I’ve got to get better about predicting these things. In hindsight this one was easy. We already know that Team Trump is pursuing a “max trollishness” strategy in campaign merchandising, cranking out items like Trump-branded plastic straws (paper straws are for left-wing wimps) and funny t-shirts goofing on Chris Cuomo’s insecurity as the “Fredo” of his family. Sometimes it’s about owning an individual lib, sometimes it’s about owning the libs collectively, but either way the thinking is the same — the Trump campaign is going to hawk stuff that lets the buyer believe he’s irritating the left with his purchase.
Apart from limiting immigration and protecting gun rights, the GOP platform in 2019 is basically just “liberal tears.” Team Trump’s online store recognizes that.
So how could they pass on the opportunity to sell cheapie Trump-branded markers? The campaign sold $670,000 worth of straws in their first month of availability. They’re bound to make a killing on this too.
Buy the official Trump marker, which is different than every other marker on the market, because this one has the special ability to drive @CNN and the rest of the fake news crazy! #KeepMarkersGreathttps://t.co/eakgICM0LR
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) September 6, 2019
Five markers for 15 bucks sounds like a deal.
If you haven’t followed “Sharpiegate” and don’t know why markers are suddenly an item of interest for Team Trump, read this and this. He’s still tweeting today that he was right all along that the hurricane threatened Alabama at one point, even having his campaign tweet out week-old CNN clips chattering about the state possibly being affected. It’s all gaslighting, though: Alabama was out of the storm’s path by August 31st, the day before Trump included it in his tweet about states that might be affected. The worst ‘Bama faced by the time he tweeted was a small possibility of tropical-storm winds in the southeastern corner of the state. He gave the public outdated information, a minor mistake. But because he’s Trump, instead of owning up to it he’d rather quintuple down in Queeg-like fashion — even reportedly doctoring the map he showed off in the Oval Office on Wednesday to include Alabama in the storm’s path.
It was Trump who used a black Sharpie to mark up an official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map, which he displayed during an Oval Office briefing on Wednesday, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie,” the official said of the map, which added Alabama into the hurricane’s potential pathway inside the loop of the marker.
Several White House officials argued that media coverage of the Alabama issue has been unfair to Trump, but one senior administration official said that “as long as it’s in the news, he is not going to drop it.”
When he was asked after the Oval Office photo op who had drawn on the map, he replied, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” A source told Fox News yesterday that someone else had done it during a briefing but that never seemed plausible, as he’s the only person in the administration who cares that the earliest forecasts included Alabama in the storm’s path. According to CNN, in fact, Trump saw Fox’s skeptical coverage yesterday and called reporter John Roberts into the Oval Office to plead his case in person that he’d been right all along. Now that the campaign’s markers gimmick has given the media a new hook, there’s every reason to believe he’ll still be tweeting about it on Sunday, stretching this story into a full week. I figure we’ll get 10 minutes minimum on the subject at his next rally, with “Alabama was in the initial projections!” a new MAGA applause line.
Why has this moronic nothingburger dispute caused both sides to commit to such a lengthy fight? Andrew Egger captures part of it: Trump is Trump, and pushing back on him is just what anti-Trump commentators do now.
As the president’s interminable war with the Fake News drags on, it’s become clear that our media is poorly equipped to handle stories where the appropriate takeaway is obvious. The professional takester is supposed to trim away the useless gristle of the news to reveal the juicy meat concealed within—and further, to do so in a wholly original and non-derivative way. That approach works well when the news is complicated—a big new policy proposal to break down and chew over, say. It works less well for stories whose morals are plainly visible to the naked eye—and these are the stories that seem to occupy more of the news. The takeaway from the Sharpie story is obvious: “the president is a media-addled old fool who can’t be trusted to read a map, let alone operate our nuclear arsenal.” How are 500 columnists supposed to pad that out to 800 words?
The unfortunate result has been that much anti-Trump punditry is simply boring. If the humorists have trouble improving on the joke, we’re the folks tasked with the unenviable task of explaining it. You could read a thousand takes on Sharpiegate, but not a single one of them would approach the near-transcendental, anything-is-possible high you got the first time you saw Trump whip out that lunatic map.
If he’s going to go on being obviously wrong for days, people whose job it is to point when he’s wrong are going to go on ad nauseam about it for days too. I think this case is special, though, in that the sheer triviality of Trump’s error and the petty lengths to which he’s gone in refusing to admit to it have paradoxically led his critics to dig in deeper than they might on a matter of greater import. It’s practically a test of wills now: Can he wear down his critics into letting this matter drop through the sheer persistent force of relentless gaslighting even when they have him dead to rights on the facts? He tweeted bad information last weekend, he briefly panicked a state, and instead of admitting it he’d prefer to fight a week-long media battle replete with outdated maps intended not so much to prove that he was right as simply to make the other side give up in exasperation and let him declare victory. Can he get his antagonists let him win even when he’s so plainly wrong? That’s why they’re holding out. They don’t want to let him.