Opinion

BIDLACK | Facts are stubborn things — so our president just ignores them

Author: Hal Bidlack - September 28, 2018 - Updated: September 27, 2018

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Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

My long-suffering editor really likes it when I choose to write about topics in circuitous ways that jump from topic to topic (Ed: wait, what? No, I don’t!) He especially likes it when I use a torturous analogy to make a political point, or so I assume. (Ed: again, not really the case…)

And so, today let’s talk about high school football and the state of American politics, shall we?

After my run for the U.S. Congress back in 2008, I found I wasn’t being yelled at enough in my daily life, so I took up being an official for high school and lower level football games. I’m one of those guys in striped shirts with a whistle and a yellow flag. You know, the guys you yell at from time to time?

Anyway, we in Colorado, and around the nation, have a significant shortage of sports officials, and that’s too bad. A major reason for this shortage is the abuse we take from quite a few folks, including some coaches, parents, players, and I swear, the guy selling popcorn.  Back when I was a military cop, and I was involved in a ruckus, I had a badge, a gun, and a whistle. Now, only a whistle, but I’m told the snazzy stripes make me look thinner, so it all balances out. But we do get treated with disrespect quite regularly, though we also see some truly great sportsmanship as well.

Just like in politics. (Ed: I admit, I did not see that one coming)

One of the major contributors to this lack of civility at games is, frankly, the lack of knowledge of the rules of HS football by the general public.  Lot’s of people think they are experts on the rules of HS football, and so, every week we hear someone in the stands yelling that a pass was uncatchable – so no interference should have been called – or that the quarterback was outside the tackle box, so it wasn’t intentional grounding (I’ll give the non-sports folks a few seconds to google that last bit).

And those hecklers would be correct if in fact they were watching an NFL game. But in high school football, neither catchability nor tackle boxes matter one bit. But far too many fans are quite certain of their personal rules infallibility and they yell out their disquiet, with occasional references to my need for glasses and sometimes offer thoughts about my mom.

Which, of course, brings me to our president and his supporters.

Mr. Trump insists that what he speaks is the truth and that any criticism of him is “fake news.” He posits that he is the victim of a massive media attack, even as he benefits directly from a state medium known as Fox News. And many of his supporters embrace this view.

For example, a surprising number of Trump supporters boast of the stock market rising some 35 percent or so since he took office, yet deny the objective fact that the markets actually rose more rapidly, and to higher relative levels, under Mr. Obama during the same relative times of their first terms. Indeed, the market would ultimately nearly triple under Mr. Obama, yet many of Mr. Trump’s supporters claim it went down. Forbes magazine, hardly a liberal rag, ran a story last October noting the market increases under Mr. Trump rank him sixth, going back to the Hoover administration, behind Clinton, Obama, Ford, Truman, and Eisenhower. But if you listen to Fox, you’re not too likely to hear this. Facts, as President Adams allegedly said, are stubborn things. So it may be best to ignore them, eh? Like an uncatchable pass?

A couple of days ago, when chairing a session of the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Trump asserted that he was the first president to take on China on the issue of trade. That statement is, well, false. It’s a lie. In fact, every recent president has taken on China. Now this may seem like a minor thing, but it is indicative of the growing divide on what is and what is not actually true. It’s a good thing to debate policies about the future of our great nation, but it is only beneficial when we can at least agree on the basic facts.

When football fans insist on yelling about the wrong rules, it’s unfortunate, but nothing really bad comes from it. When a president insists on an alternate reality, the results are far less certain and far more worrisome. Heck, I might have to blow my whistle.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.