The lede to President Trump’s occupation of the White House was a flurry of comments and executive orders that set a nation to scratching its collective head as if there had been a massive outbreak of psoriasis. As would befit a proper administration, Mr. Trump didn’t have to go it alone. He had plenty of help from a couple of advisors and a press secretary. Scalps left raw from befuddlement and antsy fingers will likely find no respite as the country enters the second week of a man, devoid of experience in political office, and his efforts to make America great again.
In the first week of this presidency, presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway attempted to educate Chuck Todd from Meet the Press about alternative facts. The general consensus was that the term was just another way to say, “Lies.” In the meantime, sales of George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, shot through the roof. “Alternative facts” now takes its rightful place in the lexicon where “War is peace,” and “Slavery is freedom” reside. Ms. Conway may as well have said that “Ignorance is strength” while she stood her ground in front of a national television audience.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer had his first moments in the spotlight while he stood at the podium in a crowded White House press room and berated reporters for questioning claims that President Trump’s inauguration was witnessed by the most people in history. Photographic evidence eviscerated that statement and revealed it for the alternative fact that it is. Mr. Spicer attempted to walk the statement back the next day by claiming that he meant not only the crowd physically present, but also everybody watching on television, in addition to those streaming the event live over the Internet. It was a nice save, but the realization that this administration was going to have a contentious relationship with the press was already firmly imbedded. First impressions are powerful.
Not to be outdone, Steve Bannon, co-founder and former executive chair holder of the ultra-right wing Brietbart News turned Senior White House Advisor, fired incendiary rounds at the press. He called out the New York Times, that bastion of American journalism, as being fake news. He went on to say that the media was the opposition. Confronting the media and making them out to be the bad guys is a move generally reserved for despots and dictators looking to mask, if not eliminate, the truth. It’s not a historically unique tactic, but it is one that doesn’t belong in the United States.
President Trump did not sit idly by while his minions were busily attacking both press and populace for having a tendency to believe their lying eyes. While Kellyanne babbled, Sean ranted, and Steve attacked, the president let fly executive order after executive order. There were orders approving his Great Wall of No Mexicans, orders reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, an order for the withdrawal from any consideration of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a federal hiring freeze, gag orders intended to prevent the EPA and National Parks Service from releasing information to the public, and, most significantly, an order banning travelers from seven Mid-Eastern nations from entering the country. It was a busy week at the Resolute desk.
It was also a busy week in the streets. There were millions of marchers for women’s rights protests in cities around the nation, including several hundred thousand in Washington D.C. alone. There were also some demonstrations from pro-life groups held as a counter to the women’s rights marches, but they were much smaller in number and passion. For true passion, the travel ban has sparked protests at every major airport from JFK to LAX. It has been noted that New Yorkers are voluntarily making their way to JFK International, a measure of their true depth of feeling.
The travel ban has developed into a particularly thorny issue. Hundreds of passengers were en route to the United States from the seven listed nations when the order was signed, only to find themselves stranded at airports and denied official entry. Among them are green card and visa holders, including wives and children, people that had every legal right to set foot upon U.S. soil when they first boarded the airplane. They were not allowed so much as access to a lawyer. Surprise!
Since the executive order was signed, two U.S. District Court judges have weighed in on the issue. Decisions came down from both Brooklyn, N.Y. and Alexandria V.A. that prevent the deportation of those held in limbo at points of entry.1 With the legalities of a Presidential Executive Order in question, this is starting to look like a case that belongs in the Supreme Court. Yes, that Supreme Court, the one evenly split with four liberal judges, four conservative judges, and a ninth seat that has sat vacant for almost a year. What a grand mess.
On a final note, President Trump reshuffled the National Security Council. The roles of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been reduced, and now taking a seat at the grown-ups table is one Stephen K. Bannon, the same man that earlier in the week pointed an accusing finger and said the press was the opposition.2 What could possibly go wrong? Grab the popcorn and make sure the liquor cabinet is stocked. If week two is anything like week one, and there is no reason to think it won’t be, this ride is just going to get crazier and crazier.
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