Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Truthless Presidency

The first time I heard Donald Trump speak as a candidate, he said that Obamacare was so bad that even if you got hit by a truck you wouldn't be covered.  At that time I had been covered by the ACA for over a year and found that it wasn't just really "affordable," but it was the best coverage I had ever had.  The alarms went off in my head and haven't stopped since.

The man is a liar.  What we do with that is what truly concerns me.  We have never had a pathological liar as president, or even as far as I can recall, as a candidate.  I believe that, without both his celebrity and wealth, his apparent lies would have discredited and disqualified him from his first trip down that escalator.  When, by the way, he paid $50 per head for extras in the crowd.

But those who support Trump don't just support him, they crave him.  They feel about Trump pretty much the way I felt about Paul McCartney when I was 14 years old.  They would believe anything he said and follow him off any cliff, assuming he was fully aware of what he was doing and knew better than anyone else that it was the right thing to do.

Rationalization knows no better friend than the Trump supporter.  The proof of that has been over the past couple of weeks, as his past promises and claims have fallen by the wayside.

The most oft-repeated of course is that he would lock Hillary up.  In a cross between a WWF chant and one delivered at a Third Reich rally, the crowd couldn't wait for the moment they could start to yell, "Lock her up."  It had been a proud moment during the convention, and several speakers, some of whom are now in the Trump cabinet, ran with the cry.  In the true promotional spirit of the event, t-shirts had already been printed with the chilling slogan, along with Hillary behind bars and other similarly ugly and extremely un-American and undemocratic sentiments.

I would like to say that this was a new low in politics, but the Obama presidency was what truly set the animals free of their restraints.  Hitler mustaches on Obama's face along with obscene references to his ancestry have just become the norm for the supremacist lover of free speech over the past eight years.

And Donald Trump may not be "like smart," but he has an uncanny sense of what brings the crowds to the carnival -- and what shocks and intimidates his opponents.  So he caught a whiff of that mob mentality and harnessed the power.  It worked, too.  While the crowd went wild, the media spent a year and a half silenced while Trump ran rampant over the truth.  And while they lacked the spirit to defend the truth, they still, like deer in the headlights, kept the cameras on while the abominations grew.

If Donald Trump is a stupid man, and he is, his followers are mindless and devoted believers.  When he tells a lie, they believe it.  When it is proven to be utterly false, they still believe it.  When Trump and his minions finally admit the lie, the believers know that he had a good reason for telling it.

And he is happy to confirm it.  Trump, these days, has been inoculating his followers by simply explaining what he was thinking and that now he's changed his mind.  "Lock her up:"  "that plays great before the election -- now we don't care, right?"  And while the first reaction may be that of disorientation, it doesn't take long for his fans to get it:  he just said it to get elected, what a great idea.

Except that that may also be a lie.  When Trump starts to actually take heat for his ideas exploding in his face, I have no doubt "Lock her up" will resurface.  That herd of sycophants that comprises our republican Congress have already shown us that there is no expiration date on hating Hillary; it's been working for them for decades, with the enthusiastic help of the media.  Except that this time Trump will turn on Congress the instant it becomes expedient; a few days ago he called Paul Ryan "genius" and added, "now if he ever goes against me I'm not going to say that."

And so, having a presidential candidate prove that the brazen lie is the path to power, and do it more brazenly than the congress critters, has sealed the fate of this republic.  And our society.  The president can now ignore laws with the blessing of a congress that will accept, just as do his followers, whatever he tells us today.  And taking it from the Trump playbook, who got it from Putin, it doesn't matter if the rules change, wrong is now right and after all, might is right.

And, have I said, he is a stupid man?  So what he says today not only won't make sense today, but may change tomorrow, to something that equally makes no sense.  And the media will chase it like a dog chasing a bus.  Or, every now and then, by chance, he may say something that does make sense.  And then the media will marvel at the possibility that he may be beginning to figure things out.  Except that won't be the case at all.  Unlike W., who did begin to figure some things out, and was guided by some kind of moral imperative, Trump is guided by no such thing.  Trump is guided by ego.  And money.  Period.

The "liberal media", while doing mea culpas about the mistakes they made by giving him exposure during the election season, yesterday spent hours slicing and dicing and analyzing his 74 second "interview" in his own hall of power.  When I turned the TV on this morning, they were still talking about it.  Yes, they were snarky, but as Donald Trump knows, a camera is a camera, and they always work in his favor.  And he will continue to use the media, because he knows how to make news, and the media has hours to fill.

Once again, I end by urging caution.  And cynicism.  We can all get caught up in this era of truthlessness.  It took only days for the Trump minions, after the media uncovered "fake news" and its influence on the election, to start to call anything questioning Trump -- you got it -- "fake news."  It didn't start this year, or even with the internet.  George Orwell called it "newspeak" and we have heard it with every invented right-wing word or phrase that has been created to curb our critical thinking skills with emotional rhetoric.

With Donald trump as the figurehead, and white supremacists making their way to the White House, with a greedy and insecure republican Congress and fearful Democrats rewriting the election to urge us all to listen to the neglected white men, we are about to take a step backward that will cause us to topple off that cliff.

These days, when the biggest liars claim to be calling out liars, we need to search for our moral compass.  Black people are being killed by cops, and white people are yelling for more guns.  Despite Dylann Roof and PizzaGate, radical right-wing Christians are calling for Muslims to be registered and tracked.  Gun deaths in the US far outnumber those in other major countries, yet legislators dog-whistle abortion and curtail women's reproductive rights in order to detract from gun deaths as well as death caused by poverty.

There is truth out there, and we can track it down.  But we need to ask the right questions.  If something doesn't make sense, it often only takes a minute to track down the source on this amazing internet.  A headline sounds incredible?  Shocking?  Too good/bad to be true?  Track it to the publisher.  Some jackass gets an award -- or gets promoted for a cabinet position?  Find out what organization is giving the award, or how the promoter connects with the nominee.

And then share the information.  We all need to be fighting for truth these days.  We'll be getting our lies straight from the leader of this currently free country soon, and the media is as vulnerable as the next person, so it is up to us to question, to learn, to inform, and, yes, to keep our media honest.

1984 comes late, but we have been warned about the normalization of Donald Trump, and we don't have to let it happen here.

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