Trump’s mastery is selling doubt

Where were you on the day Donald J Trump released not quite all of the classified files on the JFK? It does not take a mind riven by conspiratorial angst to suspect that the president’s championing of the scheduled release of the million-plus page report on Kennedy’s assassination is a distraction tactic. But what from? The accusations that he offended the widow of a fallen soldier? Or could it be the vitriolic war of words hurled at the Donald by two senior Republicans? Or maybe it’s the number of commentators drawing links between Trump’s conduct towards women and that of Harvey Weinstein?

Trump’s diversions are well known. There is no tragedy too heinous or insult too crass for the Donald to jump on the back of to distract from the paralysis of his shambolic administration. Yet it still works. Is this Trump’s genius or the critical media’s failure? The Kennedy files is a case in point. The de-classification of the intel has long been scheduled for the 26th October. Despite framing the release as a victory for transparency the documents that were made public were highly redacted.

This is not the story that Trump is spinning, obviously. It makes sense that he would want to own the moment. The fact that his first tweet on the matter was sent while on route to Dallas shows his attention to drama. Trump’s whole campaign was built on the pledge to “drain the swamp”. What better way than to unravel the greatest mystery at the heart of D.C. lore- what really happened one that day in Dallas. Although of particular interest to his base, this scepticism goes well beyond. According to Gallop 61% of Americans are not convinced by the sole responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Trump’s mastery of stirring up doubt is perhaps his greatest achievement. Innuendo around Clinton’s emails won him the election. Speculation around an attempted cover up by the FBI may save his presidency. The push back from the secret service, resulting in severe redactions, is something Trump has vowed to fight, instantly casting the FBI as the bogey man. This is the same organisation that is involved in an independent investigation into the Trump team’s entanglement with Russia during the election campaign. Either the Donald gets his way over the Kennedy release and claims the title as deliverer of truth (just don’t mention the tax returns). Or the Bureau and other figures fighting declassification are labelled undemocratic and any verdict they may have on Trump’s implication in electoral fraud will be discounted by a vast swathe of sceptical America.

The irony is that Kennedy would have loathed this buffoon-in-chief. In his defence of taking part in televised debates Kennedy propounded that it is “my own conviction is that these images or impressions are likely to be uncannily correct.” But in the wrong hands, television could be used for “manipulation, exploitation and gimmicks…It can be abused by demigods, by appeals to emotions and prejudice and ignorance.”