Trump Truth

The young inexperienced security guard had quickly won over pretty much all of us. He had a sort of naive air about him that almost compelled us into a protective mode. He made friends. So, when he and his wife lost the baby during her difficult pregnancy, our small office sort of closed ranks around them both.

One loutish supervisor tried to comfort them with a larger perspective. “A miscarriage is just nature’s way of getting rid of its mistakes.”

We quickly hustled him out of earshot before he could offer more helpful advice.

Many folks have a hard time with tragedy. Coming up with the right words can be difficult for the best of us. There is a large subset of our fellow humans who find such moments especially awkward.

So I can generate a grudging sort of sympathy for President Trump as I watch his inept attempt at adding a bit of humor to a tragic situation.

Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack. Because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.

He didn’t do much better as he tried to put things into perspective. After all, it could have been worse:

Every death is a horror. But, if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here which was really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this, and what is your death count as of this moment, seventeen?

Sixteen people certified, sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people, working together.

The “all your people” combined with “all our people” fits a pattern that becomes familiar to anyone following Trump-Speak. Your people would be those from that beleagered island. Our people would be rescuers from the mainland. It says something about us that this linguistic quirk went unnoticed. Imagine the awkward echo if President Obama had informed the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey or New York that your people should be proud to work together with our people.

More telling was why my President congratulated Governor Ricardo Rosello. He had heard very good things about him. He got specific about just what very good things he had heard. He did not congratulate the Governor for any desperate effort to save lives, or for any practical success in distributing aid. He reached to the side and slightly back and patted Governor Rosello’s hand as he offered his praise:

Your governor has been… who I didn’t know. I heard very good things about him. He’s not even from my party. And he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did. And he was tremendously supportive.

He went on to explain, as he once again patted the Governor’s hand:

Right from the beginning, this governor did not play politics. He didn’t play it at all. He was saying it like it was.

And he was giving us the highest grades

The playing politics part was an oblique slap at another Puerto Rican official who, as it turned out, had not given Donald Trump the highest grades. After listening to a Trump official express satisfaction with relief efforts, terming it a good news story, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz could scarcely contain her anger:

Dammit! This is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story.

Her focus was not on the number of deaths that had already been counted. She was concerned about those many more who were in dire peril, who might yet die.

Brief video clips showed a frustrated Mayor Cruz rowing through the flooded streets of San Juan, attempting to reach stranded people who had been without food for days. We watched as she waded through waist deep waters to residents her little boat would not reach.

The problem was not a shortage of supplies. The problem was a shortage of supplies where those supplies were needed. Docks were loaded with tons of food, drinking water, fuel, and medical supplies. But the entire weight of federal chain-of-command seemed to have become something out of Kafka. In Washington, members of the administration were high-fiving, but little was moving away from the docks in Puerto Rico.

While the Mayor had put on wading boots and taken to the streets, my President had put on golfing shoes and taken to the links. She expressed on screen her frustration. He expressed on Twitter his outraged fury.

As she answered his attacks, we could see the exhaustion in her face and hear it in her voice.

I have no time for small politics or for comments that really don’t add to the situation here.

The truth is staring us in the face.

The harsh dialogue between street level frustration and executive indignation reflected something we have seen before.

The most wounding injustice my President will ever witness can only consist of any words of criticism directed at himself.

Mild criticism of Donald Trump has turned a war hero into someone who was merely captured:

He hit me, he’s not a war hero.

Criticism of Donald Trump has turned the mother of an American hero who died in combat saving the lives of other Americans, a mother still in silent mourning, into a whimpering weakling:

If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.

Even satire must be answered with devastating attack.

A television comedian reads aloud from an actual legal document:

His lawyers sent me a letter that says, and I quote:

Attached hereto is a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate, demonstrating that he is the son of Fred Trump, and not an orangutan.

Acts of heroic sacrifice fade to dust if a Vietnam veteran is disappointed in Donald Trump, if Muslims who lost their son ask if Mr. Trump has read the Constitution, if an exhausted Mayor explodes in frustration as she tries to save lives. No heroism will matter if the hero is not fully loyal to Donald Trump.

The reverse is also true. A great deal can be swept away by generous praise.

Foreign policy can be determined:

Putin says very nice things about me. I think that’s very nice.

If he says great things about me, I’m gonna say great things about him.

Has he ordered the murders of journalists and critics, the invasions of other countries?

I mean you can say “Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing. He called the man …” The man has very strong control over a country.

I’ve already said he is really very much of a leader.

What most of us would regard as pure evil can be viewed with equanimity.

You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

Why defend people who march alongside self-declared Nazis, who join in their chants of supremacy?

You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

The answer is surprisingly uncomplicated:

I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?

We wonder at the insistence on obsequious adoration from appointees, as an entire cabinet meeting is filled with obedient praise:

the leadership that you’ve shown

with your direction

leading across the board

I want to congratulate you

You’re absolutely right

my hat’s off to you

an honor to be your steward

Why are acts of evil excused and acts of selflessness condemned? Why are the policies of the strongest nation in the history of the world subverted?

The Mayor of San Juan, in her weary pleas for aid, expresses an inescapable fact writ large:

The truth is staring us in the face.

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