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Editorial: How Trump's creation of an alternate universe endangers the American people

By The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Early on in this train wreck of an administration, presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway added a new concept to the American political lexicon: alternative facts. It was her way of brushing aside observations that the White House had blatantly lied about Trump's inauguration, with President Trump wildly exaggerating the number of people on the National Mall and then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer claiming that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."

Trump's mine-was-bigger-than-Obama's lie was inconsequential, of course. But his lies over the dangers of COVID-19, his claims that Western states could reduce their fire risk by just doing a better job raking out their forests (never mind that most of the fires are on federal land), his boast that he's been the most environmentally friendly president since Teddy Roosevelt even though he's pushed to deregulate polluters and develop previously protected federal lands, and his - being generous here - questions about whether human activity is causing global warming have significant consequences for the safety of the American people.

On Monday, after a presentation on climate change feeding wildfires, Trump dismissively said that "It'll start getting cooler" and that "I don't think science knows, actually." Science may not "know," but it certainly predicts that warming is going to keep getting worse. And by suggesting the opposite, Trump is either displaying his ideological blinders or is, once again, lying to the American people.

Trump also directly imperiled the safety of his own followers and, by extension, the state of Nevada by insisting on holding an indoor campaign rally Sunday in defiance of state orders barring gatherings of more than 50 people. In a bizarre bit of cat-and mouse, the campaign tried to schedule rallies at five different locations, only to have each scuttled by state officials.

The Trump campaign finally slotted the event inside the Xtreme Manufacturing plant in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, despite a warning letter from city officials that it would violate the state directive. On Monday the city fined business owner Donald Ahern $3,000 for the violation, adding to an earlier fine by the state over an "Evangelicals for Trump" rally he'd staged nearly six weeks ago at the Ahern Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas (Ahern is appealing that fine).

Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh tried to frame the rally as no different from public protests over police violence, but that's a sidestep. Protesters should wear masks - as many have done - and try to maintain social distancing. So should the president of the United States and the people he invites to his events. It's a bizarre juxtaposition for Trump, who has used the protests to raise the false specter of massive urban unrest and rampaging antifas coming for your suburbs, to now say, well, the protesters aren't following the COVID-19 rules, so why do my supporters have to?

This is leadership? No, this is Trump crafting a dangerous alternative reality to support his drive for a second term.

 

The persistent danger of Trump's governing style is that truth carries no weight and the health and well-being of the American people are of little concern. All that matters to Trump is Trump, and state laws and health directives are optional. Yet his decisions have consequences. Here's just one example: Oklahoma officials believe the president's lightly attended, and ill-advised, Tulsa rally in June "more than likely" fueled a spike in COVID-19 cases.

But he doesn't care about consequences, for himself or others. Remember, this is the man who stated baldly that "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." How much farther above the law can he think he is? He claimed on more than one occasion that the Constitution gives him "the right to do whatever I want as president," which it clearly does not. But to aver that in public reveals a dangerous world view.

America has known this facet of Trump for years now, and elected him president despite it. But his creation of an alternative universe now endangers all of his constituents. He seems to have developed a narcissistic theory of "Trump exceptionalism," in which laws don't apply to him, rules of behavior are for "losers," and his zeal for winning the game has led him to sacrifice the nation's security in service of his ambitions.

Trump, of course, has his diehard supporters, many of whom turned to him out of frustration with a federal government that often can seem opaque and unconcerned with their daily lives. But when you let the bull into the china shop, in the end all you have is a lot of broken china.

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