It’s time to Break It Down!
As most of us know by now, there is a new Sheriff in town, or at least a new resident ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Washington, DC). Beginning November 9, 2016, that reality, for all practical purposes, divided America’s political and ideological world into two separate spheres. By January 21, 2017, the day after Inauguration, those opposing spheres had devolved into two full-fledged oppositional camps, and a resistance movement was launched.
The Administration’s first Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, in his initial appearance in the White House briefing room, made an indignant statement, condemning the media’s coverage of the inauguration’s crowd size. Needless to say, this is a tone Spicer, and his two successors and counting, have taken with the media on many occasions. His rant included the following:
- Accused the press of deliberately false reporting
- Asserted that the media intentionally framed their photographs to minimize its size
- Insisted Trump’s was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe
- Admonished these attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration were shameful and wrong
Journalism Professor Steve Doig, of Arizona State University, has provided crowd estimates at several previous inaugurations. He has a deep and central understanding of the challenges associated with assessing crowd-size at such events. He made several pointed observations, including:
- There’s no turnstiles; you didn’t have to buy tickets
- Standard metrics for measuring a contained crowd are not available
- The fallback is overhead imagery
- That allows experts to estimate the density of the crowd and multiply it by the area it covers, to produce “a reality-based estimate of the crowd size
- Based on the photographs available in the media showing the part of the crowd that was on the mall, the claim that this is the largest ever is ludicrous on its face
That of course was just the upshot of the first 24-hours of the Trump Presidency. The following day, as she set out on part of the circuit of Sunday morning news shows, President Trump’s Special Counselor, Kellyanne Conway clashed with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on NBC Sunday over the administration’s false assertion that Trump had the largest inauguration crowd in history. In pushing back against what Todd referred to as a falsehood, Conway told Todd:
- You’re saying it’s a falsehood. Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts.
After laughing at Conway’s retort, Todd deadpanned a terse reply:
- Wait a minute, alternative facts? Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods
Just for the sake of reference, the concept of alternative facts was popularized in Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. In the novel, Big Brother, the Party Leader, rules, ostensibly, by tyranny. He apparently enjoys an intense cult of personality, even though he may not even exist. I’m not sure whether Trump’s greatest asset is cult of personality, however, I can attest, he does exist. Sad!
OK, enough reminiscing about the first weekend of the Trump Presidency. Let’s fast-forward to the current dimension, and the fascinating recognition that the phantasmagorical just keeps on coming. Ordinarily, I’d say you have to see it to believe it. However, some of the daily news items related to the President qualify routinely for the idiomatic expression, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The world may debate, for years to come, whether Trump was a great President (though I doubt it), but one thing about which there will be no need to debate is, Donald Trump has done more for Twitter than anyone not named Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, or Evan Williams (Twitter creators).
The double-whammy combo of Trump tweets and bizarre comments is without question the king of the news cycle more often than almost anyone would like, except Donald Trump, and that includes his team. While it certainly keeps his surrogates, spokespersons, and sycophants, some of who are paid for their services, busy, I’m sure even some of them would like an off day.
Just so it’s clear what kind of things I’m referring to, let’s review. A couple of the most recent targets of opportunity actually involve Republicans, either cabinet members, erstwhile allies, or both.
In the first instance, Stephanie Ruhle, of NBC News reported, after stories leaked that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a moron, that, “Tillerson didn’t call Trump a “moron” during a heated argument at the Pentagon; he called him a “fucking moron.”
Not surprisingly Trump called the report fake news, as did his Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Nevertheless, according to Ruhle’s sources, Mr. Tillerson’s comments followed Trump comparing the administration’s Afghanistan strategies to his own efforts to renovate a steakhouse. In retrospect, if Trump really said that, Tillerson was indeed, far too kind.
Of course, Donald Trump being Donald Trump, even if he thought it were fake news (and I don’t believe he did), he is not known for foregoing a pointed comeback, and he wasn’t about to start with Rex’s alleged slam. In an interview with Forbes magazine, published yesterday, Trump shot Tillerson a zinger saying:
I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.” If spelling is a tell of any sort, so could I.
In the second case, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who recently announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 when his current term expires, has been engaged in a tit-for-tat with President Trump. In an interview this past Sunday with the New York Times, Corker, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said:
“The President has treated his office like a reality show, and is leading the U.S. down the path to World War III. He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Donald Trump, the avowed counterpuncher, didn’t disappoint. Upon hearing the Senator’s remarks, he responded thusly:
“Senator Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”
In a subsequent tweet, Trump added:
“He also wanted to be Secretary of State. I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal.”
A not to be lost bit of irony here is that Corker opposed the Iran Deal, and was instrumental in forging opposition to it. But hey, in TrumpWorld, a world of alternative facts, why not press that button? But this match was not over. In Corker’s next volley, he noted in his own tweet:
“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
Lest anyone deigns to think, “And that was the end of that,” think again. From the friendly confines of his tweet throne, Trump replied yesterday:
“The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool and that’s what I am dealing with!”
I’m not sure about the purpose of the apostrophe following “Liddle.” By the way, Liddle is the current iteration of the appellation he applied to Marco Rubio during the Republican Primaries. Once again, despite the alternative fact referenced in the tweet, Corker was aware the NYT reporter was taping the conversation, as he was also taping. Just so you know.
From hailing his Inauguration crowd size as the largest ever, to calling Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions beleaguered, to asserting there are very fine people among the KKK/Nazis/white supremacists, to referring to football players who kneel during the National Anthem as Sons-of-Bitches, to challenging Republican Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test face-off, to consigning the appellation Liddle’ to Republican Senator Bob Corker, to the 1,318 false or misleading claims Mr. Trump has been credited with during his 263 days as President, according to yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post (that rounds down to 5 per day, in case you’re counting), this alternative fact-driven President seems locked in his own alternative universe…if not the Twilight Zone. What can I say? “TrumpWorld: You Just Cannot Make This Shizzle Up!”
I’m done; holla back!
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