August 1, 2018 11:14:07 AM
Maybe you remember when Mexico was going to pay for the wall.
You should. It was as recently as May. Donald Trump went to Nashville for one of those creepy rallies of his and renewed the vow he made ceaselessly during the 2016 campaign. Mexico, he promised, is "going to pay for the wall" along the U.S. southern border, "and they're going to enjoy it." The crowd cheered.
It is probably useless to wonder what those cheering people might make of recent tweets wherein the selfsame Donald Trump threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress does not build said wall. You'd like to think they'd pause to ask themselves why Congress needs to take action on something Mexico is going to happily build.
But experience suggests they will do nothing of the sort. No, they will digest this gristle of cognitive dissonance without flinching. Trump's approval ratings among them will remain high, and they will stand in long lines for his next rally. There will be no consequences.
Granted, every president makes promises he fails to keep. But it is impossible to recall another president so blithely ignoring so central a promise and paying so negligible a price.
Once upon a time, a president's words carried weight. But Trump is a president whose words are weightless, who can say something in May, blithely undercut it in July and nobody, not his adorers and not thinking people either, even gives it a second thought -- the former because he is the Dear Leader whose wisdom is not to be questioned, the latter because, well, what's the use? This is just The Way Things Are now.
Words from the leader of the mightiest nation on Earth no longer anchor ideals, promises and righteous causes -- much less, truth. No, they float off like helium-filled balloons. Up, up and away.
So when he said North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, you realized it was just a matter of time before U.S. intelligence agencies reported that that hermit kingdom was building new missiles. When he claimed to know nothing about his son's meeting with Russians, you were unsurprised to hear his ex-lawyer say he actually knew of it before it happened. When he boasted of higher poll numbers among Republicans than Abraham Lincoln, you waited for someone to note that scientific polling did not exist in Lincoln's lifetime.
And so it goes. From matters of international threat to national scandal to his own overweening ego, it feels like a waste of time to even listen to what he says because by tomorrow, the story will have changed.
Trump thinks the problem is news media. "What you're seeing and what you're reading," he told a veterans group last week, "is not what's happening,"
It was a chilling echo of "1984," George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece. Trump could have been speaking for Orwell's totalitarian "Big Brother," who manipulated language, information and objective reality itself as a way of manipulating people -- and holding power. Like Big Brother, Trump believes there are no permanent facts, just permanent self-interest.
And many are complicit in their own bamboozling. Mexico is going to build the wall and enjoy it? Really? How dumb do you have to be to believe that? To cheer for it? Those cheers enable and empower a man with presidential powers and no guardrails, no fealty to truth, no interest higher than self. In other words, a dangerous man.
But we're supposed to believe media are the problem. "What you're seeing and what you're reading," he says, "is not what's happening,"
Don't you wish?
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Email him at lpitt[email protected]
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