Donald Trump and His ‘Magic Mirror’

Exclusive: President Trump’s vain tirades about crowd size and voter fraud make him look like Snow White’s evil queen gazing into her mirror, but he could turn that around by telling some important truths, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

By insisting that he is the legitimate winner of the U.S. popular vote and the man who drew the largest inaugural crowd ever, President Trump is behaving like the evil queen in “Snow White” gazing into a “magic mirror” and refusing to accept that he isn’t the “fairest of them all.”

To protect his giant but fragile ego, Trump concocts fantasies about three million to five million illegal votes – enough to cover his actual deficit of 2.8 million – and he disputes the obvious fact that his inaugural turnout was far less than Barack Obama’s.

Having attended both Obama’s inaugural in 2009 and Trump’s in 2017, I can assure you that Obama’s crowd was much bigger. While my son Jeff and I had to squeeze into and out of packed Metro stations on Jan. 20, 2009, we had no trouble getting on a train on Jan. 20, 2017.

Even at the outskirts of Trump’s inauguration, protesters far outnumbered celebrants. One vendor selling Trump-inaugural tee shirts remarked that he had been sitting there for four hours and had only sold five shirts.

Of course, none of that is too surprising since Obama was the first African-American president and Washington D.C. and its surrounding suburbs have large black populations as well as being heavily Democratic districts. In other words, it was easier for many Obama supporters to get to his inaugural than it was for Trump’s backers to travel longer distances to get to his.

As for the crowds on the Mall, Trump’s turnout was further depressed by the fact that large numbers of protesters, especially north of the inaugural parade route, clogged the security checkpoints. Some protesters even locked arms to slow the entry process.

So there were logical reasons – not reflective of Trump’s overall popularity – explaining why his numbers were a lot lower than Obama’s. But rather than accept this minor slight – as well as the fact that he lost the national popular vote by a significant margin – Trump has behaved like Snow White’s vain queen who can’t accept the inevitability of her fading beauty and the unwelcome news that someone younger has supplanted her as “the fairest” in the land.

Trump could have scored valuable political points by demonstrating some uncharacteristic grace, acknowledging that as the popular vote loser whose crowds fell short of Obama’s record turnout, he recognizes his responsibility to be the president of all the people and to respect dissenting opinions.

Instead, he marred his first week in the White House by pushing easily debunked claims that he was the victim of conspiracies to disparage his inaugural turnout and deny him a popular-vote victory.

More Dangerous Lies

While Trump’s refusal to accept unpleasant realities raises fresh concerns about his fitness for office – since his presidency will surely face some painful reversals and rejecting reality is a dangerous way to respond – he is certainly not the first president to lie to the American people.

One difference between Trump’s lies and many other lies, however, is that Trump’s are both more personal and more obvious. Only his most benighted followers will continue to contest his popular vote loss and the comparatively small size of his inaugural crowds. Most government lies are both harder to detect and more sinister in their consequences.

Think, for example, of President George W. Bush’s falsehoods about Iraq’s WMDs and Saddam Hussein’s alleged collaboration with Al Qaeda. That deceptive propaganda led to the deaths of more than 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, not to mention a price tag of more than $1 trillion and the spreading of chaos across the Middle East and into Europe.

President Obama also found deception a useful tool for herding the American people behind his administration’s foreign interventions. For instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials lied about Muammar Gaddafi engaging in “genocide” against the people of eastern Libya when that was clearly not true. But they wanted to justify another “regime change” project, so the truth was readily sacrificed in the name of the “Clinton Doctrine” and her idea of “smart power.”

Similarly, in trying to justify direct U.S. military intervention in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly claimed “we know” that Bashar al-Assad’s military was responsible for a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. Kerry made the false claim of certainty to justify a “retaliatory” assault.

Although Obama ultimately decided not to bomb Syria’s army, he also asserted no doubt about Assad’s guilt. Obama declared in a formal address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, that “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”

Yet, we now know that Obama’s own intelligence analysts were among those who questioned whether Assad’s military was responsible. I was hearing in real time from intelligence sources that a number of U.S. analysts believed that the attack might well have been a provocation by Syrian rebels to draw the U.S. military into the conflict on their side, a suspicion later confirmed by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

No Slam Dunk

And, we learned last year from The Atlantic’s long interview with Obama about his foreign policies that he was told by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that there was no “slam dunk” evidence implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack.

However, instead of informing the American people about these doubts, Secretary Kerry and President Obama insisted that there were no doubts. In other words, they lied – and those lies helped justify continued U.S. arms shipments to “moderate” rebels, who were largely under the command of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate which ultimately got possession of many of those sophisticated weapons.

To this day, the false sarin certainty remains part of Official Washington’s conventional wisdom with CNN’s Jake Tapper citing the “Assad gassed his own people” claim on Wednesday in challenging Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, about her decision to meet with the Syrian president during a recent fact-finding trip to the war-ravaged country.

