What if an alternative fact was so outrageous that reality struck back and forced its way into the conversation? What if a representative of the Trump administration spoke an untruth so irresponsible and egregious that everyone from President Donald Trump on down decided, well, this strategy isn't working, so why don't we "zig" when everyone expects us to "zag" and accept facts as facts?
A fantasy, right? We thought so, too — until it was time to review the events of the past week, starting with the White House press secretary's claim that Adolf Hitler had not used chemical weapons. Sean Spicer made the comparison to show what an awful human being Syrian President Bashar Assad is, but the episode ended up pointing out what an awful human being Mr. Spicer can be for denying the Holocaust and the use of gas chambers in concentration camps, or as Mr. Spicer calls them, "Holocaust centers." He corrected himself, flubbed the correction by suggesting Mr. Assad went after "innocent people," which implies Jews aren't, and then had to apologize again. All during Passover, no less.
In the alternative fact universe and its abundance of lies, deceit and ignorance, that prevarication was an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Surely no White House press secretary has demonstrated less knowledge of both the facts at hand and a crucial moment in world history nor provided Americans a bigger signal of latent anti-Semitism. Not surprisingly, a lot of folks have been calling for Mr. Spicer to find employment elsewhere. But wait, it gets weirder.
The White House has seen some other notable moments recently, and they all seemed to involve President Trump discovering the world is not what he thought it to be. It started last week with his discovery that President Assad's use of chemical weapons was harming innocent children and his decision to launch a military retaliation when he had publicly preached against that very response several years ago. But that wasn't all. President Trump also revised his position on the Federal Reserve, saying he likes and respects Janet Yellen after vowing to replace the Fed chairwoman. He even said he likes low interest rates after complaining last fall that Ms. Yellen was "obviously political" for allowing so much "free" money and creating a "false market" with those same rates.
Mr. Trump announced that North Atlantic Treaty Organization was "no longer obsolete" even though it appears to be the same NATO he called "obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S." a mere 11 months ago. He told an interviewer he no longer believes China is willfully manipulating its currency and in the same interview with The Wall Street Journal had nice things to say about the Export-Import Bank that he had previously said he'd like to shut down. Oh, and did we mention he seems to have recognized that Russian President Vladimir Putin is up to more in Syria than killing terrorists, leading Mr. Trump to suggest that that Russia-U.S. relations had reached an "all-time low" (apparently glossing over the Cuban missile crisis, among other greatest hits of the Cold War).
All that took place in a week. It's absolutely breathtaking. And that's not even touching on how his baseless accusations that President Barack Obama ordered the "wiretapping" of Trump Tower have recently morphed into claims that Susan Rice acted improperly when she "unmasked" individuals recorded by legal surveillance. Got it? While it's still not clear what the true facts may be in that case, the president does seem to be inching closer toward them (or at least abandoning his false claims without actually admitting he's doing so).
Now, we're not certain this is some elaborate week of atonement for Mr. Spicer's missteps. (If so, he's picked the wrong Jewish holiday; Yom Kippur isn't until the fall.) But it's also not just a matter of willy-nilly flip-flopping. In each case, Mr. Trump appears to be distancing himself from his carefully manufactured alternative realities of the past and seems to be moving toward the real world. Can it last? Did Hitler spare innocents from chemical weapons? Surely, we all know the answer to that one.