Editor’s Note: In this, my third article since the November 2016 election, I complete the transition from, “We should wait and see how this turns out, because maybe it won’t be too bad,” to “This guy is already making me wistful for George W. Bush.”
one of his best novels — “A Tale of Two Cities” — Charles Dickens set
the scene for an era of contradictions with his opening line: “It was the best
of times, it was the worst of times.” In one of his best romantic comedies —
“Annie Hall” — Woody Allen set the scene for how 2017 is likely to play
out for average Americans: “Life is divided into the horrible and the
Donald recently reneged on an election promise that only his most brain-dead
fanatics believed in the first place, when he conceded that the taxpayers will
have to foot the bill for his Mexican border wall. During the campaign, nonpartisan fact checkers
calculated that 70% of his statements were lies, so we shouldn’t be surprised.
not sure we can afford it, but the wall itself is neither immoral, nor callous.
We’re not responsible for all the world’s refugees, and, if we don’t control
our own borders, how can we call ourselves a sovereign nation? It may be
overkill, given the drop in illegal immigration since 2008; however, times
change, and, someday, we might need this bit of infrastructure.
nothing inherently racist about the wall either, even if many of its backers
are. Just because Trump has shown himself to be a bigot — House Speaker Paul
Ryan has called him “textbook racist,” and having Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon
in his cabinet supports this assessment — doesn’t automatically mean all his
policies on immigration are misguided. Just as good people often do miserable
things (FDR interned innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II), horrible
people sometimes get things right.
new president has been repeatedly compared to Hitler, but that’s embarrassing
hyperbole, and we need to dial down the hysteria. Mark Twain said, “History
does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”: Based on his mannerisms, facial
tics and general demeanor, Trump is a lot closer to Mussolini — a much-less-horrible demagogue.
good news was Mussolini made the trains run on time, revived Italy’s economy
and imprisoned the Mafia. The bad news was his “bromance” with Hitler and,
of course, World War II, which ended somewhat miserably for the Italians.
news from our 45th president is his bromance with Vladimir
Putin (whom John McCain correctly labels “a thug and a butcher”). Russia’s
complicity in Trump’s election has been affirmed by 17 U.S. intelligence
agencies, but Trump’s followers blindly rubber stamp his claim that the CIA,
FBI, NSA, etc., are all wrong. The good news here is that some suspicion of
government is healthy. (We certainly could’ve used more of it during the run-up to Gulf
War II, for example.) The bad news is Americans no longer accept facts.
a campaign of deceit and slander, Trump’s inauguration has initiated a
post-truth era, which his spokesmen are calling “alternative fact” (aka
“falsehood”). It’s already the worst of times for scientists, as the GOP
courts conservative Christians, who reject settled science, such as the Big Bang
and evolution, in favor of nonsensical biblical literalism, superstition and
has replaced the secretary of energy, a Ph.D. nuclear physicist from Stanford
University, with Rick Perry. The DOE is responsible for atomic energy and our
nuclear arsenal, and Perry has been called the leader for Texans who consider
George W. Bush “too cerebral.” And one of the few Democratic appointees is
anti-vaxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who
espouses discredited conspiracy theories (shared by Trump) that link
vaccines to neurological disorders, such as autism. RFK, Jr. is slated to
Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt, named to head the EPA after years of suing the agency to block its clean-air and anti-water-pollution initiatives, is a climate change denier. Climate change is a scientific question. It’s either true or it isn’t; however, the verdict shouldn’t be based on political ideology, but on the weight of the scientific data and the overwhelming number of scientists (97%) who support it. Sadly, in a post-truth era, NOAA and NASA take a back seat to Exxon, so oil company lobbyists now “protect” the environment.
has named Steve Bannon of the racist, far-right and fact-averse Breitbart News
Network as his chief strategist. While labeling CNN “fake news,” Trump
confers with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who’s called the Newtown massacre
a hoax and has “exposed” a CIA plot to assassinate President Trump. What’s
next, reopening the 9/11 Commission, so 9/11 Truther Charlie Sheen can claim
George W. brought down the Twin Towers?
maintained the lie that he’d seen a video of thousands of Muslim-Americans
celebrating 911 until his claim was “vindicated” by Breitbart (and nowhere
else). For the adoring right-wing sycophants who reject non-alt-right media,
this represents proof. In poker, it’s called a “continuation bet”: You
bluff, and, if everyone doesn’t drop out, you keep making the same bet until
they do. It works if no one is willing to call your bluff.
our fact-free landscape, Trump can call an election in which he lost the popular
vote by 3 million ballots a “landslide victory.” (Sadly, a post-truth
culture also enables John Lewis to make the equally counterfactual claim that
Trump’s election was “illegitimate.”)
is now taking full advantage of this environment to double down on his own
dishonesty. For example, he continues to insist that Mexico will pay for the
wall “later on.” This is like Wimpy (“I’ll gladly pay you Friday for a
hamburger today”) in the old Popeye cartoons.
one of the best Marx Brothers comedies — “Duck Soup” — Chico asked the
question that’s become the template for Trump’s response to accusations of
everything from lying, racism and misogyny to mocking the disabled, hiding his tax returns and exaggerating the size of his crowds: “Who ya gonna
believe — me or your own lyin’ eyes?”
bad news is not enough Americans are answering, “I trust facts.” The good
news is … well, I guess we’ll just have to wait a little longer for some of
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