Similarly, the Obama administration pushed propaganda themes to justify another “regime change” project in Ukraine, on Russia’s border. Obama’s State Department fed dubious and false claims to credulous mainstream reporters, including accusations that elected President Viktor Yanukovych was responsible for the bloodshed that preceded the putsch that ousted him on Feb. 22, 2014.

Obama and his team also concealed evidence about who was behind the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Though I was told that some U.S. intelligence analysts had determined that a rogue element of the Ukrainian military had fired the fateful missile, Obama withheld the intelligence community’s findings while the guilt was pinned on Russia.

Early last year when the father of the one U.S. citizen killed among the 298 dead on the flight was begging the U.S. government to open its files, a well-placed intelligence source told me that the request was given serious consideration but was rejected because the truth would “destroy the narrative,” which had made Russian President Vladimir Putin the villain and thus was a key factor in justifying the New Cold War.

By withholding the U.S. intelligence evidence, Obama gave the MH-17 murderers more than two years to get away and cover their tracks – and allowed the disreputable Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU, to take control of the supposedly “Dutch-led” investigation and thus steer the conclusions in support of the anti-Russian propaganda narrative. [See’s “Troubling Gaps in the New MH-17 Report” and “The Official and Implausible MH-17 Scenario.”]

Double Standards

Obama’s secretive approach toward those pivotal events was in marked contrast to his eagerness to have his intelligence agencies brief reporters on allegations that Putin had helped Trump’s campaign and had blackmailed him over evidence of supposedly salacious behavior with Moscow prostitutes.

Even though Obama’s intelligence officials presented no evidence to support those accusations, the charges undermined Trump’s legitimacy as many Democrats echoed Hillary Clinton in calling Trump Putin’s “puppet.”

The contrast between Obama’s eagerness to release secret allegations to disparage Trump and Obama’s refusal to give the public substantive information for judging issues of war or peace reflects the elitism that came to infect Obama’s administration.

Information – or disinformation – was valued for guiding the American people in desired directions. Facts didn’t have an intrinsic value as a way to empower the public to understand the world and to make informed judgments. Instead, “information war” was viewed as a means to weaken and defeat “enemies,” part of “smart power.”

To cite another children’s fable, Obama’s administration went down the rabbit hole in its foreign policy where reality and logic no longer prevailed. But pretty much the entire Washington establishment was there, too, Republicans, Democrats and the mainstream media, so there was a self-reinforcing quality to the madness.

President Trump clearly doesn’t have the mainstream media on his side nor much of the establishment, so he cannot expect the kind of nodding acquiescence that greeted false claims by George W. Bush and Barack Obama – or, for that matter, presidents dating back generations.

But Trump does not help himself by destroying his own credibility by making easily debunked claims about crowd sizes and voter fraud, what one of his aides called “alternative facts.”

Still, Trump could reverse his image as a self-absorbed con man by standing up for real government transparency and showing genuine trust in the American people. He could start by declassifying evidence on the Syrian sarin case, the Ukrainian coup, the MH-17 shoot-down and other turning-point moments in recent history. He could show bipartisanship, too, by revealing some historic secrets about Republican administrations as they also sought to manipulate the American people.

Trump could arm Americans with real facts and show genuine respect to the citizens as the nation’s true sovereigns, the “We the People” of the U.S. Constitution’s opening words, not lambs for herding to the next war-of-choice slaughterhouse.

If he could stop gazing into that mirror, Trump could transform himself from being just one more villain feeding fantasies to the American people into a real-world hero by telling important truths. But he has gotten off to a very rocky start by telling some very petty lies.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Fear Among Undocumented Immigrants

Moving quickly on campaign promises to tighten U.S. borders and crack down on “sanctuary cities,” President Trump is spreading fear among communities where many undocumented immigrants live, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein

The new mayor of the “People’s Republic of Berkeley,” Jesse Arreguin, is facing a trial by fire. The son and grandson of farmworkers and the first Latino to ever be elected mayor of Berkeley, California, Arreguin finds himself on the frontlines of the “sanctuary city” movement and in the cross hairs of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

I spoke with Mayor Arreguin on Wednesday after Trump signed several executive orders aimed at undocumented immigrants and challenging so-called “sanctuary cities.” Arreguin said he had spoken to many immigrant students in city schools who are not sure what is coming next.

Dennis Bernstein: I wanted to begin, first, by asking you to give us your own response, sort of to the overall, what’s going on. And then we’re going to talk about the implications and how you feel in terms of continuing Berkeley as a sanctuary city.

Jesse Arreguin: Well, in just two days, Donald Trump has not only set us on a course of ruining our planet, by fast tracking the approval of the Keystone Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, but also stripped the civil rights and civil liberties of our citizens, has pushed a divisive wall, [and] is now threatening cities which had the courage to stand up for being a city refuge for all people, regardless of their citizenship status. And Berkeley is one of those cities.

