As long as he was a private citizen, Trump was not held accountable for the bombshell he regularly exploded on Tweeter. Now he is president and, in principle, he is responsible for what he tells the American people. But now he has an entire staff of White House assistants, counselors, spokespeople, press secretary, to defend, justify and explain away his habitual misstatements, impugn the credibility of his critics, and create distraction from additional inquiry. I have dubbed them “the White House Pooper-scoopers.”
It is not a pleasant job, literally or metaphorically. That’s because the usual base of Trump’s messages revolve around the cable news he happens to be watching at the moment. For a whole moment there wasn’t even a communication director coordinating the administration’s messages. Sean Spicer, the press secretary, filled that role at first.
When challenged on the veracity of the president’s bombshell, Spicer now has a ready-made answer: “The president’s tweet speaks for itself.” In other words, no further context is required to the 140 character messages dispatched by the August emperor Caligula. His word is almost equivalent of the law. Not once has he admitted that the White House might have made a mistake on anything.
One example is quite revealing: a Trump tweet blamed Obama for releasing prisoners from Guantanamo back to the battlefield. When confronted by the mathematical truth that the great majority of those released prisoners were under President George Bush, Spicer, rather than apologize and correct the record said that Trump “meant in totality the number that had been released on the battlefield” under both presidents.”
One of the “pooper scooper” is of course vice president Pence who finds the misstatements of Trump “refreshing” to the American people because “he always tells you what’s on his mind.”
But there is a cadre of pooper scoopers, former campaign surrogates and staffers, always at the ready to test the pliability and relativity of facts and of truth itself. These have managed to defend those three preposterous claims: that millions of people have voted illegally, that there is an imminent national security threat requiring an executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, that President Obama personally ordered an illegal wiretap on Trump’s campaign. So far, there has been no legitimate evidence to support any of these claims and little movement to even begin an investigation.
Then there is Kellyanne Conway who on January 22 coined the famous slogan “alternative facts” in an attempt to defend the false claim of the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. She also invented the “Bowling Green massacre,” plugged Ivanka Trump’s fashion products incurring into ethics’ violation and then asserted, hours before he resigned, that Michael Flynn had “the full confidence of the president.” This open lying reached a point that Morning Joe TV show and CNN cut back on her appearances on the shows, not to speak of policy adviser Stephen Miller who called the voter fraud claim “a known secret in some states.”
Also at the ready on reserve there is Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Her special tactic is that of citing mainstream outlets who allegedly have already reported what Trump has tweeted, which when fact checked turns out to be false.
When everything else fails there is always this one as expressed by Secretary of Security Kelly: “there is always a good reason for the president saying what he is saying.” That takes the price. Indeed, there is always a good reason why some people have contempt for the truth and why they speak as deranged individuals defending the indefensible and the outrageous.