The real implications of “sharpie-gate”

Jacob Wasserman Jacob Wasserman /JACOB WASSERMAN
Jacob Wasserman.

There have been quite a few “scandals” that have taken place in the Trump administration that really should not have existed in the first place, and pertain to rather dumb things that really don’t even warrant the label of a “scandal” or the infamous “-gate” suffix. President Trump essentially makes a big deal out of nothing, but it dominates media coverage for days or weeks. One of those chains of events has taken place over the past week: sharpie-gate.

Basically, on Sept. 1, President Trump erroneously tweeted that Alabama would be in the path of Hurricane Dorian, sowing massive confusion at a time when clear information from the government is crucial. It then prompted the Birmingham, Ala. office of the National Weather Service (NWS) to send out a tweet making it clear that Alabama was not at all to be affected by Dorian, which then led to a full week of President Trump trying to convince everyone that Alabama was indeed in the path of Dorian. It was not.

Throughout the week, the president’s homeland security advisor took the fall publicly for feeding the president the old forecast, and President Trump literally drew on an official weather map ― circling Alabama to make it look like it was in the path of the storm when it was not (that is a crime, by the way), among other actions.

Of course, there are more important things for a president to do than to try to gaslight the entire country out of calling out a mistake that could have just been solved by a one sentence tweet along the lines of: “I apologize for including Alabama in that other tweet. I was looking at an old map, but the forecast has now been updated. Alabama will not be hit by Dorian.”

The one moment, however, that truly crossed the line is when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an unattributed statement saying that they had provided President Trump with forecasts that projected that, “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

“The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time,” the statement also said.

The first part of the statement talks only of tropical-storm-force winds, not hurricane-force winds that President Trump seems to want to gaslight into existence. Not only is the second part a direct lie, but it subverts the scientists of the Birmingham, Ala. office of the NWS, who were still 100% correct.

This all comes after a directive was sent to NOAA staff from the powers that be, that The Washington Post reported on on Sept. 7, that said they were to “only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon” and were not to “provide any opinion.”

Breaking decades-held norms is not exactly new to this administration, but the erasing line between scientific organizations like the NWS and political interference from the White House can lead to people dying.

Now that we know this administration is perfectly fine fudging scientific findings like hurricane projections, how can we believe what they say when the next storm is on its way? Alabamians maybe went out and bought some extra supplies that they did not need and got more nervous than they needed to, but what is it goes the other way? What if President Trump decides to omit a state from a projection that is actually in the path of a hurricane for some political reason, and the people in that state do not know to prepare?

This move from the Trump Administration is one that seriously can have life-or-death consequences and sets a horribly dangerous precedent.

This story may seem like something that people are making too big a deal out of, but it truly warrants our attention both because of that precedent and because the president has now shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is so petty as to not do the decent thing and simply admit that he was wrong initially.

He was wrong — it must be stressed — on a minor detail in a weather report that, like I said before, could have been shrugged off by any reasonable person as a gaffe before being quickly buried into today’s tumultuous news cycle. But no, he kept it up, just furthering the cause of the many democrats making the case that he is a danger to the country and has no business occupying the office he does.

Jacob Wasserman is a junior political science student at the university. He is the president of the College Democrats of Delaware, and both a columnist and senior news reporter at The Review. He can be reached at jacobwas@udel.edu.

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