Weather happens. Who knew?
That’s essentially the response this week from The Stronach Group, which grabbed Alternative Fact of the Week honors like a long-shot passing a crowded field in the home stretch. And considering how many post-Mueller report candidates for AFOTW were jockeying for that finish line, it was quite an achievement. But don’t take our word for it. Let’s replay that winning moment when the head of Stronach’s real estate operations explained that those 6,670 seats in Pimlico’s Old Grandstand had to be closed as unsafe not because ownership had failed to keep them in good order but because of Mother Nature’s disastrous impact.
“The deterioration of the [Old Grandstand] is a direct consequence of being exposed to the elements of weather for more than 125 years,” Bill Hecht said in a written statement given to The Baltimore Sun’s Doug Donovan. “It is not related to any issue of maintenance.”
That’s sheer genius. How could the Maryland Jockey Club have possibly noticed that it rained or snowed or the sun cruelly beat down on those seats all those years? How could anyone expect the mere owners of the facilities to do something about that? Why, that would be like expecting homeowners to periodically replace their roofs or siding or windows or gutters and downspouts. Or cities to sometimes repave their streets or replace water pipes and sewer lines. Or track owners to actually use millions of dollars in state subsidies on Pimlico, which they clearly want to jettison, instead of Laurel Race Course where they’d like to move the Preakness.
The brilliance of the Stronach performance is that they expect people to believe they are morons. Or at least accept the idea that “maintenance” is something other than replacing worn equipment like aging grandstands and that there’s simply no way they could have seen this — this weather thing — coming years ago. We’ll give them this much: A lot of people in Baltimore thought the grandstand closing was a complete con job; turns out it wasn’t. City inspectors confirmed that yes, those seats really are in bad shape. And now there will be a lot fewer places for patrons to sit during the Preakness Stakes on May 18.
Of course what really sells such alternative facts is to take deep umbrage at any suggestion that Pimlico’s ramshackle conditions are the responsibility of anyone not named Mother Nature or perhaps God. As acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young pointed out, Stronach is still responsible for those neglected seats. Mr. Hecht, however, called the mayor’s observation part of a “false narrative that the facilities have been neglected.”
Bravo, Stronach Group, bravo.
Meanwhile, we would be remiss if we didn’t also recognize this week’s runner-up, a young up-and-coming thoroughbred from a rich stable who hasn’t fallen too far from his sire-in-law. We speak, of course, of Jared Kushner, who was given an opportunity to summarize special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election at a Time magazine event. Even by Trump family standards, he produced quite the alternative fact: It was, Ivanka Trump’s husband said, about Russia “buying some Facebook ads to try and sow dissent,” adding that the subsequent investigation had a “much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.”
For the record, it was much greater than that with a social media presence that included, among other things, 3,800 Twitter accounts. On Facebook alone there were 470 accounts and some 80,000 posts controlled by Russian agents. And that’s not even getting into WikiLeaks and the stolen emails, all part of Russia’s concerted efforts to get Donald Trump in the White House. Mr. Kushner might want to actually read the Mueller report or perhaps U.S. intelligence agency findings since his father-in-law pulled those strings to get him security clearance.
But the Kushner summary did get us wondering how such a devoted re-writer of history might soft-pedal other moments of the past. The Civil War? “A brief skirmish over federalism.” The Great Depression? “A couple of people lost their jobs.” The Civil Rights Movement? “Some sit-ins and speeches that got some folks upset.” The Cold War? “Guy pounded a table with a shoe but then a wall fell.” Climate change? “Look at all the harm from worrying about the end of the world.” Watergate? “President Nixon lacked a Twitter account so he eventually had to resign after an investigation.”
Now there’s a man with a future in The Trump Organization.