By now you have probably heard the latest D.C. dustup over President Trump and the Sharpie. If not, in a nutshell: He claimed that Hurricane Dorian had Alabama in its sights days after its path had shifted elsewhere. The National Weather Service said he was mistaken. He could have just said “My bad” and moved on, but there he was on TV this week with a map from the National Hurricane Center on which there was a possible hurricane path — apparently extended with a Sharpie to include, you guessed it, a chunk of Alabama.
Trump was wrong about the Alabama comment to begin with. He then compounded the falsehood by repeating it over and over. Then he blamed the media. And all of this while the storm in question was in fact bearing down on the southeast coast. Why? Simple: Trump never admits he is wrong — especially when the facts show he is emphatically, undeniably, and provably wrong. Which in this case, he was. The truth was plain to see, unless you are a Trump fan who simply cannot stomach even the slightest suggestion he has ever been wrong about anything.
But the story here is not about clumsy attempts at fraudulent cartography. The map incident merely underscores how stunningly common such things have become under this administration, as time and again Trump has engaged in what was once seen as unethical, unacceptable and undignified behavior. And now, it’s just normal.
Promoting your private business interests from the presidential podium? Fine. Routinely lying, misleading, and then denying your own statements? No worry. Tweeting petty attacks at anyone who opposes you? Great. Declaring journalists to be enemies of the people? Fawning in front of the Russians? Race baiting? Denying the truth of anything that you don’t like? The list goes on and on, and while such behavior once triggered roaring disapproval, in the new Washington people pretty much just shrug.
Whether you like Trump or despise him, this is the new normal — a Cocteau-like world where he perpetually insists reality is whatever he imagines it to be, and where an amateurish, misleading scrawl on a map is hardly enough to raise an eyebrow.