Through four weeks of the Trump presidency we have witnessed a historic clash between fact-based reality and the power of willful delusion. Like Queen Mab of Shakespearean lore, the president spins his web of fantasy and challenges all comers to prove him wrong.
We have entered the Twilight Zone of American politics.
This is the fifth installment of the Trump Diaries.
DAY 29: ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Friday February 17, 2017
Trump makes an appearance at the Boeing plant in South Carolina. He heads to Florida tomorrow for a big rally. He promises to bring America jobs and more jobs – good paying manufacturing jobs. Can we assume most of those jobs will be non-union?
Just as an Oklahoma court orders him to release thousands of emails to the oil, gas and coal industries in compliance with state law, the Senate confirms state attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. They could not have selected a more antagonistic individual to the environmental cause if they had chosen the CEO of Exxon Mobil – and he already has a job as Secretary of State.
Any hope that Trump would moderate his anti-environment, climate change denial policies seems to have vanished. The coal industry is once again free to dump toxic waste into rivers and streams. The fracking industry – a subsidiary of big oil – can proceed without delay in contaminating the drinking water of millions of Americans.
If he survives his first term, Trump will be known as the man most responsible for the climate catastrophe still to come.
In his ongoing war on the mainstream media, Trump tweets: The media is the enemy of the American people. Correction, Donald: The media are the enemy of the American people. They are also our last best hope.
FBI Director James Comey briefs members of the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning Russia’s interference in the presidential election. Senator Marco Rubio – AKA Little Marco – came out of the meeting certain that the committee would conduct a thorough investigation.
DAY 30: THE BIG RALLY
Saturday February 18, 2017
Thousands of Trump supporters pack an airport hangar in Melbourne, Florida to hear the president proclaim the accomplishments of his first thirty days in office and his projection of accomplishments to come.
The president counts among his accomplishments withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership but the TPP never took effect. He advocates one-to-one trade deals and mentions NAFTA but he has not withdrawn from NAFTA or CAFTA. He defends his Muslim travel ban but it has thus far stalled in the courts. He proclaims that his deportations have made America safer but there is no evidence that the ICE raids have swept up “bad hombres” and violent criminals. There is a great deal of evidence that his actions have divided families by indiscriminately deporting undocumented workers who are guilty of nothing more than being undocumented.
Trump promises a trillion dollar effort to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure but there are no signs his own party supports the effort. He continues to promise that Obamacare will be repealed and replaced by something better but his own party stands in the way. He says he will take care of the veterans. Does he really believe Obama didn’t want to fully fund the Veterans Administration? The Republicans in congress will insist – as they always have – on budgetary offsets. Where will the money come from?
The president must come to grips with the fact that his party controls both houses of congress. He is no longer a candidate; he is the president. He cannot continue to blame the Democrats and the media for obstructing his policies. He will be judged by what he does and what he has accomplished thus far is in fact very little and all of it divisive and harmful. If he leaves it up to congress to pass tax reform and healthcare reform we will all be disappointed in the results.
DAY 31: WE ARE ALL MUSLIMS
February 19, 2017
One day after Trump’s campaign rally, thousands gather at Times Square in NYC to protest the ban on travelers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons leads the protest in which Christians, Jews, Muslims and others of all faiths and creeds proclaim their solidarity with the Muslim community.
Mainstream media reports that the president’s strange lament over what happened “last night” in Sweden never happened. It turns out the president has been absorbing his news from such credible news sources as Breitbart, Human Events, the Drudge Report, Fox News, the Rush Limbaugh Show and the Savage Nation. (Update: A riot in Stockholm two days after Trump’s pronouncement makes us wonder if the president is psychic.)
Fake news has been going on a very long time. The president is not the creator of “alternative facts”; he is a consumer and purveyor of rightwing propaganda. He and millions of ordinary Americans sincerely believe that mainstream media have created a reality that bears only a coincidental relationship with the truth. Mainstream media are hardly free of guilt in this development. A corporate monolith with its own agenda now owns every mainstream media outlet. Mainstream media have long dismissed even the notion of a conspiracy to defraud our democracy though there has often been compelling evidence of such conspiracies: Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, the assassinations of the Kennedy’s, the Iran Hostage crisis, on and on. You can add FBI director James Comey’s October surprise to the list.
Mainstream media were complicit in supporting the Bush administration’s patently false case for war – most notably the New York Times acting as a front for White House propaganda through esteemed reporter Judy Miller. 
Who can forget Dan Rather pledging his allegiance to the commander-in-chief soon after September 11, 2001? 
Mainstream media are not pure in this battle for credibility but let us be clear: the alternative media that our president relies on constitute a blatant propaganda machine whose primary interest is to capture a growing audience. The Alt Right is what it preaches against: false news. The great shame is that Americans have so lost trust in traditional news sources that large percentages believe in them. It has become a religion and religions require no sources, no facts and no grounding in reality.
Shall we blame education for not teaching our children to decipher truth from fiction? Or shall we blame the media for abandoning the principles of journalism during times of war? It is high time media reform became an issue again.
DAY 32: NOT MY PRESIDENT’S DAY
February 20, 2017
Anti Trump protesters hit the streets across America from New York to San Francisco and everywhere in between. Mass protests continue in London where Parliament is considering an invitation to the new American president.
