As I type this, CNN's various talking heads seem to be having mild-to-moderate strokes over the apparent meltdown du jour of Day 5 of the Trump administration: The president's ongoing belief — despite the lack of any credible evidence — that somewhere from 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in last fall's election. Presumably these phantom votes were cast a) by undocumented immigrants and b) were unanimously for Hillary Clinton, explaining why she defeated The Donald in the popular vote. (Even though Trump told us that "the Hispanics" love him ... but I digress.)
Anyway, here comes anchorwoman Brooke Baldwin with the arched eyebrows and CNN's chief media reporter Brian Stelter asking if, next, Trump will be telling congressional leaders that "the moon is made of green cheese." They even cornered a Senate Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, to tsk-tsk the novice president, saying his unsubstantiated false claims "undermines faith" in democracy.
Look, this is important. It's vital to call out President Trump here: The newly inaugurated president is trying to perpetrate a massive lie on the American people. Here's the truth:
There wasn't evidence of widespread voter fraud before the election. There isn't evidence of widespread voter fraud afterward, either. In fact, there's not evidence of even modest voter fraud.
Read the entire Washington Post article from last month — it documents in detail every single known case of voter fraud that could be verified from news accounts or public officials. The bottom line:
As of writing, there are four demonstrated examples of people committing voter fraud during the 2016 general election. That's 0.000002 percent of the ballots cast in the race for the White House — if they counted, which they won't. (And it's including the mayoral fraud in Florida.)
There is simply no evidence that fraudulent ballots played any significant role in the 2016 presidential election whatsoever.
There's a slight difference between 4 people and 3 to 5 million people. This Captain Queeg-like behavior by the 45th president of the United States makes us a global laughingstock. And yet, politically, I don't think this kind of thing hurts Donald Trump. In some bizarre ways, it helps him. How?
1. The 46 percent of Americans who managed to put Trump in the White House differ in a lot of ways but they have two things in common — their hatred of Hillary Clinton, and their hatred of the American news media. I've been getting a lot of emails, etc., from Trump supporters this week, and the common theme is that he's signing papers and getting all kinds of things done! To much of the 46 percent, it's the media that's having a meltdown, not their president. And this is the vibe — a war on the media — that Trump wants to maintain for the next 1,456 days. From his warped perspective — so far, so good.
2. Speaking of the so-called "media meltdown," Trump's fantastical claim about illegal votes has become the Big Story of the Day — even on a day when Trump signed more of those papers, this time to re-start the once-blocked Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. One of these projects is an assault on America's long-abused indigenous people, and — of significant importance — both will fuel the national addiction to oil at a moment when climate change is already threatening the world's fragile ecological balance. The Trump administration has also muzzled the Environmental Protection Agency — as he plunges rapidly into an aggressively pro-business agenda that will lower taxes on the rich and strip millions of working-class people of health insurance. None of the media or liberal clucking about Trump's seeming nervous breakdowns over the inaugural crowd size and now over the election results has impeded this stampede of bad public policy in any way.
When someone like Lindsey Graham criticizes Trump, it means nothing — because Graham, his pal John McCain, and every other Republican continues to serve as a rubber stamp for all of Trump's policies, including the intention of Graham and McCain to vote for future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson even after the two suggested Tillerson is essentially a pro-Russia stooge.
So ... if lies by the president don't matter — politically speaking — then does anything matter?
To me, the biggest news story today happened off the radar screen. On John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Philadelphia, a remarkably large crowd mobbed the outside of Sen. Pat Toomey's office, demanding that the just-re-elected, self-proclaimed "moderate" Republican reject the extremist Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. This movement is spreading to other congressional offices as far afield as Texas (!), and it comes just three days after the largest protest in American history. Media shock over Trump's latest lie doesn't seem to change a darned thing inside the Beltway, but public outrage can go a long way. Those 3 million illegal votes never happened. But when 3 million Americans take it to the streets, that's as real as it gets.