It was Orwellian Newspeak! It came from the lips of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway on NBC’s Meet the Press. She claimed that the new White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, hadn’t lied to reporters about the size of the inaugural crowd. He had merely presented them with “alternative facts”, she said. Host Chuck Todd asked why the White House press secretary decided to come out in front of the podium for the first time ever and issue a false statement. Kellyanne Conway said that press secretary just gave alternative facts.
By now we are all tired of the debate over the size of the crowd at Trump’s swearing-in. It’s the kind of trivial issue that catches fire on social media. Trump knows this better than anyone. It is even more ridiculous a story because anyone on the internet could see a comparison of the Obama and Trump swearing-in crowds in photographs and catch the new president in his lie.
Still, obsessive attention to crowd size dominated news.
Media coverage of such triviality was part of the reactive news coverage that Trump gamed throughout his campaign. Through a provocative tweet he could ignite a firestorm on social media and in the press. But every time these storms blew in, it was often to obscure a deeper and more serious menace. So, the attention being paid to the number of people at the inauguration has obscured the import of both the executive order on healthcare and the huge women’s protests on Saturday.
The farrago Trump has created on healthcare is consequential and shameful. It’s hard to imagine that he will come up with anything better than providing more, good health insurance. The Affordable Care Act has driven the number of Americans without insurance to an all-time low. The fact is that far more people gained coverage than had their policies canceled. Repealing Obamacare could deny more than 18 million people health coverage, and Republican proposals to replace it are a muddle of insufficiency.
The new president doesn’t seem to understand the facts. Spicer had to hurriedly walk back his boss’s comments when Trump, during an interview with the Washington Post before the inauguration, promised “insurance for everybody”. Spicer’s amendment to his comments made things clear: access to insurance would be increased and costs cut through marketplace competition, not huge new government spending for universal coverage. Maybe Trump understands facts and he just offers alternative kinds of facts.
It’s hard to adjust to life in Trump’s post-truth America. The “American carnage” that President Trump described doesn’t comport with the American reality. The fact is that crime rates are historically low and there has been record job growth over the last eight years. Trump's cry of “America First” evokes isolationism and not the inclusive beliefs shared by most Americans. And most people know that there is the truth and then there are lies … and nothing in between!
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