This is truly scary

I’ve never been one to think that Trump would somehow change as president.  It’s pretty clear that Trump is Trump is Trump.  And who he is is an emotionally immature, extraordinarily think-skinned, disinterested, bragaddocious, bully.  I thought he would like be a pretty horrible president.  Just, hopefully, not a disastrous one.  A couple days in, it is very, very clear, he will be a pretty horrible president.  Again, not a surprise– we’ve been given every reason to see this coming– but pretty damn sobering to experience, nonetheless.

First off, it is so predictable (and funny) how much his lame inauguration crowds would pique him.  But do completely obsess over it the next day and to send his press secretary out to lie unabashedly and unashamedly to the press?  Slate’s Daniel Politi:

 On Day 2 of the Trump presidency, a screeching red-eyed man declared war on the media and reality itself.

The proximate causes of the tantrum were the media’s estimates of the size of the crowd at the inauguration and a journalist’s incorrect report about the removal of an Oval Office bust of Martin Luther King Jr. It turns out the bust had not been removed, after all, a mistake the reporter acknowledged and apologized for. But Spicer, calling it “irresponsible and reckless,” was trying to score some cheap points in order to take on the bigger target—the accurate reporting on the thin crowds at Friday’s inauguration.

 “Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting,” Spicer said as he was gradually swallowed by his suit. He added that photos “were intentionally framed in a way to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.”

But, anyone might say, the photographs are pretty clear, aren’t they? Kind of hard to argue with the side-by-side photos that compared the crowds from a previous inauguration.


But it soon came clear that this wasn’t an off-the-cuff comment from the new president. Trump then had press secretary Sean Spicer call an impromptu briefing in which Spicer lashed the press for estimating crowd size. “Nobody had numbers, because the National Park Service does not put any out,” he insisted. Seconds later, he said: “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, both in person and around the globe.”

This, along with much else Spicer said, was plainly untrue. But there’s a strategy at work here. The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true.

Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.

It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.

Spicer ended the statement on a warning. “There has been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility of holding Donald Trump accountable. I am here to tell you that it goes two ways. We are going hold the press accountable as well.”

And, of course, there’s photos.  Anybody can see that damn photos and that Trump is lying and delusional.

Image result for inauguration crowd size comparison


The NYT knows how to cover this, “With False Claims, Donald Trump Attacks Media on Crowd Turnout”

Meanwhile, Fox might as well rename itself Pravda.  They simply report Spicer’s false and outlandish comment without an iota of effort to share the actual truth.  Putin would be proud (as would Stalin).

And those of you who remember the early days of the Iraq War will not be surprised to learn that a google search on Sean Spicer and Baghdad Bob is already approaching 50,000 links.  Yglesias nicely captures it:

Finally, I’m so glad I re-read 1984 this past year.  Scary and shocking how on point it is right now.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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