No matter what you may have read or heard elsewhere, the crowd at Donald Trump’s inaugural last Friday was so vast that not only could it be seen from the moon, it actually reached to the moon. On Saturday—not that anyone was paying much attention—the few dozen malcontents who’d voted against him nationwide turned out in D.C. and other cities to recant and beg for America’s forgiveness. (America’s still thinking it over.) The CIA loves our new president so much that it’s like Beatlemania all over again in Langley.
Prince also died gasping that he wished he’d had one-tenth of Justin Bieber’s talent. Doctors have determined that opioid addiction is better for your health than eating broccoli. And here at Playboy, we’re proud to say, we’ve never printed a single sexy picture of an undressed woman in the magazine’s 64-year existence. Call that our way of guaranteeing you’ll only read us for the interviews.
These are, of course, Alternative Facts—the Kellyanne Conway coinage that instantly replaced “American carnage” as the most memorable phrase of Trump’s embryonic presidency. (It should be pointed out that “American carnage” was itself an Alternative Fact, since the description in Trump’s inaugural address of a nation going to hell from sea to shining sea had no relationship to observable reality.) Even by Conway’s unnerving standards, her Orwell-that-ends-well defense of Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s hissy fit about the media’s unfairness in reporting news accurately was so brazen it inspired veteran Beltway enabler Chuck Todd to manufacture himself an alternative spine out of Legos. Once he’d attached it, he confused Conway by spouting gibberish in the language once known as English: “’Alternative facts’ are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”
We now have a president whose blustering antics are supersize distractions from what’s really going on.
Maybe that was so when you were young and innocent, Chuck. (You know, a week ago.) In Trumplandia, even self-evident truths are merely biased opinion and only pro-Trump opinions are truths. What American liberals haven’t totally grasped yet is that they aren’t up against a political constituency or even a “movement,” as Trump has recently taken to calling his base. They’re up against a new religion, one that’s as impervious to reality-based criticism as any other fundamentalist congregation.
True, most fundamentalist congregations have better taste in godheads. But as usual, secularists are fighting oranges with apples. If our new POTUS were to announce tomorrow that he’d converted his own and a few stray Russian gals’ pee into wine—and not just any wine, but the greatest, most fantastic wine, making Jesus’s crummy pinot grigio only taste good to losers—his fans would be lining up for bottles of Chateau Urine ‘17 from here to Wyoming.
Like the trained oenophiles they are, the CIA’s career officers couldn’t be counted on to ooh and aah with enough enthusiasm when Trump showed up at Langley on Saturday. So he had to import a claque of supporters to keep the applause raucous and the laughter appreciative as he veered off from pretending he’d never insulted our spooks by comparing them to Nazis to blathering about the “dishonest” media and his inaugural’s crowd size. The latest Leader of the Free World’s often goofy-faced preening didn’t chime too well with the wall display behind him, whose stars bleakly memorialize agents killed in the line of duty.
People unfamiliar with government service probably can’t know how startling a violation of decorum Trump’s carny act was, most glaringly when he claimed to be sure that “almost everybody in this room” had voted for him. Whether or not that’s the case—and we wouldn’t necessarily bet on it—the CIA’s allegiance to any president is supposed to be professional and nonpartisan. For Trump to recast the Agency’s employees as his political loyalists amounted to a warning that he expects them to behave that way from now on, a troubling implication the commentariat mostly missed.
His Langley visit did oblige cable news to cut away for an hour or so from the Women’s March, the largest worldwide demonstration ever against a new U.S. president. Sure, the celebs making the speeches were the usual obnoxious suspects. But the speeches weren’t the story. The story was all those split-screen views of swarms of people jamming streets from Seattle to New York to Paris.
Not that they were any deterrent to Trump’s first executive actions in office, from ordering Federal agencies to get started dismantling Obamacare before Congress even votes on it to re-imposing a Reagan-era gag rule on abortion and pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, his predecessor’s most ambitious trade deal. All of these would have been major news if it hadn’t been for the bigger noise generated by his administration’s bid to brand the media as its enemy and facts as contentious inconveniences, suggesting there may be a method to his madness after all. We now have a president whose blustering antics are supersize distractions from what’s really going on. He’s turning the White House into America’s alternative fiction.