The president 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.
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 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 ago, he settled for $25 million two lawsuits and a fraud case regarding his phony university, a scheme that duped people out of their personal savings. 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. 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 citizens believe he is unfit for office.
But while his legislative agenda is in tatters, his master strategy — throwing out distraction bombs regularly, while turning the screws of power toward a backward era — is working. In the past two weeks, he has allowed a humanitarian crisis affecting more than 3 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 have the same right as every other American to express themselves. 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 forgotten in the blur of bloviation is astonishing. Possibly colluding with Russia to hijack a U.S. election. Firing the FBI director 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 he would do the same for people around him who may have sold their country out to Russia.
This week, we learned his White House is full of 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, former judge Roy Moore, to fill that Alabama seat.
If a Muslim said the things that 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. No need. 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 used our money to fly private planes at his pleasure and resigned. 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.
Trump will make us forget these grifters with some fresh tweet. He’s already tweeted the word “loser” 234 times, “incompetent” 92 times and “pathetic” 72 times. The tweets take us away from the serious damage he is doing. He does the same thing at his hate-filled rallies.
Now it’s taxes. He’s lied about whether his plan will benefit the rich and his own family. It will, by eliminating the estate tax, and ensuring 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.