It’s ter­ri­fy­ing when it’s al­ways ‘re­ally sunny’

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - DANA MIL­BANK Twitter: @Mil­bank

The most wor­ri­some mo­ment for me in a very omi­nous week was not Pres­i­dent Trump’s bizarre rant about crowd size, his bo­gus claims about elec­tion fraud or his moves to­ward bring­ing back tor­ture, block­ing refugees and pro­vok­ing a trade war with Mex­ico.

The most trou­bling mo­ment was when he spoke about the weather.

“It was al­most rain­ing,” the new pres­i­dent told CIA work­ers in Lan­g­ley, re­count­ing his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, “but God looked down and he said, we’re not go­ing to let it rain on your speech. In fact, when I first started, I said, oh, no. The first line, I got hit by a cou­ple of drops. And I said, oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it. But the truth is that it stopped im­me­di­ately. It was amaz­ing. And then it be­came re­ally sunny. And then I walked off and it poured right af­ter I left. It poured.”

Re­ally sunny? I was there for the in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, in the sixth row, about 40 feet from Trump, and I re­mem­bered the ex­act op­po­site: It be­gan to rain when he started and ta­pered off to­ward the end. There wasn’t a sin­gle ray of sun­shine, be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter the speech. Was my mem­ory play­ing tricks on me?

I watched a time-lapse 360-degree video of the in­au­gu­ra­tion: Not a sin­gle break in the clouds. I checked with my col­leagues Ja­son Sa­menow and An­gela Fritz of the Cap­i­tal Weather Gang, who pro­vided me the satel­lite im­ages from be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the ad­dress: a mass of un­bro­ken cloud cover over the en­tire Wash­ing­ton re­gion. They showed me the radar im­ages: a band of rain ap­proach­ing just be­fore Trump’s ad­dress, cross­ing the area while Trump spoke, then de­part­ing to the east as he fin­ished; there was no “pour­ing” af­ter he left.

I re­hash this weather his­tory be­cause it’s not sub­ject to de­bate. This is tan­ta­mount to Trump declar­ing black is white or day is night. It was over­cast, and he de­clared that it was “re­ally sunny.”

This dis­con­nect from re­al­ity is my big­gest fear about Trump, more than any one pol­icy he has pro­posed. My worry is the pres­i­dent of the United States is bark­ing mad.

Last sum­mer, ob­serv­ing a se­ries of Trump false­hoods that were eas­ily dis­proved, I wrote that these may not be de­lib­er­ate “lies,” that Trump “may not be able to tell fact from fic­tion.” He didn’t just spout con­spir­acy the­o­ries about Mus­lims cel­e­brat­ing in New Jersey on 9/11, or about a U.S. gen­eral who ex­e­cuted Mus­lim pris­on­ers with bul­lets dipped in pig blood. He of­ten claimed he never said or did things con­tra­dicted by his own pre­vi­ous words and ac­tions: that he didn’t “know any­thing about David Duke,” that he “never mocked” a dis­abled re­porter, that he op­posed the Iraq in­va­sion “loud and strong” from the start, and so forth.

“More than any­one else I have ever met,” Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghost­writer for “The Art of the Deal,” told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer at the time, “Trump has the abil­ity to con­vince him­self that what­ever he is say­ing at any given mo­ment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

My Post col­league Jennifer Ru­bin, a con­ser­va­tive blog­ger, picked up on this theme in an im­por­tant post last week, re­call­ing Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) de­scrip­tion of Trump as some­body who “doesn’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween truth and lies” and “his re­sponse is to ac­cuse ev­ery­body else of ly­ing.”

Ru­bin raised the prospect that Trump might even­tu­ally need to be de­clared un­fit to serve un­der the 25th Amend­ment if he can’t “sep­a­rate what he wants to be­lieve and what ex­ists.”

That’s why his as­ser­tion that it was “re­ally sunny” dur­ing his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress is so ter­ri­fy­ing.

That’s why it’s un­nerv­ing that Trump not only de­cided that he saw 1 mil­lion or 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple watch­ing his in­au­gu­ra­tion but also that he pres­sured the head of the Na­tional Park Ser­vice to sup­port his fan­tasy.

That’s why it’s fright­en­ing not only that Trump em­braces the fan­tasy that mil­lions voted il­le­gally but also that he sup­ports the false­hood by cit­ing a Pew Cen­ter on the States re­port that says noth­ing about voter fraud — and by claim­ing pro golfer Bern­hard Langer was turned away from vot­ing in Florida while other, sus­pi­cious-look­ing peo­ple were per­mit­ted to cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots. Langer, a Ger­man ci­ti­zen, can’t vote in the United States, and it turns out he wit­nessed no such thing.

When Trump caused in­ter­na­tional havoc with tweets about China, North Korea and oth­ers, there was spec­u­la­tion that he was pur­su­ing the “mad­man the­ory” to un­set­tle ad­ver­saries by mak­ing them think he’s crazy.

He’s do­ing such a con­vinc­ing job of it that I worry that be­ing a mad­man isn’t Trump’s the­ory but his re­al­ity.

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