" “Alternative  facts” — a wonderfully creative phrase, Orwellian in its reach, in what will become the defining term of the Trump presidency "
Forget, at least for the moment, about the apparent involvement of Russia in helping Donald Trump become president.

The current question is, who is the double agent in the Trump camp who sent him scurrying over to CIA headquarters the day after he was sworn in; there, to stand in front of the memorial honoring agents killed in action; and then, after making a perfunctory nod to the dead, set off on a 15-minute stream-of-consciousness denunciation of the press for the unforgettable crime of noting, correctly, that the crowds at Trump’s inauguration were smaller than the ones at both of Obama’s.

And then, having set him up, the mole somehow persuaded Trump to sacrifice on Day One the credibility of his White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, by forcing him to make his own angry attack, with a handful of verifiable lies, again focusing on crowd size: “This was the largest audience to ever watch a swearing-in, period.” Side-by-side shots of the Trump attendees and the Obama ones easily put the lie to the Spicer/Trump bizarre claim.

Putting his inferiority complex on full display during the first moments of his presidency was both a gift to the American people — it fully confirmed the character of the man they had chosen — and a shock. Sure, we’ve seen variations of it throughout the endless campaign. But, now, this is President Trump. If the White House doesn’t give him a sufficient shot of confidence to overcome the most obvious of his complexes, what indeed will? His approach reminds one of the narrow narcissistic view of a needy teenager rather than the vision of a confident 70-year-old adult.

Barely in recovery mode from seeing those empty spaces as he swore “so help me God” — more perhaps an unaware plea than a pledge — the next day, millions showing up across the country, indeed across the world, for the Women’s March — from Washington to Paris, from Tenants Harbor, Maine, to Sofia, Bulgaria — obviously drove the poor man into nether worlds of heightened imagination.

So clearly it was time to claim that it was widespread voter fraud — to the tune of 3,000,000 votes, or was it 5,000,000? — that gave Hillary the popular-vote victory.  Unable to offer any proof of fraud, Spicer did his best to defend Trump: “The president believes what the president believes.” Precisely pinpointing the real problem.

Poor Sean Spicer, pushed by the psyched-down Trump, has found himself forced to begin his job defending a bunch of demonstrable lies. Or, as Trump’s right-hand woman, Kellyanne Conway, was to describe them — in what will become the defining term of the Trump presidency — “alternative facts.” A wonderfully creative phrase, Orwellian in its reach, a certain marker for the next four years.

One should worry very deeply about the potential damage Donald Trump can do as president. Quite apart from his emotional deficiency, he comes into the role a total neophyte in just about everything that is fundamental to success in the White House: foreign policy experience, dealing with Congress, political savvy honed as a governor or large-city mayor.

 


And then there’s Trump’s apparent choice of Vladimir Putin as a role model: Trump no doubt sees him, quite accurately, as the bully of the international scene — and going back to his school days, Trump has decided the best way to get ahead in this rough world is to curry favor with the bully. The fact that the bully does not have the best interests of the United States in mind is irrelevant at this point as Trump tries to adapt his mediocre talents to what may be the world’s most complex job.

It’s hard to find a comparable figure in American history: Who does Trump remind you of? Here’s one off-the-wall comparison: how about that famous Indian fighter, General George Custer, whose permanent fame was made that day in 1876 when he and many of the troops under his command were wiped out by Sitting Bull at Little Big Horn?

Comparing Trump to Custer may stretch one’s imagination: Custer was an aggressive and wildly successful soldier, making it on action not bluster, a brigadier general at the age of 23. Trump of course never made it into the military — some errant foot bone protecting him from Vietnam — though he did get his high school education at a military academy.  

A recent biographer has written thusly: He’s “intense, ambitious, extremely volatile, lurching from great successes to self-created disasters.” It’s actually a description of Custer, but it fits surprisingly well for Trump. Custer’s father was a blacksmith in western Ohio which, as his biographers have noted, was a background that embarrassed him: “the flipside of his ambition was his insecurity.” Sound familiar?: Trump, born and raised in Queens, has long been trying unsuccessfully to get accepted into the elite circles of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

His randy public boasts, his unverified — and now that he’s reneged on his promise to release his tax returns, unverifiable — claims that he’s worth $10 billion paint the real picture of our new president.  

He’s a conflicted man, always worried — understandably so — that his peers are secretly laughing at him behind his back. Even on the day he’s sworn in as President of the United States, confounded by the low turnout at his inauguration, his inferiority complex marched on.

Custer, despite his fame, was always pushing the limits, always seeking a bit more notoriety, even if at the end it led to his death and that of over 270 soldiers under his command.

Will Trump’s inevitable downfall, even as he hypes that masculinity he’s always had doubts about, bring about results — for the country, not just the man — that will make Custer’s last stand seem, by comparison, almost a victory?