‘Sharpiegate’: Is Trump at war with reality?
Every day the president supplies fresh evidence of “how spectacularly ignorant, vainglorious, and obsessive he can be,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. But Trump’s Sharpie-doctored map of Hurricane Dorian’s path should make it “into the Smithsonian.” The saga began last week, when Trump tweeted that Alabama and four other Southern states “will most likely be hit (much) harder” by the hurricane than previously forecast. Dorian, by that point, was already veering north, and the Birmingham branch of the National Weather Service quickly reassured residents that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.” Being constitutionally “incapable of admitting even the slightest error,” Trump produced an official NWS map of Dorian’s likely route onto which someone—he said he didn’t know who—had drawn a crude loop in black Sharpie that extended Dorian’s path to touch a corner of Alabama.
Given the actual devastation wreaked by the hurricane, Trump’s Sharpie high jinks “might not seem like a big deal,” said Michael Cohen in The Boston Globe. But this bizarre episode comes from the same deep flaw that led Trump to insist that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election, that North Korea’s tyrant Kim Jong Un is willing to denuclearize, that Russian election interference was a hoax, and that China is paying the tariffs his trade war has imposed on Americans. Trump’s “frightening inability to accept and acknowledge reality” is a “recipe for disaster.”
If this story demonstrates anything, said Brad Slager in RedState.com, it’s the media’s increasingly desperate vendetta against this president. “Sharpiegate” got round-the-clock coverage on CNN. Yet few of the sneering pundits will admit that CNN’s own “weather personalities had themselves mentioned Alabama as a possible location for impact from hurricane activity.” Trump “wasn’t wrong,” said Joseph Curl in WashingtonTimes.com. As Dorian moved toward our shores, early projections showed it coming ashore in Florida, with parts of Alabama in the storm’s cone of uncertainty. Yet for simply relaying this information to the public, Trump is being pilloried in the press as an unhinged tyrant. Just when you think the “media can’t go any lower, they do.”
Trump was indeed wrong, said Chas Danner in NYMag.com. By the time of his fateful tweet, forecasters had said that Alabama was conclusively out of danger, and he needlessly frightened state residents. More troubling still is that to hide his error, Trump clumsily altered an official weather map—a crime punishable by 90 days in jail—and then ordered government staff to cover for him. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly threatened to fire officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration if they didn’t support Trump’s original tweet—which several reluctantly did. That triggered a fierce backlash among forecasters inside and outside of NOAA, with one 40-year weather service employee saying he’d “never, ever felt political pressure on a goddamn weather forecast.” He added: “We’re in true banana republic territory.”
No one should be surprised, said Peter Wehner in TheAtlantic.com. The “extreme narcissism,” “detachment from reality,” and penchant for “gaslighting” that prompted Trump to doctor that weather map and then bully NOAA forecasters has been on display every day of his presidency—and in fact throughout his life. Under the pressures of the presidency, his “disordered mind” is getting worse. For all its pathos, the Sharpie incident is an urgent reminder that Donald Trump “isn’t well.” ■