As pretty much his first action as president, our new clown-in-chief, Donald Trump, has gone completely off the rails about... the size of the crowds at his inauguration.
Incredible, isn't it? TPM called it "National Insecurity," and I liked that so much I borrowed it for the headline here, too. What's next? Apparently, Trump still thinks he's a 'reality TV' star.
It's not just Trump. His whole team has become equally hysterical about this. At the first White House press briefing of this new administration, Trump's press secretary did nothing but rant about the press and lie about the crowd at the inauguration, without taking a single question from journalists.
Here's how TPM describes it:
On the one hand it is chilling, bizarre, un-American to see the President's spokesman begin the term excoriating and threatening the press, telling demonstrable lies, speaking with a palpable rage in his voice. On the other, the President and his toadies are on the second day almost vanishingly small. They are embarrassing themselves. They look silly. They look ridiculous. It is hard to be intimidated by ridiculousness. I suspect this will be the abiding duality of the Trump presidency.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager and now a senior White House advisor, has been trying desperately to make insanity seem... well, slightly less crazy.
It wasn't lying, you see. It was just "alternative facts":
Senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said in an interview Sunday morning that White House press secretary Sean Spicer wasn't lying about crowd size at the President's inauguration—he was just giving "alternative facts." ...
"You did not answer the question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood," [Chuck] Todd interrupted. "Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one."
"No, it doesn't. Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck," Conway replied. "You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point really is—"
"Wait a minute. Alternative facts? Alternative facts?" Todd interjected, looking incredulous. "Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true."
Conway tried to interrupt, but Todd continued.
"Look, alternative facts are not facts," he said.
But they are for faith-based people. For faith-based people, reality is whatever you want it to be. They don't care about the truth of their beliefs, but only about whether or not they want to believe them. These are the same people who've decided that facts don't exist.
They're wrong, of course. Facts do exist and, unlike gods, they don't cease to exist when you stop believing in them. Donald Trump can push his 'alternative' reality all he likes. That still won't make it true.
Even Fox News agrees that they're lying. Even Fox News thinks that this is crazy. And when Republicans get too crazy for Fox News, you know it's bad.
But I haven't even mentioned the craziest part of all this. On his first day in office, Donald Trump went to the headquarters of the CIA and spent his time bragging about how smart he is, whining about the media, and... yes, arguing about the crowd size at his inauguration.
Yes, at the CIA. On his first official day in office.
Again, from TPM:
A presidential speech that was intended to thank the intelligence community quickly went off the rails Saturday as Donald Trump talked about himself, his inauguration crowd, the dishonest media and how great his party was.
Trump appeared at the CIA on his first official day as the 45th president after a rough few weeks where he'd heavily criticized the agency, blamed it for leaks and questioned their assessment that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election. In a brief 15-minute statement, Trump meandered, but without the kind of discipline or grace one might expect from the commander in chief. ...
It seemed at every turn, Trump would pivot to himself. As he talked about his choice to lead the CIA Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Trump noted that he himself was smart.
"I met him and I said, he is so good. Number one in his class at West Point. I know a lot about West Point, and I'm a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at M.I.T. for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many ways," Trump said. "He was an academic genius, and then they say, there's Donald Trump, an intellectual, trust me, I'm like a smart person." ...
It was a strange juxtaposition: a President, standing before the memorial wall at the CIA that honors the lives lost by agency officers as he talked about crowd size and his intelligence. According to the pool report, there were about 400 CIA employees at the agency Saturday. At first, the cheering came from across the crowd, but the pooler noted that as the speech continued, the senior officials in the front grew "subdued."
I'll bet they did! Keep in mind that this was a speech that was supposed to show support for the CIA (so it should have made them happy).
Trump himself said, "I am so behind you and I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you've wanted and you're going to get so much backing. Maybe you'll say, 'don't give us so much backing. Mr. President, please, we don't need that much backing.'"
Who talks like that? Who says, "...and then they say, there's Donald Trump, an intellectual, trust me, I'm like a smart person"?
I've known lots of smart people. None of them talk like that. That's like a dumb person's idea of what a smart person says. How scary is that when you're talking about the President of the United States?
After her "alternative facts" gambit failed, Kellyanne Conway was reduced to arguing that size doesn't matter. No, of course it doesn't. But this wouldn't have been news at all if Donald Trump hadn't thrown a temper tantrum about it:
"I completely agree with that. We spent eleven hours on the air during the inauguration, barely talked about the crowd size if we brought it up at all," George Stephanopoulos replied. "The question is, why does the President choose to talk about that at the CIA? Why does he send his press secretary out to talk about it in his first White House briefing and say things that aren't true?"
This just gets scarier and scarier. After one day in office, Donald Trump already seems to be going insane from the stress. What has America done to itself?
For the record, there were a lot of people at Trump's inauguration, just as you'd expect. But from every bit of evidence (i.e. everything but unsupported claims from Donald Trump himself or his spokespeople), they didn't match the crowds at either of Barack Obama's inaugurations. (Here's Snopes.com, too.)
Please note that the National Park Service doesn't release official estimates of these crowds anymore, not since the organizers of the Million Man March threatened to sue because, like Trump, they wanted to believe they had a bigger turnout. (And, of course, Trump has banned the Park Service from Twitter after they posted a picture comparing the crowd size this year with Obama's 2009 inauguration.)
Is the crowd size important? No, not even slightly. Rather, it wouldn't have been important if Donald Trump hadn't had such a meltdown about it, if his press secretary hadn't lied about it, and if his campaign manager hadn't made such ludicrous claims about "alternative facts."
This is only important because of Trump's clownish reaction to any perceived slight. Remember how he claimed that he'd won one of the biggest Electoral College landslides in American history (false) and also that he'd actually won the popular vote? (That's even less true. Hillary Clinton received almost three million more votes than he did.)
But if Trump wants to talk size, let's compare. One of the few hopeful indicators of this new year is that the Women's March on Washington yesterday - protesting Trump - apparently had a crowd three times as big as the inauguration the day before.
You can believe whatever you like - Trump supporters certainly will - but there are pictures from the same EarthCam at the same time of day. Well, until Russia hacks it, I suppose. :)