A the­ory: He’s taller, so he’s fired

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - KATH­LEEN PARKER kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com

Facts aren’t facts; truth isn’t true; re­al­ity isn’t real. This is where we are. It’s no won­der that “Or­wellian” is the most widely used ad­jec­tive de­rived from the name of a writer. We are liv­ing in the most sur­real of times.

But Or­well’s days may be num­bered as “Trumpian” has swiftly emerged to de­scribe the pres­i­dent’s ap­par­ent in­tent to de-fic­tion­al­ize Or­well’s dystopian vi­sion. Ei­ther that, or he’s just plain ad­dled. Or, it must be con­sid­ered, the alien be­ing that has in­hab­ited the for­mer Don­ald Trump’s body has been slow to ab­sorb the in­tri­ca­cies and nu­ances of the spo­ken word.

Trump’s daily scrim­mages with the English lan­guage make Bushisms seem like “Bartlett’s Best.” When not syn­tac­ti­cally chal­lenged, they’re jaw­drop­pingly mys­ti­fy­ing. What pos­si­bly could Trump have in­tended when he sug­gested to NBC’s Lester Holt that he doesn’t know for sure if there’s an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into “this Rus­sia thing”? So the pres­i­dent doesn’t be­lieve what ev­ery in­tel­li­gence agency has said and what he has per­son­ally been told in brief­ings?

Choos­ing one’s truth is the essence of Trumpian logic. But the em­a­na­tions from the White House can no longer be dis­missed as mere in­com­pe­tence. Some­thing is very wrong at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue. In­side the Oval Of­fice’s golden walls, where even flies dare not land, democ­racy rocks per­ilously be­tween the forces of light and dark­ness.

How per­fectly evoca­tive one re­cent night when press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer hud­dled with staffers be­hind a bush af­ter news broke of FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey’s fir­ing. The be­lea­guered Spicer fi­nally agreed to come out and speak to the gath­ered me­dia, but only if they extinguished their lights.

“Democ­racy Dies in Dark­ness,” reads the Wash­ing­ton Post ban­ner, seem­ing ever more apt by the day.

So what are we to make of Trump’s con­stantly shift­ing facts and truths? Is he ly­ing? Pre­tend­ing? Or is he so cer­tain of Amer­ica’s ab­bre­vi­ated at­ten­tion span and will­ing self-delu­sion that he can speak non­sense with the same im­punity as when he claimed he could shoot some­one on Fifth Av­enue and his base wouldn’t care?

Or is it just pos­si­ble that his cam­paign re­ally is guilty of col­lu­sion with Rus­sia? Does Vladimir Putin have some­thing on the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent? There may, in­deed, be noth­ing, as Trump in­sists, but the pres­i­dent goes out of his way to ap­pear guilty. How dif­fi­cult is it to say why he fired Comey? The va­ri­ety of ex­pla­na­tions over a mat­ter of days was ob­vi­ously a flail­ing for jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. Try­ing to track them felt like try­ing to solve a maze where the cheese keeps moving.

First, it was Comey’s han­dling of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Next it was the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s rec­om­men­da­tion. Then it was nei­ther. Trump was al­ways think­ing about fir­ing Comey, he him­self said. (Note to staffers: Trump is al­ways think­ing about fir­ing ev­ery­one.)

The lat­est to slip Trump’s tongue was that Comey was a “show­boat,” which the show­boat in chief would see as com­pe­ti­tion. Also, Comey had lost the con­fi­dence of the bureau, said Trump, de­spite FBI tes­ti­mony to the con­trary. Fi­nally, Comey wasn’t good at his job, which would be a ra­tio­nal ba­sis, if only he’d thought of it sooner. Most agree that Comey ex­er­cised poor judg­ment in is­su­ing Clin­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tion up­dates that could have af­fected the elec­tion out­come.

Sev­eral months for­ward, how­ever, what could have prompted Trump to take ac­tion? In a Trumpian world, stalled some­where be­tween se­cond grade and a prep school locker room, even the ridicu­lous seems plau­si­ble. So, let’s try a wild one: Maybe Trump fired Comey for be­ing taller, at 6 feet, 8 inches. In light of his in­fat­u­a­tion with size, one can eas­ily imag­ine that a 6-foot-3-inch Trump would re­sent hav­ing to look up to the guy who was in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sia.

In the adult world, how­ever, the eye tends to land on other like­li­hoods, as in Comey’s Trump cam­paign/Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, his re­cent re­quest for more re­sources for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, his de­nial of Trump’s claim that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had wire­tapped his of­fice and his re­fusal dur­ing a din­ner with Trump to pledge loy­alty.

Trump dis­putes all of the above, sur­pris­ing no one.

But Trump couldn’t leave it alone. Fri­day, he launched a Twit­ter tirade that seemed to threaten Comey, say­ing the fired direc­tor “bet­ter hope” there are no tapes of their conversations if he starts leak­ing to the press. Just as Trump pro­jected him­self in call­ing Comey a show­boater, one could rea­son­ably ex­trap­o­late that Trump is the one con­cerned about what next might sur­face.

Then again, maybe it’s just that alien thing mess­ing with Trump’s mind.

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