John Colson: Presidential moment of the month — Sharpiegate
Hit & Run
Aw, jeez, it’s even got a name now — “Sharpiegate” — describing that incredible moment when President Donald Trump tried to show he was better at predicting the weather than anyone else.
The story is well-known, but briefly it began when Trump tweeted early Sept. 1 that Alabama was one of the states being threatened by Hurricane Dorian, which of course was not true, but which Trump sought to prove a few days later by taking a Sharpie pen to a weather map and redrawing the path of the hurricane.
The result was somewhat similar to a child’s drawing of a huge whale emerging from under the storm and aiming at the Gulf Coast, but Trump was determined to show that he knew as much as, or more than the people whose job it is to forecast the weather.
This, of course, was in the same vein as his being the “best deal-maker” in history, and “the best president” we’ve ever had by any metric you’d care to name, and the smartest person in any room he happens to occupy by such a vast margin it would be hard to quantify — at least as far as he’s concerned.
Oh, yeah, and he is “the chosen one,” appointed by God to keep the troublesome Chinese in check and to lead the world down a primrose path to a brighter future.
Trump himself said this, in a press gaggle outside the White House recently, when he set his eyes on the clouds and uttered those very words: “I am the chosen one.”
This came only days after being likened to the “King of Israel” by a nutty conspiracy theorist named Wayne Allyn Root, and receiving similar messianic accolades from his Israeli buddy, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Reaction from his evangelical base has been rather muted, but some in that camp openly mused that Trump is making trouble for himself with such claims.
“For Christians, and for Jews as well, Trump’s self-aggrandizement with these two titles is very problematic,” cautioned the Religion News Service in an Aug. 23 opinion piece penned by religion professor Anthea Butler.
“Trump’s declaration … of being the Chosen One and his enthusiastic reception of ‘King of Israel’ may end up backfiring on him,” Butler continued. “For one thing, some Christians would consider using the phrase ‘the Chosen One’ very much like blasphemy. Some evangelicals were dismayed.”
And some of the more traditional Israeli commentators apparently felt that Trump’s acceptance of the “King of Israel” comparison could well mean that Trump sees himself as the man who will convert the Jews to Christianity as one way of solving the “Jewish problem” that has resonated through the centuries.
Wars have been fought over less overt slights by one national leader against another.
Aside from the sensibilities of religious communities, though, his declaration of god-hood is not a good sign at all, and in fact has been taken by some as an indication that he truly is going off the rails in a mental health sense.
One example of this derailed kind of behavior, to return to the Sharpiegate tale, is the fact that he has been unable to let the issue die. Perhaps he is convinced that God used a Sharpie to draw up a plan for the world, and that he, Trump, could naturally do a better job with a Sharpie of his own.
News reports have held that Trump had, as of Sept. 6, “provided nine tweets and five maps to justify his claim that Alabama was threatened by the hurricane,” according to the anti-Trump news site The Daily Kos.
The president has blamed his favorite ideological (or is it idiotic?) target, the “fake news” industry, for fabricating the entire controversy, of course, but all the media did was report what the president claimed, followed by a refutation of that claim by the National Weather Service, or NWS.
The NWS statement was followed in turn by a denunciation of the NWS refutation, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which is much closer to Trump in bureaucratic terms than the NWS. Someone clearly was worried he or she was about to lose a job.
Observers of various stripes have argued that, hilarious as the entire episode might be on the surface, it actually has some serious consequences, such as terrifying the population of an entire state and potentially siphoning off hurricane-recovery resources from states that really were in the path of Dorian’s destruction.
It must be noted that weather maps charting Dorian’s slow march toward Florida did, at one point, stretch to cover a very small portion of Alabama, indicating that this small portion of the state had perhaps a 5% chance of seeing an increase in the velocity of winds pushed outward from the storm’s eye, though at a much lower danger level than the “hurricane force” winds that Trump was predicting.
To me, the whole Sharpiegate melee is just another, if mildly humorous, bit of evidence of a disturbing disconnect from reality on the part of our president, perhaps even rising to the level of proof that he should undergo some very serious mental health testing.
Does the phrase “25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” ring a bell with anyone out there?
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