Egan: The Trump fog machine

Egan: The Trump fog machine

October 2nd, 2017 by Timothy Egan/New York TImes News Service in Opinion Times Commentary

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he walks to Marine One as he departs the White House, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Washington. Trump is en route to Bedminster, N.J.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Do you remember what monstrous, contemptible or demonstrably false thing Donald Trump said one year ago? Six months ago? OK, last week? Probably not. The effect of this presidency-by-horrors is to induce amnesia in the public, as if we'd all been given a memory-loss drug.

To recap: A year ago, Trump lied repeatedly in his first debate with Hillary Clinton, and was reminded that he had called women pigs, slobs and dogs. Six months go, he settled for $25 million two lawsuits and a fraud case regarding his phony university, a huckster scheme that duped people out of their personal savings. And last week, he unleashed an attack on the free-speech rights of athletes, using a profanity that could not be repeated on the news without a warning to children.

It's. All. Going. According. To. Plan. The Trump presidency is a monumental failure on multiple levels. None of what he has promised — the wall, paid for by Mexico, repealing Obamacare, "so much winning" — has been achieved. He's made much of the world hate us, and a majority of his fellow citizens believe that he is unfit for office.

But while his legislative agenda is in tatters, his master strategy — throwing out distraction bombs on a regular basis, while turning the screws of power toward a backward era — is working. In just the past two weeks, he has allowed a humanitarian crisis affecting more than 3.4 million American citizens to fester, reportedly mocked a dying senator and threatened to annihilate a nation of 25 million people.

But what are we talking about? Football. And whether the people who play the sport have the same right as every other American to express themselves — which, legally, is not even a question. In Trump's view, athletes should just shut up and take their brain damage. While Americans in Puerto Rico clung to life on an island without power or adequate water and food, Trump tweeted 24 times about football.

What's been forgotten at times in the blur of bloviation is astonishing. Possibly colluding with Russia to hijack a U.S. election. Firing the FBI director who was looking into that maze of questions. Pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Rolling back protections for clean air, water and workplace safety. Losing half his staff to scandal, deceit or overt idiocy.

He has made a joke of civility, promoted bullying and sexual assault by his words. He pardons one criminal, a racist sheriff found guilty of contempt of court, and implies that he would do the same thing for the people around him who may have sold their country out to Russia.

His White House is full of high-ranking staffers doing the very thing for which he said Hillary Clinton should be locked up — mixing private emails with government business. He failed, again, with something he promised would happen on Day 1 — repealing Obamacare. He also lost a Senate race in which he had a personal stake; he now backs a lawbreaking bigot, the former judge Roy Moore, to fill that seat in Alabama.

If a Muslim said the things Roy Moore has said — calling homosexuality a "crime against nature," advocating government by theocracy — Trump supporters would be crying Shariah law. But Moore gets a pass, "a great guy," the president called this deranged man.

The Trump Fog Machine erased all his tweets supporting the other guy in Alabama. No need for that. We do it for him, by following the fresh distractions. Trump is not Teflon. Things do stick to him. But he survives by saying or doing something so outrageous, so regularly, that we forget the last atrocity, and turn on one another.

So, this week his Cabinet official charged with taking away health care from the poor and cutting the budget for cancer research has now resigned for using our money to fly private planes at his pleasure. The multimillionaire treasury secretary wanted the same perk for his honeymoon. And the EPA director is spending a small taxpayer fortune to cocoon himself inside a high-security bubble — all the more to keep inconvenient scientific facts from getting to him.

Trump will make us forget these government grifters with some fresh tweet. He's already tweeted the word "loser" 234 times, "incompetent" 92 times and "pathetic" 72 times. Call them projection tweets, showing the man for what he truly is. But they take us away from the serious damage he is doing to the country. He does the same thing at his hate-filled rallies.

Now it's taxes. He's already lied about whether his tax plan will benefit the rich and his own family. It will, by eliminating the estate tax, and ensuring that the top 1 percent will get nearly 50 percent of the windfall.

Those details will soon be lost in the Trump Fog Machine. He will say something awful, do something horrible, insult some vulnerable person. We will be shocked just long enough to forget what happened yesterday.

The New York Times

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