There are dissenting viewpoints and messages emanating from the White House. Surprisingly, they’re coming from the same party. More specifically, from President-elect Donald Trump and his advisers.
Throughout his campaign Trump was caught flip-flopping on nearly every platform from abortion to the military presence in the Middle East to healthcare.
Trump has been known to contradict himself. He has even admitted to it. What’s dangerous, however, is when the next president of the United States has a different public stance than his own team in the White House.
For the most recent example, let’s turn to Trump’s preferred PSA platform: Twitter.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.
Strengthen and expand nuclear capability. There is really no other way to interpret that. Unless you are Trump’s spinstress Kellyanne Conway.
“What he’s saying is we need to expand our nuclear capability, really our nuclear readiness or our capability to be ready for those who also have nuclear weapons. … I think that we’re getting a little too far ahead of ourselves that he’s changing policy and making policy in a way that he did not intend,” Conway said.
Okay, she tried to make it sound less like adding nukes to the arsenal and more like preparing for negotiations. What does Trump transition team spokesman Jason Miller think?
"President-elect Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it, particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable rogue regimes," Miller said.
Prevent nuclear proliferation. Is that what Trump said?
As each team member tried to translate Trump’s tweet from an offensive attack to defensive preparation, the true message of where the White House stands on nuclear arms became clouded, especially after Trump again contradicted his team the next day when he told news anchors, “Let it be an arms race.”
Trump has said he likes to be unpredictable. Lies and plausible deniability were the calling cards of his campaign. One day he will say something like, “I do have a relationship (with Russian President Vladimir Putin).” Another day he will say, “I have no relationship with him.”
Sometimes he will contradict himself within the same sentence such as when he told conservative anchor Bill O’Reilly, “My strongest thing is my temperament, and they talk about my temperament... It is my strongest thing, according to the people that know me best. I won’t even say it myself.”
You just did, Donald.
That doublespeak helped Trump get elected, because combined with his constant media bashing, he engenders distrust of actual recorded facts. Sidenote: “Post-truth” is the word of the year, according to Oxford Dictionaries. But think about it. The average American does not research the background of everything Trump says. If Trump was an old man sitting out on a park bench tossing birdseed, some seeds would be truth, some would be lies, and there would be plenty of birds who only taste one kind of seed.
For instance, after his nuclear proliferation tweet, Trump accused NBC News of misquoting his tweet. They didn’t. But do the people who follow him know or care that he is lying? No.
Where it becomes dangerous is when his transition team attempts to cover for him. If the president says there is a fire and his staff says there isn’t, one of them is right, but who do you believe?
In the past, the White House has never been trusted by the entirety of the American public, but at least its messages have been consistent.
Now, a cycle has emerged: Trump says something incendiary. Media organizations report it. Trump blasts the media for targeting him. His team covers for and defends him. The media reports their interviews. In the end, the American public is left with a muddled storyline in which they are left choosing what they want to believe what Trump’s intent was. In the eyes of Trump’s supporters, he can never be wrong.
His words are being translated to suit everybody’s individual desires, and the narrative of an untrustworthy media is the easiest to get behind.
Having an unpredictable and untrustworthy White House is not a problem the United States is familiar with, but it can also have an impact beyond American borders.
Since getting elected, Trump has continued to flip-flop on healthcare, climate change and international relations. It’s that kind of instability that has Saudi Arabia rethinking its American investments and it could prompt other countries to follow.
A country’s leader is voice of the nation, but what happens when you can’t trust what it’s saying?
If the U.S. reneges on its Parisian climate change deal and other international deals and treaties, that is a reflection of America, not just Trump.
The political divide in America is larger than ever, and the idea of the truth has become a part of that. Trump’s populist supporters don’t trust the media and have given in easily to the culture of fake news and propaganda. The left has become the subscription base for major media outlets, but with the media tied to reporting two sides of a story from the same Trump and his team, the truth now sounds like a conspiracy theory to right-wingers.
Trump’s culture of doublespeak has paid off. He has undermined the credibility of the media and given himself the privilege to say whatever he wants without repercussion.
With less than a month until Trump is elected, he has created a vacuum within which only the loudest person is heard. And right now, he’s on the stage with the microphone. •