Trump’s continuous denial of accusations threatens real change

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The last eleven months with the Trump administration have been, to quote the president himself, “fire and fury unlike the world has ever seen.” Controversy reigned. If I were to list every polemic decision, action, or tweet from President Trump or his administration, this article would likely not fit in our newspaper.

Luckily, I don’t have to, thanks to journalist Michael Wolff’s new book, aptly named Fire and Fury. Starting in mid-2016, Wolff documented how Trump and his staff have operated while campaigning and while in the White House—a subject that many of us would rather ignore the details of, much like the human digestive system or hot dog manufacture.

Based upon dozens of interviews conducted with members of Trump’s campaign staff, administration, and family, Wolff paints a very unsettling picture of the Trump White House. Notable excerpts from Fire and Fury include former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon calling Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner “treasonous and unpatriotic” and Donald Trump Jr.’s account that Trump himself did not expect to win the 2016 election and was mortified when he did.

Wolff’s book was intended to research how the Trump administration operates on a day-to-day basis and to enlighten the public on this matter—a worthy goal for a journalist. But something quite unfortunate has become apparent after 11 months of the Trump presidency: nothing sticks to Donald Trump.

Seriously. Any accusations that are hurled his way are swiftly and forcefully deflected before they can do any real damage, all with one simple word.

“No.”

Alongside its relatives, such as “liar,” “dishonest,” and “fake news,” “no” has protected Trump through minor blunders, major accusations, and even threats of impeachment. By simply denying anything negative that comes toward him, he has managed to escape the spotlight time and time again. Even Fire and Fury promises the same outcome, with Trump declaring the book “a work of fiction” and claiming that he never allowed Wolff access to the White House for interviews and sit-ins.

Many anti-Trump advocates believe that Fire and Fury will be different from past accusations, that it will be the end of the road for Trump. However, we have to recall that at one time, Paul Manafort’s indictment was Trump’s undoing. And so was James Comey’s firing. And so were Trump’s comments on the events in Charlottesville. And so was the tape on the Access Hollywood bus.

It is wishful thinking to believe that Fire and Fury will be anything but another item on a long list of almosts. As a matter of fact, the immense coverage the book initially received has declined, thanks largely to Trump’s labeling certain third-world nations as “shithole countries.”

So if Trump continues to deny every criticism he is presented with, what will Fire and Fury wind up doing in the long run? In short, the same thing that Trump’s controversies have always done: polarizing the rest of us with little to no effect on him.

Each time Trump makes a decision that people disagree with, each time he writes a tweet that offends someone, argument ensues. Each time, those who support Trump as a president will staunchly defend him, and those who dislike Trump will accuse him of wrongdoing.

And each time, it drives a political wedge between the two groups.

Fire and Fury appears to be no exception. Liberal news outlets like CNN have begun questioning if Trump is mentally fit for office, while conservative outlets like Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” have repeatedly downplayed the unflattering comments made in the book or branded them as lies or attacks. When the President stated that he never granted Wolff permission to interview for the story, Trump’s supporters rushed to his defense, while Trump’s critics rushed to Wolff’s.

The word “no” effectively shifts the debate from whether Trump has done wrong to whether Wolff’s book has portrayed the Trump White House accurately. “No” has done this before. Again and again, a new debate is sparked that obscures the old one, and this new debate rages on until something new pops up and the controversy that sparked the debate in the first place is forgotten. And meanwhile, the political gap between Trump supporters and Trump detractors widens. The same thing happens every time.

Odds are, Fire and Fury will come and go, and life under the Trump administration will proceed as usual. Nothing will change for the better, which is bad—there are countless problems in today’s society that demand fixing.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. The White House portrayed in Fire and Fury may exist, or may not exist, and as such should be investigated further. We need to stop letting “no” distract us from every accusation that comes to light. Some may say that this convicts Trump of misconduct before direct proof is available; however,  the mere possibility of wrongdoing is cause enough for investigation. A democracy relies on action by the people. If we don’t put the spotlight where it needs to be, nobody else will.

It’s time to stop accepting empty denials as answers; they only serve to deflect our attention and further polarize our democracy. It’s time to move the spotlight back to where it belongs.