As someone with relatively moderate political views, to the left of conservatives on most social issues and to the right of many liberals on the abilities of government to efficiently fix certain problems, as a newsman who usually prefers to cover stories than opine, as a citizen with a desire for logical debate, one of the most personally frustrating aspects of the Trump era has been watching people refuse to believe their own eyes and ears. I resent being forced into a perceived partisan corner because some claim up is sideways and left is a microwave oven.
Debating debatable topics enhances the national dialogue. But once you debate “both sides” of a fact, the dialogue becomes corrupted, counterproductive and, bluntly put, just stupid.
If I was wearing a hat on my head to a party, and you say the next day that I was wearing pants on my head, engaging in debate can make the phony story sound true to friends and family listening to our conversation. Arguing whether the earth is round or whether the Holocaust occurred can obscure the truth instead of illuminating it.
If Trump used his hands, facial expressions, body gyrations and voice to mock a disabled reporter, and you tell me the next day he didn’t, or that it doesn’t matter, we’re having a parallel and often pointless conversation. As someone eager to listen and learn from a wide spectrum of ideas, this dynamic is maddening. More to the point, if you can’t assert the truth in today’s world without being assigned a misleading ideological label, then participating requires a willingness to be fundamentally misunderstood.
It’s been a particularly complicated time for national journalists, especially given the misguided conclusions some media observers draw over what they characterize to be unfair coverage. As the saying goes, if someone says it’s raining, and another person says it’s dry, it’s not a reporter’s job to quote them both. The job is to look out the damn window and determine what’s true.
When I look out the window, I see a man who pretended our first Black president was a foreigner; I see a man who objectifies and body shames women; I see a man who paid off a porn star; I see a man who says he grabs women by the pussy; I see a man who characterized Mexicans as criminals and rapists; I see a man who plays rhetorical footsie with Nazis; I see a man whose administration separated children from their parents at the border to deter illegal immigration; I see a man who trusts murderous dictator Vladimir Putin over our intelligence agencies; I see a man who downplayed a global pandemic. How much of any of this is really up for debate? And even if any of it were hypothetically in dispute, why would more than one of these facts (or countless others we could all rattle off) need to be true in order to cast Trump as unfit for office?
It’s been said that Trump is a poor man’s idea of a rich man, a weak man’s idea of a strong man and a stupid man’s idea of a smart man. But that belittles the intelligence and ability to judge character of so many intelligent and genuinely kind Trump voters. (And I’m distinguishing here between Trump voters and his most vociferous rally-going, bridge-blocking supporters).
The truth is, I don’t understand why these otherwise astute, normal people fail to see through the transparent con, or at least I don’t understand why they don’t care about the man’s deep and dangerous flaws. But, as I continue to try to understand why so many people refuse to believe what they see, why they won’t condemn behavior they’d admonish from a fellow parent on the sidelines of a youth soccer field but not in the leader of the free world, I’m reminded of the child in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child reveals of the naked emperor in the fable while adults gush at the emperor’s phantom fancy clothing.
Trump might be wearing (and selling) a silly red hat but this small-minded, morally bankrupt, weak emperor is standing in front of us, stark naked. All you need to do is look and listen. Just don’t forget to believe what you see and hear. Character should trump all other considerations.
– Adam Stone is the publisher of Examiner Media