Tag: Inauguration

Bizzaro World

So Trump’s inauguration was on Friday. It was obvious that the inauguration — while well-attended — was not as well-attended as Obama’s. There were visible open spaces on the mall, MTA ridership was down and ballpark estimates were low. 250,000 tickets were sent out but it looks like the total crowd was in about the half million range or a bit below. This would be massively less than Obama’s crowds, but close to what Bush drew. Estimates will come out soon (the Park Service no longer make estimates after Louis Farrakhan threw a fit over his “million man march” drawing “only” 400,000 people.)

For some reason, Trump and his supporters got in a tizzy over the low attendance numbers though. There were a number of arguments that could be made in Trump’s favor: the weather wasn’t great; Trump’s supporters are more working class; DC is a very heavily Democratic town; there’s less of a cult following of Trump; etc. But instead of doing that, Trump decided to go with an outright brassbound cringingly obvious lie:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer came to the briefing room Saturday to chastise journalists for their coverage of attendance at President Trump’s inauguration before leaving the briefing room without taking any questions.

..

“Inaccurate numbers involving crowd size were also tweeted,” Spicer said, his voice escalating in volume. “No one had numbers…because the National Park Service does not put any out.” He said the same applied to “any attempt to count the protesters today,” referring to the Women’s March on Washington that packed the National Mall area.

Despite the lack of numbers he cited, Spicer went on to assert “this was the largest audience to ever witness the inauguration period both in person and around the globe.”

“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” Spicer said. He described what he considered unfair visuals from the event: “This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings were used to protect the grass on the mall…That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.”

Later, Spicer blasted the reporting as “shameful” and “wrong,” calling them “attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration.”

Spicer cited false MTA ridership figures, made false claims about floor coverings (which were used in past inaugurations), blasted the media and then stomped out. You have to watch it to get the full flavor. He was angry. It reminded me of nothing so much as Bill Clinton wagging his finger at us and insisting he’d never touched Monica.

(Spicer also blasted Time for incorrectly reporting that MLK’s bust has been removed from the Oval Office. The reporter in question realized within hours that his view was obstructed and apologized for the error. Spicer accepted the apology on Twitter, then went out and had a hissy fit about it anyway.)

Look, I’m used to politicians lying. But never this blatantly, this stupidly or this angrily. It’s usually stuff like claiming small decreases in spending growth are “draconian cuts” that they’re the most transparent administration ever. It’s usually stuff they can weasel around. But this was an obvious lie, a ridiculous lie, the kind you would have expected for Baghdad Bob.

There’s a lot of theories floating around. Some people think Trump is gaslighting the country — trying to lie so much about little things that his lies about big things will be swallowed. Some people think he’s trying to distract attention away from other things (although the number of dumb Trump lies and dumb Trump scandals is so high, they’re guaranteed to overlap). I never ascribe to conspiracy, however, what can be ascribed to incompetence. Trump is just a dumb, venal, conceited man who desperately wants to think he is beloved and worshipped. Hence the hilarious claims that he won the election in the biggest landslide in history. Hence the bizarre claims that his approval numbers are rigged. Hence the surreal sight of a press secretary screaming at the press that a million and a half people attending the inauguration, apparently mostly disguised as empty reviewing stands. He desperately wants our admiration and worship, the two things he will never get. Because even if his Presidency goes exceedingly well … he’ll still be Donald Trump. He’s never going to be Reagan or even Bush 41. The most he can aspire to be is a low-rent Bill Clinton, a President we can say did a good job but was still a horse’s ass.

There is one real concern here, however. If the Trump Administration gets a reputation for dishonesty, it could create problems in foreign relations. If we need to reassure China that we have no intention of recognizing Taiwan, they need to believe that. If we have to mitigate a conflict between India and Pakistan, both sides have to trust us. If we tell the world that Iran has restarted its nuclear program, they can’t think we’re full of shit.

This reflexive flagrant dishonesty is going to bite us in the ass down the road.

Update: This nails it:

Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it’s not because there’s some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you’re a proven liar in public, you can’t adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they’ll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.

Sean Spicer is blowing credibility on an issue that means absolutely nothing. What’s he going to do when we’re on the brink of a war or something?

The King’s Speech

I didn’t have time until yesterday to read through the President’s faux inauguration speech. While it was, as expected, stirringly delivered, and had some nice turns of phrase like this:

For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

and seemed to excite his liberal base, I came away mostly unimpressed. It name-checked gay rights while ignoring that the biggest impediment to them is and has long been … government. It talked of individual liberty while pushing an agenda that chokes liberty off in favor of collectivism (the word cloud showed the most prominent words were “people” and “must”; that’s not a fluke). There was talk of reform and getting rid of “outworn programs” from someone who has opposed fundamental changes to the way government does business. And when it came to the biggest problems we’re facing: the economy and long-term debt, it addressed them with such nonsense as this:

We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

But the entire point of our budget crisis is that we do have to make tough choices; that we can’t have everything on the liberal wish list.

Really, it seemed to me the best aspect of the speech was that it was short.

But something bugged me about it and I finally realized what it was. Suderman:

(Update: Since I drafted this post, Suderman has withdrawn the above since he mistakenly quotes the first inaugural speech. I still think the broad strokes — that progressivism is triumphant — applies to the new speech so I’ve left it in. For a more germaine criticism, you can check out Matt Welch.)

I wouldn’t call the speech a case for progressivism so much as an attempt to assert its victory.

It’s true that Obama offered a vision of a bigger, bolder state. But what he didn’t offer was much of an argument for how to get there, or make it affordable and sustainable. There were no outright policy proposals in the speech, but there was an awful lot of spending squeezed between its lines. Yet except for a line about using technology to lower the cost of health care [which isn’t working, incidentally — Hal], Obama’s speech offered no hints about he’d pay for his expanded state; the words debt, deficit, and budget were notably absent from the text.

Nor did Obama make much attempt to win over his political opponents—to convince them that the goals he laid out were worthy. Rather, the speech instead suggested that the argument was over, that he had won, and that the opposition should simply fall in line. “There are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” he said. “Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.”

That’s not an argument for liberalism so much as a statement that Obama believes the argument is over.

We’ve often complained that, to the Left, the definition of “partisan rancor” and “obstructionism” is any opposition to the liberal agenda. And Obama seems to be laying out the case for that once again, claiming that we don’t really need to debate anymore. All we need to figure out is how we’re going to tax enough for all this.

Really, it seemed more like the first speech of Campaign 2014 than anything else: an opening salvo claiming that the only thing standing between America and its Liberal Utopia destiny is those damned Republicans.