Donald Trump Tilting at Windmills: A Long Fight, Explained

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Donald Trump arrives in Indianapolis December 1. Battling the wind in the photo, Trump also has a longstanding fight against wind turbines. Mike Segar/Reuters

He is an unserious man—one who exists in a universe constructed in his mind, the choices he makes dictated by a reality invisible to the world around him. Everything that he believes is outdated, tied to a past that the culture-at-large gladly buried long ago.

I'm talking, of course, about Miguel de Cervantes's classic protagonist, Don Quixote.

There's a famous passage in the novel Don Quixote, published in two parts in the early 17th century, in which the hero jousts with—or tilts at—windmills. You see, Don Quixote believes he is a knight, the last of a dying breed preserving the chivalrous code. In reality, he has lost his mind and the knights died off long ago. Regardless, while out on an adventure, Don Quixote spots these "monstrous giants" and tells his oft-befuddled compatriot Sancho Panza that it is his duty to battle them—and, of course, to take their riches.

His pal Sancho replies: "What you see over there aren't giants—they're windmills; and what seems to be arms are the sails that rotate the millstone when they're turned by the wind." But Don Quixote is unmoved by reality, and, in turn, fights the windmills.

The phrase "tilting at windmills" has since entered the lexicon as an expression used to describe one who battles imagined enemies, a person vigorously chasing down something despite reality's best efforts to dissuade him or her from the task.

Like many things, this brings us to President Donald Trump, who has—not quite literally, but almost literally—tiltled at windmills.

Trump, who Thursday announced the U.S. would back out of the landmark Paris accord that unified the world in fighting climate change, has long had a bone to pick with wind turbines. You've probably seen them somewhere: They're the hulking, stark-white, tri-bladed windmills that convert wind into electrical power.

While the wind turbines provide clean power, Trump has routinely battled them largely because he thought they looked unsightly next to his posh golf courses. He even took his fight against windmills all the way to the Britain's highest court. Trump lost.

But the fight didn't stop—not even after he won the election on November 8. Days later, Trump urged British allies to oppose the sorts of wind farms that would spoil his immaculate views.

As with most of his enemies, the president has tweeted—and tweeted often—about the wind turbines he so loathes. He has cited bird deaths, which do happen (at a far lower rate compared to things like cellphone towers), but some environmentalists say the benefits wind turbines provide with green energy would end up saving many more birds from global warming than they kill. He has said they cause health problems and, to be fair, some people who live or work in close proximity to turbines have described annoyance and issues like headaches, sleep disturbance and anxiety (many wind farms are offshore, however). He has claimed they have a warming effect on the climate (they do not). He has called them ugly. He even pleaded with Rachel Maddow and tweeted a link to the Huffington Post.

The now-president and the monstrous giants have been jousting for years in a fight much of the world has forgotten. Presented below is Trump tilting at windmills:

Not only are wind farms disgusting looking, but even worse they are bad for people's health http://t.co/2G8YrOUZ (cont) http://t.co/NujHgnXU

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2012

Terrible. Wind farms are provided permits by the US government, which causes the "programmatic" killing of bald eagles.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 11, 2012

The $9B that @BarackObama spent in 'Stimulus' for Solar, Wind Projects created 910 total jobs, costing $9.8M each. http://t.co/ar9GHKlz

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2012

Wind Power is proving to be very costly and unsightly.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2012

Interesting -- studies show that wind farms have a warming effect on the climate

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2012

Nobody wants wind turbines, they are failing all over the world and need massive subsidy--a disaster for taxpayers.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2012

Wind farms are killing many thousands of birds. They make hunters look like nice people!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2012

Ugly wind turbines have destroyed the entrance to Palm Springs, CA. These monstrosities are ruining landscapes (cont) http://t.co/t8WnhWxT

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2012

Don't let them build a wind turbine in your backyard (or near your house). It will destroy your property value.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2012

English taxpayers should stop subsidizing the destruction of Scotland by paying massive subsidies for ugly wind turbines.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2012

If Obama keeps pushing wind turbines our country will go down the tubes economically, environmentally & aesthetically.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2012

The anti-wind turbine movement in Scotland against @AlexSalmond is amazing--keep going Scots, save your country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012

.@maddow Standing in front of wind turbines is sad. Rachel, windmills are terrible for the environment—

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2012

The off shore Aberdeen wind farm site is “experimental” & has no track record delivering energy. http://t.co/AfLacitNL4 @guardian

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2013

Aberdeenshire coast is spectacular. Its historic value & wildlife will be tarnished if these wind turbines are built--but they won't be!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2013

"@kalevans: @realDonaldTrump Iowa is the second leading state in the nation when it comes to wind energy! Sad distinction, farm land lost!"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2013

We should look to China where big time pollution takes place as they manufacture inefficient and costly wind turbines for Scotland!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2013

In three years people won’t be building wind turbines anymore - they are obsolete & totally destroy the environment in which they sit.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2013

Scotland is having a virtual revolt over obsolete wind turbines which are driving up energy costs and killing the bird population (and more)

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2013

"@Gurning_Chimp: @realDonaldTrump @bluejoni No, YOU hate wind power as YOU think it'll mess with YOUR golf course." That's true also!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2013

Isn’t it ironic that a lot of the wealthy environmentalists use private jets and fight wind farms being placed near their property?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2013

First Minister @AlexSalmond will be destroying the beauty of Scotland with his insane desire for bird killing wind turbines.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2013

Offshore Wind in Europe: Lessons for the U.S. http://t.co/Nty91wF8B1 via @HuffPostGreen The lesson should be that it's a lousy idea!!!"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2013

.@canoetravel Also, the very obsolete, ugly and expensive wind turbines will never be build in Aberdeen. No longer works. @GolfChannel

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2015

If Scotland doesn’t stop insane policy of obsolete, bird killing wind turbines, country will be destroyed. @AlexSalmond @AberdeenCC

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2014

Isn't it ironic that China is going all in nuclear for energy while at the same time making wind turbines for others. @alexsalmond

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2014