Try to imagine a scenario (outside North Korea) where the protection of the ego of the Dear Leader mobilizes an entire federal department into frenzied action. Where that action, taken to protect the safety of the public, comes into direct conflict with protecting the paper-thin amour propre of the head of state, and where making the wrong choice (protecting the public) can be a fireable offense.
Imagine no more. I give you the United States of America, where the Secretary of Commerce has threatened with termination top employees at NOAA for daring to make a statement in the interest of the protection of the public safety — at the expense of hurting the feelings of Donald Trump. Far better to abrogate one’s duty of care to the public than to risk the tender sensibilities of the Ego-in-Chief.
I am referring, of course, to the justly promulgated tweet, in contradiction to Donald Trump, that hurricane Dorian was emphatically not headed for Alabama. It wasn’t, of course, but no one would have ever guessed that the Orwellian dictum, where “Who controls the past controls the future, and who controls the present controls the past,” would ever be realized, let alone employed in the service of a cause so utterly asinine.
A misspoken word, that could have been laughed off, is now the ultimate causus belli of the entire federal government of the United States, organized around the egg-shell ego of Humpty Trumpty. Never mind protecting the constituency from the destructive force of yet another global warming-inspired thousand year storm, the King’s horses and the King’s men have real work to do.
Day 8 (or is it 9? Or 10?) of Sharpiegate has seen Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., promising to fire anyone who won’t sign off on the lie that Alabama was under threat from Dorian exactly when the president said it was (the Commerce Department is naturally denying this report). This is what government has come to. Just as billionaires need more tax savings, just as children must be wrenched from the arms of their parents to assuage the ignorant, superstitious fears of stupid white people, just as oil companies must be coddled in the lie that global warming is a hoax, Donald Trump has to have his ego spared, as if being president of the United States doesn’t quite do the job for him.
Donald Trump’s inability to admit when he’s wrong could have even more disastrous consequences for America and the rest of the world at some future time. One can imagine horrific scenarios where Trump orders planes to bomb the wrong country, say, and when informed of his mistake, refuses to acknowledge it as a mistake and instead doubles down with more bombs. Or he could get a delusion into his head at some point that China is about to, or already has, launched nuclear weapons, and he must launch his, and once he goes down that path, no amount of contradicting radar or satellite evidence will convince him to admit he’s wrong. It’s difficult to say whether Trump is capable of triggering such scenarios, but therein lies the problem: it’s difficult to say. Of the 44 men who have occupied the presidency to date, Donald Trump is the only one who seems to believe admitting he’s wrong, that is, admitting he is a human being, is actually a weakness. It is not a weakness, it’s a strength. But again, who’s going to convince Trump of that?
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.