The script writers for the reality show that runs the country have been in consistent form since the 45th President of the United States was inaugurated less than three weeks ago. Rather than a weekly crisis, there are fresh outrages on a nearly daily basis. It feels like we’ve had about a year’s worth of his presidency in less than a month’s time. It’s exhausting just trying to keep up.
Somewhat lost in last week’s assaults by the President on the federal judiciary, was a pretty fascinating 140-character encapsulation of the commander in chief’s outlook on polling – in particular polling that doesn’t conform to his world view.
“Any negative polls are fake news,” he tweeted, “just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”
Let’s come back to the obvious later: that the only polls that are fake are those that are negative.
The first thing that strikes me about this statement is that no other person in the country, aside from perhaps fivethirtyeight.com’s Nate Silver, pays more attention to polls than the President. He loves to cite numbers that conform to his favorite narratives, whether those be fictional or not. He can barely contain citing his favorite statistical analysis of late – that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings as the host of “The Apprentice” don’t match his own at the reality show. They were so important, they evidently were worthy of mention at the National Prayer Breakfast.
The second thing worth noting is that no evidence that fails to match the President’s views goes without ill-conceived and thoughtless rebuttals on Twitter.
The catalyst for the tweet was likely the release of a CNN poll that found most Americans opposed the President’s recent travel ban. According to that poll, 53 percent of Americans do not support the President’s executive order to restrict travel for people who have visited or are from seven countries his administration defines as failed states. Some 47 percent are in favor of the order.
It’s a close result and one that at the very least indicates the country is very much divided on the issue. In the face of the other finding of CNN’s poll – the one indicating only 44 percent approval for the President – one would think a more cautious approach to policy, one that comes from announced intentions, careful debate and through legislation rather than executive order is what’s called for.
But there’s little chance for a reasoned approach when the administration doesn’t believe in the validity of polls used to measure public opinion for several generations. It’s so bad that the President even called into question the motivations of news organizations that he claimed were failing to accurately cover terrorist attacks around the world. It’s all part of the way this administration reasons. When the facts aren’t agreeable, yet are impossible to disprove (because, well, they’re facts), the best bet is to attack and attempt to discredit the source.
The fake news charge in the tweet is far more a shot at media outlets than at the actual news. If you don’t like what you hear from one outlet, it’s “fake news.” Go out and find a better alternative. CNN’s poll found 60 percent of Americans don’t support a wall on the Mexican border. Is that true? Does the administration care? The answer is clearly no.
It’s all just fake news.