February 1, 2017
There is an old saying attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the famous late U.S. senator from New York, that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”
For many years that was a rule that resonated throughout my life, whether it was in regard to legal matters, or just everyday life. It always seemed like a well-grounded rule, rooted in logic and tradition, at least until inauguration weekend.
There was Kellyanne Conway defending President Donald Trump and his new press secretary, Sean Spicer, on live TV and asserting that the president and his press secretary could use “alternative facts” to justify their claim that the Trump inauguration crowd was the biggest crowd ever, period. You could see the befuddled reaction by Chuck Todd, the moderator on “Meet the Press,” as if to ponder: “Say what?”
This idea of the White House spewing out alternative facts suggests, at least to me, that the White House is going forward in an alternative reality like it was “1984,” using Newspeak to distract the public from what is truth or consequence.
This is especially alarming because these alternative facts were about crowd size! Crowd size, as if that should matter on the first day of a new presidency. Kellyanne’s response to Chuck Todd’s question should have been “Crowd size? Crowd size?” and answer with the same tone that the NBA star Allen Iverson used to deride press questions about his basketball work out: “Practice? Practice?” Crowd size should not matter. But, it obviously matters to the president and to his marionettes.
It has long been obvious that the president is sensitive to little nits and gnats thrown his way, and that he reacts strongly to them, often swatting those gnats with his 20 million Twitter followers, unless you believe the suspicions that many of those followers are bots Tweeting from the graveyard.
It isn’t helpful that the president translates any nit or gnat as an attack on the legitimacy of his election. The facts are clear that he was legitimately elected president. But criticism of his behavior is not criticism of his election. Yet, he uses those criticisms as a bravado excuse to bludgeon his enemies, especially the media.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
President Trump has some admirable goals to improve the economy, to improve the inner cities, and to improve the country in general.
I hope he succeeds on those goals.
He is a Republican; he has a Republican House of Representatives; he has a Republican Senate; and he should soon have a Republican (or at least a very conservative) majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
With those majorities the president can move very quickly on those goals.
He can do that with the best interests of the country in mind.
He does not need Kellyanne Conway.
He does not need alternative facts.
He does not need his alternative reality.
The reality he faces is tough enough.