Donald Trump, or someone close to him, scribbled with a Sharpie on a hurricane weather map to convince us he didn’t make a mistake. His judgment is clearly shot. Assuming we survive until election day, that’s going to be a problem.
What happened? Well, on September 1, Trump tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was threatening Alabama along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
But Alabama was not actually in the path of the hurricane. To avoid unnecessarily alarming Alabama residents, the National Weather Service confirmed that Alabama wasn’t in danger 20 minutes after Trump’s tweet.
President Trump made a mistake. He probably heard or saw an earlier briefing that mentioned Alabama and mistakenly included it in the list of threatened states. Some people made fun of his error. This wasn’t be the first dumb mistake that Trump made, and any normal person would just accept that and correct it.
But Trump is not a normal person. So what happened next is revealing.
Sharpiegate and the coverup
Hurricane Dorian still hasn’t made landfall. After devastating the Bahamas, it turned north up the coast. It’s weaker than before, but is still menacing the Carolinas, and people there need to prepare.
Trump held a briefing about the hurricane yesterday in the Oval Office. During the briefing, he showed an outdated map that demonstrated that the hurricane was, indeed, possibly headed for Alabama at one point.
Everything possible is wrong with this.
- Only an idiot would think the Sharpie line extending the cone of uncertainty to Alabama is part of the original forecast. Somebody without much skill clearly added it later.
- The undoctored portion of the map is from August 29, two days before the tweet (and six days before the briefing). By September 1, this map would have been completely obsolete, since hurricane forecasts change significantly over time. If Trump was actually counting on this map for his September 1 tweet, he was completely misinformed.
- Why the heck is he spending time on what happened a week ago when the hurricane is menacing the East Coast right now?
But we’re not done. Now Trump has issued another series of tweets defending his mention of Alabama in the original warning, including this one:
This is even worse. This map shows only a few paths hitting Alabama, not “almost all” of them. All of the paths through Alabama go through Florida first, and a hurricane traveling over land would significantly weaken by the time it got to Alabama. And the map is from August 28, three days before the Trump Alabama warning. By the time Trump made that tweet, the models shown on this graphic would have been completely obsolete.
The meaning of Sharpiegate
Trump says a lot of stupid things. But this is so petty and stupid that it’s spawned a meme: Sharpiegate, with doctored pictures of other stuff Trump would like to be different from what it actually was.
Trump has now shown not only that he is petty and unable to let go of something silly, but that his judgment is impaired. The lies are not even plausible now. You don’t need a fact-checking site to know that an obsolete map altered with a sharpie is fake, and ludicrously so. While some people are credulous idiots, very few voters are so idiotic that they’d fall for this.
There’s going to be more of this stuff, and it’s going to be even stupider. At some point, a very large number of voters are going to wonder if he’s feeble-minded. Given the choice between voting for four more years of stumbling around or a candidate that’s more liberal than they would prefer, many Republicans may vote for the liberal, stay home, or vote for a third-party candidate.
Trump supposedly has an electoral advantage: the Democratic candidates are fighting each other now, while he can stand on the sidelines and take shots at them. But if he keeps making stupid errors, that advantage will backfire.
Once the Democratic nominee is chosen, Trump again has a supposed advantage. He’s good at counterpunching and infighting, and has already been giving the candidates demeaning nicknames and calling them socialists. But in a debate, a well-prepared Democrat is going to make Trump look like a fool, reminding everyone of his many lapses, including Sharpiegate. He’s not the man he was in 2016, and watching him ramble in sparring matches with the press has convinced me he’d be no match for any sane, alert, and prepared Democrat in 2020.
If he doesn’t agree to a debate at all — which is certainly possible — then the Democrats will impugn his manhood. When people make fun of the president, he does stupid and implausible things, as he did yesterday. And no advisor or campaign staffer will be able to stop him.
If you want to see Trump gone, you should be happy to see crap like this going on — it’s a good sign for Democrats’ chances in the election. The only question is whether our economy, our security, and our democracy can survive another year of this kind of behavior.