“Sharpiegate” demonstrates a couple of things.
This isn’t funny anymore.
Nor is it a reason for anger.
President Donald Trump’s ongoing insistence that Alabama was threatened by Hurricane Dorian — even to the point of doctoring a map with a pen to “prove” his point — shows there’s something broken in the man.
That should be cause for sorrow.
And not rage.
It isn’t just that he’s playing games with the truth. Most politicians I’ve known in decades of covering them have viewed the truth as a malleable commodity. They’ll stretch it or pick and choose which parts to emphasize, depending upon the case they’re trying to make or the point they’re trying to win.
Almost all of them, though, will stop when they realize they’ve been caught or when they have nothing to gain by pressing the argument.
That isn’t the case with this president.
When he’s caught outright lying, he continues doing so, acting as if he has the power to alter reality simply by wishing unpleasant or unwelcome facts away. And he does this even when lying can’t possibly help him or his cause.
Such is the case with this dispute.
What did he have to gain by prolonging this argument, long after even his friends and allies at Fox News were scratching their heads and urging him to drop it? And didn’t he have even the tiniest inkling that arguing about something so trivial while people’s lives and safety were at stake made him look both small and completely disconnected from reality?
This isn’t a question of ideology or partisanship.
There are conservative solutions to the problems that ail America. There are liberal solutions. And there are moderate solutions.
Each of these solutions has benefits. Each has costs. The question before Americans is an eternal one — which benefits do we desire the most and which costs are we most willing to absorb?
We Americans can — and likely will — argue that question as long as this nation exists.
What is going on with this president is something different than disputes over policy.
There seems to be something that gnaws at this man. It’s as if there is a hole in him that nothing can fill.
It is easy, even tempting, to reduce public figures to caricatures. Denying them any humanity eases any compunctions we might have about saying harsh things about them or telling cruel jokes at their expense.
Most of the time, that’s okay. In a self-governing society, criticizing our leaders or making fun of them serves as a reminder that they serve the rest of us, not stand above us.
It’s part of the process and most presidents understand that. The healthiest presidents — Ronald Reagan, both Bushes and Barack Obama come to mind — have the gift of making self-deprecating jokes and laughing at themselves. By doing so, they can disarm criticism or even pre-empt it.
This president can’t do that.
His braggadocio and bluster are the traits of a scared child, one who fears he doesn’t belong and is terrified he’ll be found out. There is no slight he feels secure enough to ignore, no time that he ever seems at peace with what he has accomplished or who he is.
He has climbed as high as a person can climb in this country. He commands the world’s attention. He has carved out a place for himself, for good or ill, in the history of our nation and this planet.
And it’s still not enough for him.
Whatever is eating at him never stops gnawing at him.
If any other human being but Donald Trump were in this condition, we wouldn’t be making jokes about it.
Nor would we be angry.
We’d see it for what it is.
A sad story.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.