There is a scene in the movie “The American President” where a lobbyist, played by Annette Bening, tells the chief of staff that if the president believes ludicrous claims about the fossil fuel industry, “then your boss is the chief executive of fantasy land.”
More than a week after President Donald Trump issued a series of Saturday morning tweets accusing his predecessor of wiretapping, the White House press secretary now asks with a chuckle that we move on and let the following statements, exclamation points and all, slide:
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
We can argue these are merely tweets. The president blowing off steam. But that’s not the way things work when you’re the leader of the free world.
Every word the president utters, whether in speech or in writing or even on Twitter, has the power to wreak havoc or peace. And if the president believes he can accuse a former president of a federal crime — which there is no evidence to support, according to Republican House leaders — and hope everyone forgets and moves on, then he is the chief executive of fantasy land.
In the span of two short months, we’ve slid down the rail from “don’t take the president literally, take him seriously,” to having absolutely no idea if anything the president says is fact or fiction.
We still have his unproven claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, all of them for Hillary Clinton.
He falsely claims the unemployment rate “is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s 30, 32, and the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent,” though economists roundly agree the unemployment rate rests below 5 percent.
He has never backed off his claim that he saw thousands of Muslims cheering on TV (though no such footage exists) when the twin towers fell Sept. 11, 2001. And how can we forget the seven long years he proclaimed, again without producing a shred of evidence, that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.?
At a recent White House press briefing, a reporter had to ask, “When (the president) says something, can we trust that it is real?”
To be fair, we as citizens also have a stake in our fantasies about the president.
If he’s smart enough to not pay taxes, maybe he will pass those smarts over to us. We remain certain he was a successful businessman, even though he filed for six bankruptcies and refuses to show us his tax returns.
We still believe him when he says he will bring coal jobs back to Kentucky, which is like believing typewriters are going to come back and replace computers.
And then there is health care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the president’s replacement for Obamacare will throw 24 million people off their insurance in the next 10 years. This number equals the population of Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma combined.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich put the fantasy of the new-and-improved health-care plan into context when he said to NBC’s Chuck Todd, “If I put you on an exchange for your family, and I give you a $4,000 tax credit or a $3,000 tax credit, what kind of insurance are you going to buy?”
Yet on March 9, the president tweeted: “Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!”
It turns out we no longer need to see the movie version of “The American President.” The CEO of fantasy land is alive and well, and he’s tweeting at us from the White House.