Chaos continues to rule the White House as institutions and individuals compete for the president’s ear. Trump fires National Security Council senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Deare for critical comments at a private roundtable at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
I suspect Mr. Deare dearly wanted out of this sinking ship of state. Trump continues to search for a replacement to General Flynn as National Security Adviser. Traditionally one of the most powerful positions in the executive branch, Trump’s first choice was reportedly retired Vice Admiral Robert Harwood who rejected the job as a “shit sandwich.” Now Trump is down to considering the likes of neocon John Bolton who championed the “axis of evil” approach that led us down the rabbit hole of foreign wars during the George W. Bush administration.
That Bolton is even being interviewed is a measure of Trump’s desperation. The former ambassador to the United Nations favors stronger sanctions on Russia for interfering in our presidential election. 
Trump announces his selection: the relatively non-controversial Lt. General H.R. McMaster who will become the administration’s leading advocate of increased military spending to modernize our war machine. His latest specialty is strategic preparations for future conflict with Russia.  Interesting.
In yet another potential blockbuster, the NY Times reports a backchannel deal to settle the conflict in Ukraine and lift sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.  Moscow categorically denies the report.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Brain Drain: CIA analyst Edward Price resigns after fifteen years of service rather than continue under President Trump.
DAY 33: BIGOTRY, INTOLERANCE & HATRED
February 21, 2017
Slow day in Trumpland: The president visits the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian. He wants us to know despite rumors to the contrary that he’s actually against “bigotry, intolerance and hatred.” He condemns recent attacks on the Jewish community.
The question is: What took him so long? After neglecting to mention the Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day and dressing down a Jewish reporter who merely asked him to take a stand against anti-Semitic terrorism, he finally complies.
I have a theory about this and it comes from the Bannon playbook. Recall that it took a day or two for candidate Trump to condemn the KKK and disavow former Imperial Wizard David Duke. Recall that Trump swept the South in both the primaries and the general election. Bannon has informed Trump that he doesn’t have to talk the talk in order to maintain the support of white supremacists. He only has to appear reluctant to give the usual condemnations.
With a wink and a nod they all fall in line.
DAY 34: CLEARING THE WAY FOR MASS DEPORTATION
February 22, 2017
The Department of Homeland Security issues new and broader guidelines for deportation. After floating a rumor about calling up the National Guard for deportation service, these guidelines make it clear that ICE can deport any undocumented immigrant it wishes to deport. For now the dreamers (individuals who migrated as children) are safe but who knows how long that will last?
Trump erases hope that he will uphold the rights of the LGBT community by revoking former president Obama’s landmark guideline to public schools. It instructed schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their sexual identity.
Trump went out of his way to become the first Republican presidential candidate to stand up for the rights of the LGBT community but President Trump went out of his way to denigrate those rights in deference to states’ rights and the rights of individual schools to discriminate. Sad!
DAY 35: BANNON VOWS DECONSTRUCTION
February 23, 2017
Steve Bannon makes a rare public appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The man who traditionally looks like he just came off a three-day bender is the dominant figure behind the Trump presidency. He vows a policy of government deconstruction and decries mainstream media for their corporate globalism. There is more than a grain of truth to his media criticism and anyone who doubts that should take another look at Bill Moyers’ critique during the Iraq War.  The difference is: Moyers wants to reform the media; Bannon wants to replace it with his own rightwing propaganda machine.
Unlike his boss, Bannon seems to understand trade policy. He does not use the phrase “free and fair” trade. He advocates bilateral fair trade. We’ll see how that shakes out. I’m guessing Bannon’s interpretation of fair trade does not include the basic rights of labor.
CNN reports that chief of staff Reince Preibus contacted the FBI to request a denial of published reports that members of the Trump campaign were in constant contact with Russian agents. The FBI refused. Reminiscent of Nixon’s articles of impeachment, the move could be interpreted as an attempt to obstruct an ongoing investigation. 
Incredible. This team of amateurs forgot the first rule of post-Watergate government: It’s not just the crime; it’s the cover up.
After a month at a frenetic rate the White House is finally settling down into something resembling a normal operation. The president has stirred controversy while holding to his rightwing agenda in a series of executive actions. We are still awaiting major legislative actions regarding health care, infrastructure and military spending.
The Dow Jones Industrial reaches a new high and the price of housing has reached the same inflated levels that led to the great recession. Wall Street loves Trump but, then again, Wall Street loved George W. And we all know how that turned out.
The president has demonstrated he can control the news cycle but he has yet to prove he can govern.
1/ “Miller Time” by Jack Random. Counterpunch, July 15, 2005.
2/ “Buying the War.” Bill Moyers, PBS, April 25, 2007.
3/ “Bolton: Russian sanctions insufficient; U.S. must ‘make the Russians feel pain’” by Louis Nelson. Politico, December 30, 2016.
4/ “The Secret U.S. Army Study That Targets Moscow” by Bryan Bender. Politico, April 14, 2016.
5/ “A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates” by Megan Twohey and Scott Shane. NY Times, February 19, 2017.
6/ “Bill Moyers Journal: Media consolidation and the erosion of democracy.” Public Broadcasting System, August 24, 2007.
7/ “FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories” by Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez, Shimon Procupecz and Pamela Brown. CNN, February 23, 2017.