million|
|George W. Bush, 2005||400,000|
|Bill Clinton, 1997||250,000|
|George H.W. Bush, 1989||300,000|
So this testy indoctrination was the template for the relationship between the administration, the media, the truth, and We The People. One might say it is tenuous. At best! My favorite assessment to date was formulated and expressed by David Broder, in a NYT article on April 10, 2017, in which he wrote about #45:
“It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension.”
You can interpret that however you choose. But as I’ve already noted, his fan club could care less. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, perhaps put it best when she explained Mr. Spicer’s amazing assertions, designed I suppose to align with #45’s conclusions about inaugural crowd size. She introduced the term “alternative facts.” That pretty much says it all.
So let’s pivot back to that ideological chasm I mentioned earlier. Before #45, President Barack Obama served 8 years as President. His tenure was not without its share of drama. One of numerous Republican stunts he survived was a crusade by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann calling for his impeachment. In one of the more bizarre episodes of the GOP’s total access, no holds barred approach to obstructionism during President Obama’s tenure; Ms. Bachmann had the temerity to spearhead a movement for impeachment while she was actually under investigation for multiple ethics violations. She was the subject of five separate ethics probes related to her 2012 Presidential Campaign, including:
- In Iowa, a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Bachmann’s alleged improper payments to a state senator
- She was under investigation for improper use of presidential campaign funds to promote her book
- She was investigated for the theft of an email list of a Iowa homeschoolers
- She was under investigation for money laundering
- The Office of Congressional Ethics also investigated Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign
Forget the absurdity of it all. If you are reading this, you undoubtedly already know two things. First, Barack Obama was not impeached; second, Michele Bachmann’s tenure in Congress was short lived, ending in 2015, prior to that of President Obama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is credited with the quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’d like to think that arc is also laden with karma. Today is #45’s 125th day in office. Over the little more than four months he has held the post, he has distinguished himself in some interesting ways.
- He was forced to fire General Michael Flynn for having lied to Vice President Pence, after insisting upon hiring him despite President Obama advising him not to do so.
- He fired FBI Director James Comey after Comey admitted in a Congressional hearing that there is an ongoing investigation in which he was included.
- He allegedly asked the FBI Director to drop the Flynn Investigation.
- He is reported to have asked Intelligence Chiefs to publicly push back against the FBI probe.
- He appointed his daughter Ivanka to an official White House post after saying he would not do so.
- He claimed during a Commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that he is the most unfairly treated politician ever.
- He rolled out a Muslim Ban (or pause, if you prefer) that has been rejected by multiple federal courts.
Harkening back to the Obama years, the GOP officialdom elevated opposition and obstruction to a high art form. South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson yelled out “You lie” at President Obama in a joint session of Congress. Illinois Representative Joe Walsh threatened President Obama in a tweet after 3 Dallas police officers were killed. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann actively campaigned for President Obama’s impeachment, and of course, in the most famous dis of all, citizen, and then candidate, Donald Trump led the Birtherism charge, maintaining that President Obama was not born in America. The candidate did not concede President Obama was American until mid-September, just a few weeks before the election.
A week ago, Texas Congressman Al Green (’06!) addressed the House of Representatives and called for the impeachment of #45. Representative Green said he was acting as a matter of conscience, and called the basis for his actions, “perspicuous.” He added, “No one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States of America.”
At a town hall in Houston on Saturday, Congressman Green shared with his constituents a number of threatening voicemails he received. ABC News reported that the voicemails were directed to his office, and included messages like:
- “You ain’t going to impeach nobody.”
- “Try it and we will lynch all of you,”
- “You’ll be hanging from a tree.”
Notwithstanding the threats communicated in the voicemails, the Congressman told constituents at the town hall:
“We are not going to be intimidated. We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump.”
Let me be perfectly clear. I have absolutely, positively no expectation that #45 will be impeached. Call me cynical, but I do not believe a Republican Congress is going to impeach its new champion. Nevertheless, in the interim, I fully believe there will be a great deal of GOP angst for the duration of this administration’s tenure, even if it’s 4 or 8 years. To that end, to paraphrase Dr. King, “The Long Arc of the Moral Universe: Is That Karma I’m Seeing?”
I’m done; holla back!
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