By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Alabama drawn into eye on the hurricane

President Donald Trump outdid even himself this week as a hurricane-force windbag. Somehow, despite his many assaults on truth and morals, his performance on Hurricane Dorian seemed almost worse — so senseless, so juvenile.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Trump said he’d never heard of a Category 5 storm, yet Dorian is the fifth Category 5 storm since October 2016. Media outlets quickly showed video clips of past Trump statements that he had never heard of a Category 5 storm, as reported in this May 2019 statement he made about the 2018 destruction by Hurricane Michael:

“I’ve just come from a stop at Tyndall Air Force Base, where I saw the devastating effects of that Category 5 hurricane, Category 5. Never heard about Category 5s before, a Category 5 is big stuff.”

So, Hurricane Dorian, meet “Groundhog Day.”

Trump’s latest mental failing about the size of hurricanes might have blown by with scant notice. But then, on Sept. 1, the president announced Alabama likely would be hit hard by Dorian.

As recounted by PolitiFact Florida: Trump’s Sunday Tweet said Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Twenty minutes later, the National Weather Service corrected that statement without referring to the president. Trump persisted, saying at FEMA headquarters that Alabama “could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that, it could be.”

An early NOAA map, said PolitiFact, showed a 5 percent chance of tropical storm winds “nipping the southeast corner of Alabama.” Days later, stung by reporting about his misstatements, Trump trotted out a doctored copy of that map with an extended, suspicious-looking black circle centered on Alabama.

Someone had falsified the official weather map, which is a crime. The White House and NWS declined comment; when asked if the fake circle was drawn with a Sharpie, Trump responded, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Thursday morning, Trump’s infantile self-defense campaign continued. He returned to his tiresome rant that still resonates with his base: It’s just the “Fake News” trying to demean him.

Watching it unfold, I tried to put it all into perspective:

There were reports from the Bahamas of 20 deaths, thousands of people missing and billions of dollars in damages. Millions in North and South Carolina were awaiting Dorian’s possible landfall Thursday or Friday. A PBS headline blared, “Damage estimates don’t capture the full cost of climate change-fueled disasters.”

And our president was indulging in another bout of self-absorbed vanity. Truly frightening.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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