One Week Under Trump
Let’s see: alternative facts, rogue tweets, and refusing to keep our mouth shut
So. It’s been one week.
In that time, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave his first press conference, in which he told several flat-out lies and took no questions from reporters. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway defended these lies as “alternative facts.” President Donald Trump told the C.I.A. itself that he had a “running war with the media,” who “are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” Chief Strategist Steve Bannon called the media “the opposition party” and said it should just “keep its mouth shut.”
Rather than let go of campaign-style competitiveness and focus on what he called his “ oath of allegiance to all Americans,” Trump repeatedly disputed the obvious truth about how many people attended his inauguration, not to mention how many people cast valid votes in the elections nearly three months ago. Despite a complete lack of evidence and bipartisan condemnation, he’s used his first days in office to call for an absurd “major investigation of voter fraud” that undermines the legitimacy of the democratic process itself.
Meanwhile, although Trump criticized Barack Obama’s use of executive orders back in 2012, he’s already signed a dozen himself, each more backward-looking than the last. His first steps as president sought to weaken enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, freeze federal hiring, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, restrict funding to foreign NGOs, expedite controversial oil pipeline projects, initiate the construction of a Mexican border wall at the taxpayers’ expense, and accelerate the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Our new Commander in Chief is also facing a fresh “barrage of legal actions” related to corruption, conflicts of interest, and sexual assault. Cases are being brought by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the American Civil Liberties Union, and literally dozens of other individuals and organizations. Although Trump has claimed multiple times that he’ll extract himself from his global business empire, it’s unclear whether he’s taken the necessary steps to do so, and regardless, ethics experts have repeated for months that nothing short of full divestiture will resolve his many conflicts of interest. Turning over business management to his children doesn’t constitute the accepted standard of a blind trust, especially when those children are actively involved in White House operations. Trump also remains obstinate about keeping his tax returns out of the public eye, insisting that the American public doesn’t “care at all” about what these documents could reveal about his foreign and domestic financial ties when in fact it cares very much.
But back to the country’s governance: if it weren’t enough that Trump essentially stripped us of all ambassadors at the stroke on noon on January 20, his National Security Team is “missing in action.” Since then, experienced senior officials have resigned from the State Department at an unprecedented rate, leaving the most powerful nation in the world dangerously understaffed. The Senate continues to hold confirmation hearings for Cabinet appointees that are as wealthy as they are woefully unqualified, from Ben Carson’s self-proclaimed lack of government experience to Rick Perry’s ignorance regarding the nature of his new role to Betsy DeVos’s “disqualifying” incomprehension of and antagonism for public education to Scott Pruitt’s history of hostility toward the department he’s now supposed to head. Overall, Trump’s transition into power appears to be in complete disarray due to appallingly insufficient preparation and leadership that’s impulsive, unfocused, thin-skinned, and downright dishonest.
Oh, and we haven’t even addressed the fact that after taking the oath of office, Trump defied the Geneva Conventions by expressing support for torture and rattled our closest allies by dismissing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as outdated.
So… it’s been one week.
The silver lining? The glimmer of hope amid all the tumult? The American people have responded with what “may have been the largest demonstration in U.S. history.” The day after Trump’s downer of an inauguration, more than three million individuals of all ages, ethnicities, and genders joined peaceful marches and rallies in cities across fifty states and seven continents in a show of solidarity against Trump’s chaotic, corrupt agenda. The signs waved on January 21 represented a whole spectrum of progressive issues, “from women’s rights to Native rights to immigrant rights, from environmentalism to education to health care.” For many the unity across diversity was a shining moment of positivity to break up a bleak stream of bad news.
And the good fight continues. Grassroots movements are sprouting up left and right with petitions and action plans. Following “gag orders” on nonpartisan agencies and departments like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Interior Department, federal employees have “gone rogue” on social media in support of free speech and evidence-based science. Even within the White House, staffers are defying an anti-press atmosphere to let the public know what’s going on behind the scenes, and journalists are ready to help whistle-blowers keep the powers that be in check going forward.
Will we allow our government to shut out journalists and create its own narrative of what’s reasonable, ethical, or just plain true? Will we accept the Orwellian notion of “alternative facts”? Will we follow their instructions to reject the evidence of our eyes and ears?