And so, I’m angry. And I’m concerned about what the executive order the President signed today [Jan. 25] means for the people of Berkeley, and undocumented people throughout our country. And, now, more than ever, we’re going to stand up, and protect everyone, regardless of their national origin, their religion. And, I think, now more than ever, Berkeley needs to be a leader in the resistance against the Trump administration.

DB: I was going to ask you that; People have always looked to Berkeley. You know, they refer to it as the “People’s Republic of Berkeley.” […] We’ve been on the cutting edge when it comes to conscience and action, so I’m sure the whole world is watching.

Have you been hearing from some of your constituents? … Is there fear in the community? Are the kids…we’re right across the street from Berkeley High School. There’s a good number of kids in there who are probably feeling like maybe they should go into hiding. How’s that coming to you?

JA: Absolutely, there’s a great deal of fear in the community. And actually, after the election, I visited a number of our schools, including some of our middle-schools and elementary schools. And there are a lot of students who were very concerned about what the election of Trump means for not just them but their classmates. Including their classmates who are undocumented. You know, being uprooted from their schools, from their families, dividing families, dividing communities. And I spoke to these students to try to reassure them that Berkeley will remain a sanctuary city. And “we’re here to support you.”

So, we’re actually going to be working with the University of California, with the Berkeley Unified School District, to try to… sort of coordinate our resources, our legal resources, and our other resources for undocumented residents. Because we need to help people defend against deportations. We need to help people… families are being divided. But there’s a great deal of fear.

But, I want to say that the City of Berkeley stands with everyone, regardless of their citizenship status. And we will protect our residents, and … our city employees are instructed to not, in any way, cooperate with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. We refuse to cooperate with ICE, but we do need to be prepared, for what if ICE comes in our community. What are we going to do?

DB: What are you going to do? Are there preparations, is there a lot of planning?

JA: So, we’re beginning to think about that, and plan for that. It happened before, in 2007, ICE came onto the Berkeley High campus to try to identify and detain students. And that’s actually where our sanctuary policy came out of. So, it’s happened before. Sadly, it is likely to happen again. But we will fight back.

DB: And what about the threats? Is there a concern that this could really take an economic toll? That they can do things to hurt you, to really make it difficult for various constituencies that you represent to get the things that they need?

JA: Absolutely. So, my understanding of the executive order the President has signed [on January 25] would strip cities that are sanctuary cities of federal funds. And in Berkeley, that’s around $11.5 million in federal funding. And that’s funding for our most vulnerable. You know, these are housing programs, programs for our homeless, public health programs.

And so, we need to make sure we maintain the safety net, even in the wake of cuts in federal funding. It’s going to be difficult, but we need to make sure that we can serve our most vulnerable, but also not cave into the fear and the divisiveness that’s coming out of Washington.

DB: Do you think, yourself, a person of color… do you feel that you bring a special sensitivity, do you see this as being quite a personal thing, as well as a political action?

JA: Absolutely. I mean, I’m the son and grandson of farm workers. I’m the first Latino mayor of Berkeley. Probably one of the only Latino mayors in the Bay Area. And so, for me, this is personal. This is real. My grandparents immigrated illegally, to this country. I have friends who are undocumented, this is a real issue.

And friends I know who are undocumented are living in fear now, not knowing what’s going to happen. And so, for me, as not only the mayor of the city, but as a Latino, it makes me angry, but it also motivates me, even more, to speak out and to fight back.

And one of the things that’s most inspiring, I think … in the wake of the election… (there’s not a lot to be inspired about but, well, it’s been inspiring) is just the overwhelming–in this community and throughout the country–the overwhelming desire to fight back. And to stand for the values that make Berkeley, and make our country, such an equitable and inclusive society.

And that was evidenced by the hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people that participated in the women’s marches. And we’ve got to keep that momentum going. And so, what we’re doing in Berkeley, we’re remaining a sanctuary city and the policies we will set, and speaking out against, the right-wing agenda from Washington, hopefully we’ll work collectively with other cities to lead the resistance that will hopefully change this country in four years.

DB: And, just finally, in the broader view of things, there are many things happening in communities of color, under attack, in many ways. Yesterday [January 24] it was Standing Rock and the pipelines. Now, I’m wondering how you integrate or see these sort of parallel attacks playing into the attacks on immigrants. How does that work for you? How do you see the overall picture, both in the negative and perhaps in the way that it can unite?

JA: Well, I think communities of color and poor people, working class people are under attack by the new administration in Washington, whether it’s, you know, desecrating the sacred land, the sacred rights of our indigenous communities, whether it’s mass deportation, for us, or building walls to divide our communities, whether it’s pushing the prison industrial complex. I’m assuming we’ll see more of a militarized approach to law enforcement across our country, and we’ve seen how that has played out in communities of color.

So there are real, serious challenges at a time where … our country is divided. But I think the struggles, the collective struggles that we’re all experiencing, provide an opportunity. I think it was evidenced by the very diverse crowds that we saw at the women’s march: people coming together to fight back, and to work collectively to stand for a core of progressive values and to also work collectively to bring about real change. And that’s inspiring.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at