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Trump Brings The Era Of 'Bizarre' To White House.

After more than two years in office, the verdict is in on the one word almost never used to describe any president but used more than any other to capture Donald Trump's time in office. It is bizarre, as in "very strange or unusual." That is the word that burst on the political and journalistic scene with his inauguration in 2017. And a review of the first 65 days of this year shows it is still getting heavy usage, almost as if neither scholars nor reporters nor other politicians can come up with a better word to describe all the strange things coming out of the Oval Office. That this is unusual--or even a little bizarre--in the sweep of American history is clear. Trump was preceded into office by two two-term presidents who were routinely savaged by political opponents, pushed policies that were deeply controversial, and had legions of critics. Those critics at times blasted the policies themselves as bizarre. But they never found either Barack Obama or George W Bush so strange or unusual that they called them or their behaviour bizarre. The same was true of the presidents from Jimmy Carter through George HW Bush. It was part of Trump's winning pitch in the 2016 campaign that he could be strange, unusual, and different from the politicians. But he promised that he could pivot to something more familiar after his inauguration, boasting that "with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office." That growth, however, was not evident in his first week in office. On the day of his inauguration, a Wyoming publisher, Steven R Peck, said a key question of this new presidency is whether "Trump will prove to be more than the sum total of his bizarre parts." Conservative Daniel Pipes held his breath that Trump would rebound from his "reckless and bizarre" conversation with the Pakistani prime minister during the transition. And Bloomberg View columnist Pankaj Mishra wrote, "It is no exaggeration to say that a bizarre new phase in human history began on Friday." Then Trump started doing things and dozens of analysts started throwing around the word. On Day One, January 21, he sent press secretary Sean Spicer out to do a "bizarre rant" about crowd size at the inauguration. And he gave a speech at the CIA that The Washington Post wrote had a "bizarre quality." Columnist Dana Milbank said the "most troubling' part of that "bizarre" speech was when Trump insisted it had been "really sunny" when he was sworn in--the exact opposite of the actual weather. On Day Two, he tweeted about the crowd sizes and approved when aide Kellyanne Conway explained the "bizarre" notion of "alternative facts." On Day Three, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lamented what he called "a bizarre first weekend" for the new administration. And the president in his first meeting with members of Congress raised what the New York Daily News called the "bizarre and debunked claim" that he had actually won the popular vote only to be denied by millions of fraudulent votes. On Day Four, he doubled down on the voter-fraud claims. On Day Five, he promised interviewer David Muir that Mexico would pay for the border wall through an import tax, a statement branded as bizarre and dropped within 24 hours. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman complained of "utterly bizarre rants." Rep Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania said, "People are finding his behaviour bizarre." On Day Six, the president sparked a bizarre diplomatic episode by using Twitter to cancel a summit with the Mexican president, and Rep. Ted Lieu complained of Trump doing "silly, bizarre things" like lying. The Philadelphia Inquirer described the opening days as "beyond bizarre." Columnist EJ Dionne worried about "his bizarre insecurity." On Day Seven, many analysts called the rollout of the travel ban bizarre. The week ended with columnist Maureen Dowd contending the president had "spiraled into a bizarre Freudian obsession" and Charles Lewis, founder of the Centre for Public Integrity, looking back on the week and saying, "We've never seen anything this bizarre in our lifetimes." Twenty-six months later, the bizarre hits keep coming. Since January 1, the word has been used to describe Trump's approach to the government shutdown, his tweets, his mangling of Soviet history in Afghanistan, a cabinet meeting, his choice of a science adviser, his claim he would have been a good general, his foreign policy, his handling of the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, his comments on the death of Otto Warmbier after his imprisonment in North Korea, his "love" for dictator Kim Jong-un, his South Lawn press conference, his relations with Russia, his serving of fast food to the Clemson football team, his declaration of a border emergency, his dealings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his very public upbraiding of his trade negotiator, his diversion of military funds to the border wall, his rambling speech declaring an emergency, his historically long speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, his comments on dogs, his challenge to the intelligence community, his State of the Union address, his claim that Obama wanted to go to war with North Korea, his claim that he could stop investigations of him, his attempt to impede investigations by the Southern District of New York, his claims that he can't be impeached, and his attack on Jeff Bezos. Among others. In those 65 days, a search on the Nexis database found 81 instances when either he or his policies or his actions were branded bizarre. In many of them, there was an air of resignation to the new White House reality. The Washington Post's Paul Farhi noted that "the White House seems to have all but stopped explaining Trump's bizarre tweets." MSNBC's Joe Scarborough contended Trump is "even more bizarre than before." And West Virginia editor James Haught suggested that historians will look back on this as "the bizarre Trump era."

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Publication:Qatar Tribune (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Mar 16, 2019
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