The Women’s March in Washington drew nearly half a million people who arrived from all 50 states, but not from Donald Trump’s.
Trump lives in his own state. It is the state of denial.
The new president claims 1.5 million people attended his inauguration, while people who can actually count put the number at a small fraction of this. The new president is obsessed with size instead of content. He says nothing at all about the reasons so many people took to the streets and turned their anger and their fears into political energy.
Then, Trump showed us more denial and delusion. He went to the CIA headquarters and stood in front of its memorial wall, which is comparable to visiting Arlington Cemetery or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is hallowed American ground.
Trump ignored his surroundings. In a 15-minute speech, he declared the press “made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.” This is what the Trump people apparently call “alternative truth.” It is a nakedly false rewrite of Trump’s own history of tweeting, in which he alone compared imagined CIA tactics to Nazi Germany.
The press didn’t invent this feud, but merely reported it.
But Trump couldn’t get out of his own way. Standing there with symbols of the honored dead behind him, he swept this way and that. He happily boasted about all of his Time magazine covers. He said he felt like he was 39 instead of 70. He bragged, “I’m, like, a smart person.” He brought up his inauguration speech.
“Did anybody like the speech?” he laughed. “You had to like it, right?”
John Brennan, the outgoing CIA chief, called Trump’s remarks “a despicable display of self-aggrandizement.”
But Trump’s sense of denial only got worse as the weekend lengthened. He sent out his feisty but hapless press secretary, Sean Spicer, to claim the inauguration crowd the largest ever. And, on Sunday morning, Trump compounded the lie through his alter-ego, Kellyanne Conway, who claimed there were no lies uttered, only “alternative facts.”
That’s a phrase that’s going to stick. It’s not just that Trump lives in his state of denial, which is dangerous enough. If they’re offering “alternative facts” about something as trivial as crowd size, how do we believe them when the “alternative facts” include economic figures or job losses — or body counts?
Those who once marched against Richard Nixon’s Vietnam War policies wondered if their protests ever touched Nixon’s heart. When his White House tapes were revealed years later, they showed that the protests nearly drove him mad.
Of course, it took years for that to happen. Donald Trump has been in office only days, and he’s already losing touch with the reality seen by everyone else.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).
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