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Trump Watch: Attacking Facts, Bludgeoning Truth

‘Alternative Facts,’ Media Black-Outs, Rogue Tweets, Women’s March, and More


TOO CRAZY TO BE TRUE: I don’t need 100 days. My head’s spinning already; I’ve got whiplash.

We’ve been through worse before? Not that I can recall.

When I started out, I harbored delusions I’d “tell the truth.” Somewhere along the way, I came to doubt I’d recognize the truth if it were to bite my ass. Later, I came to question whether any such thing as “The Truth” existed.

Angry Poodle

That was my epiphany of atheism.

Then Donald Trump saved me.

Some people cite the devil to prove the reality of God. Trump doesn’t make the case for truth so much as prove the opposite.

“Alternative facts?”

To put that phrase into proper context, there’s a former judge in town whom prosecutors disqualified from ever hearing any of thousands of criminal cases because on one occasion she had the temerity to allude to “a parallel universe” in her courtroom. Or maybe it was because she was a woman. Or maybe prosecutors just don’t like losing. It’s been a long time. Who can say for sure?

But here is a fact. There’s more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any time in the previous 650,000 years. Here’s another. The body temperature for Planet Earth in 2016 was the hottest ever in the 100 years such records have been kept. And 2016 was the third straight hottest year ever.

It’s also a fact that Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s appointee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a climate change skeptic who sued the EPA 14 times in his capacity as Oklahoma attorney general. It’s also a fact that the EPA will be issuing no press releases and entering into no new contracts and that EPA employees have been ordered not to communicate with the media or via social media for the time being. What these facts mean might not be knowable, but a spokesperson chillingly described it as “dimming some of the communication while we get it under control” (italics added to heighten creepy perfection of phrase). California has its own rules about air pollution that are stricter than the federal standards Pruitt controls. Those rely on a federal “waiver” California fought for and won. Still to be determined is whether Pruitt will respect that waiver. In confirmation hearings, he was exceedingly noncommittal on the matter.

It’s also a fact that media blackout orders have been issued to the National Park Service. That’s the agency responsible for providing inaugural space to newly elected presidents. In spite of such orders, a “rogue” National Park Service tweet was emanated to remind people of the atmosphere’s high carbon content. It remains to be determined whether the tweeter in question was a former employee at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

The National Park Service is typically not a hot-button agency. But for the past week, it’s been embroiled in the still explosive “size matters” debate over just how many people attended the Trump inauguration.

Trump is no doubt clinically paranoid. But he is absolutely correct; the media is out to get him. He’s got a right to gripe. Just not about crowd sizes. On that, no alternative facts exist. Not only did more people attend Barack Obama’s first inauguration, but far more people marched against Trump ​— ​in Saturday’s many Women’s Marches ​— ​than attended the inauguration. Trump and his supporters were absolutely swamped and submerged by a coast-to-coast tsunami of pink pussy hats. This gleeful celebration of the gynecological took Trump’s thoroughly documented pathological nastiness where women are concerned and used it ​— ​joyfully and effectively ​— ​against him. In so doing, the pussy hat wearers laid to waste two of the most enduring canards about feminists: that they have no sense of humor and that they’re always so primly politically correct.

Size clearly matters; lies matter, too. This week while meeting with congressional leaders, Trump repeated his old accusation that he lost the popular vote ​— ​by 2.8 million votes ​— ​because three to five million unauthorized immigrants cast ballots. Trump never provided any evidence to substantiate this claim before. This week, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, cited two studies that he said support Trump’s claims. In point of fact (italics added to emphasize difference between fact and fancy) the studies to which Spicer alluded do not say what he said they said.

The fact of the matter is Trump was “elected” president according to the existing rules. Whether that’s “fair and square” is open to interpretation. But Trump is hardly the first president to win despite losing the popular vote. If we’re lucky, he won’t be the last. But for Trump to repeat such claims without substantiation is damaging. Even conservative Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are concerned. “[I]f the President of the United States is claiming that 3.5 million people voted illegally, that shakes confidence in our democracy,” Graham declared. “He needs to disclose why he believes that.” One of Trump’s first actions upon taking office was to make home mortgages more expensive for the “little guy” by increasing insurance requirements so that high-stakes investors who speculate in the home-loan futures market are better insulated from risk. The other was to declare Inauguration Day the “The National Day of Patriotic Devotion.” North Korea’s King Jong-un is currently eating his heart out.

Last fact. Six reporters were arrested by police in Washington, D.C., and charged with felonies for covering the riots that broke out immediately after the inauguration in which several officers were injured and more than 200 people were arrested. The arrested journalists ​— ​two of whom identified themselves as activist-reporters ​— ​have all insisted they were covering the riots, not participating in them. Authorities have provided no specifics, just a one-size-fits-all declaration ​— ​identical language for all six ​— ​that the defendants were seen in the vicinity of a crowd engaged in rioting.

Now that scares me.

And that’s the absolute truth.

Correction: This story was changed on January 26 to reflect that Badlands National Park sits in South Dakota, not Montana.



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