On Sunday, President Trump tweeted this:
In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2019
Alabama? The National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly tweeted a correction:
Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east. #alwx
— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) September 1, 2019
Normally this would be the end of things: a minor mistake quickly straightened out. But then it made the news, and since TV is the only reality Trump cares about he naturally went into a frenzy:
Such a phony hurricane report by lightweight reporter @jonkarl of @ABCWorldNews. I suggested yesterday at FEMA that, along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play, which WAS true. They made a big deal about this…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 2, 2019
No, it wasn’t true, and two days later Trump still couldn’t let it go, trotting out this visual aid for reporters in the Oval Office:
This map from last week shows Dorian tracking toward Florida, but someone used a big Sharpie to add Alabama to the probable path. Trump insisted that this was in the original briefing and that he didn’t know who had added the Sharpie line. Uh huh.
But wait! Believe it or not, there’s more. Apparently thinking that he hadn’t embarrassed himself enough already, he took this spaghetti plot:
Which is already pretty useless for non-professionals, and dug up one with lots of underlying “ensemble” spaghetti that’s completely meaningless without expert translation:
This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies! pic.twitter.com/0uCT0Qvyo6
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2019
This is truly Queeg-like behavior: an unhinged obsession over the most minuscule imaginable criticism combined with repeated defenses so clumsy that even a child would see through them. And it’s obvious that Trump spent a fair amount of time stewing over the whole thing and coming up with these absurd maps.
This is truly nuts. But I suppose by tomorrow the official word will be that Trump was joking all along.
UPDATE: This post has been updated with a more detailed description of the spaghetti plots.