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.”

Good Times, Bad Times


In 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 miserable.”

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.

I’m 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.

There’s 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.

Our 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.

The 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.

Bad 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.  

Following 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 conspiracy theory.

Trump 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 chair a vaccine commission.

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.


Trump 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?

Trump 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.

In 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.”)

Trump 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.

In 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?”


The 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 that.

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