In George Orwell's novel "1984," the protagonist, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to adapt events so they conform to the prevailing party line. This is not unlike the task currently being undertaken by some of US President Donald Trump's advisors.
Aerial photographs provide confirmation of the number of people who came to the National Mall for Trump's inauguration last week. There isn't actually anything to discuss. However, the president believes that far more people came than the media are reporting. Or, as George Orwell would say: 2 + 2 = 5. Trump's advisors have accepted the president's claim and are disseminating "alternative facts." They're trying to make objective reality conform to the president's perception of it.
Determined to be right, or paranoid?
The same thing is also happening where other issues are concerned. Trump is convinced, for example, that millions of people committed voter fraud in the election that brought him to power. He wants to launch an investigation, even though there is absolutely no indication that any such manipulation took place. Is he just determined to be in the right, or is this paranoia? Either way, it's worrying.
Trump was promoting crazy theories long before he took the oath of office. He claimed that thousands of Muslims were celebrating in the United States after the 9/11 attacks, that ex-president Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, that the father of Republican senator Ted Cruz was involved in President John F. Kennedy's murder. The list of Trump's tall tales goes on and on. His bizarre claims may not have mattered in the past; after all, a reality TV star thrives on headlines. But since he started calling the shots in the White House, there's a lot more at stake: the credibility and integrity of the office, America's international standing, and its claim to leadership.
Irrefutable facts do matter. They are the foundation of sensible and responsible politics. Ignoring them can have serious consequences. On Monday, the first regular working day of his presidency, Donald Trump immediately buried TPP - just as he announced he would do during the election campaign. The aim of this free trade agreement between 12 of the states bordering the Pacific Ocean was to counter Chinese dominance of the Asian market. Trump's decree rejecting TPP changes everything. America-friendly states like New Zealand, Australia or Singapore are more than a little annoyed. They and other TPP countries are now looking at ways of working more closely with China. Trump's TPP decision furthers Chinese, not American, interests.
Don't underestimate Trump!
Was that his intention? Certainly not. Even his political enemies would say of Trump that he does indeed see himself as the defender of the ordinary guy, and that he wants to strengthen America - not weaken it. Obama said of his successor: "Don't underestimate the guy." Many certainly did, and many continue to do so.
Regardless of what people think of Trump, he is the rightful president of the United States of America and the world will have to live with him. Of all the Western politicians, the German chancellor ought to get on with him best, and not just because she is one of the most experienced heads of government. She has also already demonstrated in her dealings with Russian president Vladimir Putin how to handle a power-seeker who has completely different views and exists in a world of his own.
The chancellor and the new US president will meet, at the latest, shortly before the G20 summit in Hamburg in the summer. Right now, neither seems to be in any rush to do so.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts below. The comment thread closes automatically 24 hours after the opinion's publication.