By Jerry Bowen
Los Angeles, CA, USA
I find myself perplexed, as I suspect do millions of other Americans these days.
I wonder how it is that the tens of millions of voters who elected Donald John Trump to be President see him as some kind of savior?
And tens of millions of other citizens see a narcissistic, insecure bully exposed by his own rhetoric.
What are we to make of a 70-year-old man who sends out attack tweets when someone offends him? Presidential? A display of sound judgment?
He is angered by photographic evidence that his inauguration did not draw the huge, celebratory crowds that attended President Obama’s first swearing in. He insists it is yet another example of a Washington press corps out to undercut his credibility.
Mr. Trump claims that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because 3 to 5 million illegal migrants went to the polls. In his administration this is an “alternative fact.” In the real world, it is simply untrue.
The new President complains the press and the Democrats are sore losers out to delegitimize his young administration. This from the man who questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy as President over the birther nonsense.
I am perplexed because I do not recognize the America our new President and his followers seem to live in. The United States of altered reality.
Theirs is a land without hope where carnage consumes the inner cities and our military is pitifully weak. Foreign nations no longer respect us.
The economy is in tatters. Global warming is a hoax. Science is not to be trusted. Reporters in the mainstream press are the most dishonest people in the world.
The problem is that the dystopian nation he describes does not exist. The reality is the economy has recovered robustly, albeit not evenly, from the nightmare of eight years ago.
The crime rate is actually down across the country with the notable exception of Chicago. The murder capital of America.
Global warming is real. Nearly every credible scientist concludes it is man-made. Global warming the hoax is a figment of Trump’s over-stimulated imagination.
Our manufacturing economy is stronger than ever because of automation and robots. The humans that once did those jobs are no longer needed. All the bellowing in the Oval Office will not bring those jobs back.
Mr. Trump has promised to bring quick change to America. But there may be a problem in his rush to turn back the clock on the real gains made in health care, the environment and yes, the economy.
The problem is the man himself. The clash between what he says and what he does.
One of his most popular campaign lines was a pledge to “drain the swamp.” Get rid of those New York and Washington establishment figures that have become rich while the average American has suffered.
Instead of draining the swamp, Mr. Trump has built a new yacht club on the Potomac. Billionaire after billionaire (along with a few average millionaires) appointed to his cabinet.
His Treasury Secretary made millions off the 2008 housing collapse as did Trump.
His Education Secretary never attended a single public school or college nor did her children. And she is a big promoter of charter schools which drain taxpayer dollars from public schools with questionable results.
To be fair his choices for State, the Pentagon and the CIA are seen as solid, experienced men who are expected to be the adults in the room as Mr. Trump makes major decisions.
And also to be fair Mr. Trump is not the first candidate (nor will he be the last) to promise one thing on the campaign trail and change course in office.
The issue is a matter of trust. The core issue for Mr. Trump is whether he is to be trusted when he says something. Whether he is to be believed.
How do the American people, our allies and our enemies take his word if he continues to subscribe to an alternative reality with alternative facts?
Critical reporting by the press is not the issue here. That is the job of a free press.
Critical comments by the political opposition is not the issue. That is part of the give and take of our raw democracy.
The issue I suggest is critical thinking. Reality-based analysis of the very serious issues that face our country and the world.
I would wish that for both major political parties but especially for the new President.
It is more than fair to question Trump’s judgment and temperament. There is a campaign’s worth of falsehoods, lies, exaggerations and just totally made up things. (The Muslims celebrating in New Jersey as the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. Trump saw the reports. No one else did.)
Disturbingly, it is a pattern that continues from the Oval Office.
Kellyanne Conway, his Senior Advisor, famously said not to judge Trump by his words. Judge him by what’s in his heart.
It is impossible to know what is in the man’s heart. And impossible not to judge him by his words.
Words matter. Facts matter. Donald John Trump may yet be tripped up by reality.
Let us hope that America and the world don’t suffer as a result.
Jerry Bowen is a three-time Emmy Award-winning news correspondent now in retirement after 33 years with CBS Network News. He lives in Los Angeles but escapes regularly to commune with the coyotes and cougars on his family farm in southwest Iowa.