A Day Even More Bizzarre than Usual on the Trump Watch

I would describe a majority of people who tweet as twits, not you my loyal readers of course, but the likes of many who have nothing useful to say.   Take Donald Trump for example.

Today, after another terrorist attack in Great Britain,  our pretend president managed to reduce even further our once rock solid relationship with Britain with tweets attacking the Mayor of London, who happens to be a Muslim and well respected in London if not in the White House.  I  won’t bother to go into it other than to say Trump took his words out of context and then used them to attack the mayor.   Can you imagine how we would have felt if a British leader would have responded to 9/11 in similar fashion?

But one making-a-mess-of-things apparently isn’t a good day’s work for the Trumpster.   He also launched some tweets regarding the Supreme Court and the “travel ban” it is considering on appeal.  This is a case Trump should win given recognized presidential powers, but not when he argues, as he tweeted this morning, that the justice department should have stuck with the original language which has been struck down because it is religion specific, i.e. it is aimed at Muslim travelers.

These tweets have spawned a number of groans from administration supporters, including none other than the husband of Kellyanne Conway, conservative lawyer George who tweeted:  “These tweets may make some [people] feel better, but they certainly won’t help [the Solicitor General] get 5 votes in [the Supreme Court], which is what actually matters. Sad.”

To recap, the husband of Trump’s queen truth twister, Kellyanne, is lamenting the president’s action and mocking him by using one of Trump’s favorite words “sad.”  This from a guy who was well in the running for a high level job in the administration until he withdrew last week.   Are we looking at a defector in the making?

George says he’s still a supporter, but one wonders how much more he can take.  Also, I wonder what sort of domestic chats are in store for the couple.

So, Trump weakens further our relationship with the Brits and makes it a tougher road for his Solicitor General to win in the Supreme Court.  A good day if one is a self-destructive sort.

Hopefully former FBI director James Comey will add further momentum to the downhill spiral when testifying at the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday.  (I heard today from a Trump mouthpiece that he will not try to stop the testimony).


P. S. – For those want more details, here is a link to an article discussing the tweets of Trump and Conway.

Awaiting A Climate Agreement Proclamation by Our Boy King

Despite some self-loathing, I have to admit I am awaiting for king Don to tell us this afternoon his final decision on the Obama spawned Paris climate accords.   The loathing is an admission I’m hooked on cable news, my excuse for paying attention to what is likely another Trump publicity stunt.

Anybody else who I can imagine being president would have already decided this prior to that G7 meeting last week, and they would have had some sense what it was all about.   The decision would be made by now.  But not our little king.  It may have been the first he really learned something about it.   After all he has had so much else to learn and learning doesn’t seem his thing.  He is still working on the concept of a government of checks and balances.

Whatever.  Dragging this out and turning it into a show awaiting his “yes” or “no” is his style, a la The Apprentice.   What bugs me most is how the cable channels act like this is momentous, breaking news coming up.  They hype everything he does, often with repeated criticisms, but he still gets the attention he craves.  Of course, it is for ratings, like most of what they do (Does broccoli cause cancer?  Tune in at 11:00.).  It’s a vicious circle started decades ago when news departments became a part of the entertainment divisions of the three major network.  That meant they had to pay their weight like all other programs.

So what big news might Trump make this afternoon?   There seems a sort of consensus among the talking heads that our “leader” has decided to pull out of the climate accords.  That consensus is enough to make me think, he won’t pull out, not today.  Where’s the sizzle in that?

Not to mention just an avalanche of criticism for the decision.  He doesn’t need more of that with the albatross of the Russian investigation hanging heavily.  On the other hand he does like to feed some red meat to his base at times, and he has long promised to pull out of the agreement (of course, he has let a lot of promises elapse or be put on hold, such as moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem).

I think somehow Trump will delay a final decision and, since like me he watches a lot of cable news, he might have decided over the last couple of hours to take the advice of James Baker, one of the sagest of Republicans who suggested the following on cable this morning:

He suggested Trump turn the matter over to the Senate for its approval as a treaty, not a mere agreement.   What Baker didn’t say was that this would take Trump off the hook while appearing presidential in the process, even though it is my guess it is a hot potato that Republican senators won’t want to catch.

Most important to Trump is that the blame would be shifted to the Senate if the measure would not pass, leaving him blameless to his base.   One of Trump’s primary values is to remain ever blameless.

If the president didn’t happen to see that program, I don’t know what kind of dodge he will come up with today.   I just hope he doesn’t announce a withdrawal because then I’ll lose a bet I made with a friend.

In General Mattis I Trust, Sort of.

Given my anxiety about our ignorant, thoughtless and unpredictable president, I have treasured the presence of General Mattis as Secretary of Defense in the cabinet.  He is known as a scholar/general with great integrity.  As such, I have thought of him as a leveling influence to our impetuous president, whom I think of as the boy king.

I was going to laud the general in this space, but feel the need to hang back a bit after seeing reports of his defense of the president’s European visit.

In only a week or so Trump shoved decades of common cause to the curb with his tentative public commitments to NATO and withholding backing to common causes of the G7 such as the international agreement on climate change and free trade.

This is the down side of having a president who prides himself on being unpredictable.  It may have been a useful tactic in real estate, and at times of use in foreign policy, but it can’t be its corner stone.    In a “world of disarray,” as described by foreign policy analyst Richard Haas, order is in demand not the chaos of unpredictability.

Trump’s words and actions prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to warn European nations in striking fashion that it could no longer depend on others (namely the U. S. and the brexiting Britain) in deciding their future.

Decades of unconditional support wiped away in a few days.  Nice job Don.

I expect Trump to make a mess of such things, so I was not shocked.  Trump is a storm that must be weathered.  What did bother me is that the guy I was just about to laud for his wisdom and strength in this space, Secretary Mattis, tried to slap some lipstick on Trump’s piggish claims of a successful European visit.

In a TV interview last Saturday Mattis claimed there is “no doubt” the United States is committed to its fellow NATO member countries.  General, as shown by the Merkel statement above, which has been parroted to some degree by the leaders of France and Italy, there’s plenty of doubt among the Europeans of our commitment.

General, you also defended Trump’s emphasis on the need for many NATO nations to pay their fair share, saying this is something previous administrations have pressed as well.   “We’ve all got to be willing to deal with it like a bank. If you want to take something out of it you’ve got to put something into it.”

Setting aside the fact you are not speaking to kindergartners, general, you undercut  your own argument when you stated that the pressure to get Europeans to spend more has been working as this is the second year in a row that there was an increase in military spending.

Well, general, if the pressure has been working why did the president feel the need to embarrass the Europeans right off the bat?

It’s like having your first dinner with your in-laws and you criticize the menu and how the food was prepared.   It is no way to stabilize a relationship.

And you know that, general.  That is what bothers me.  I understand you are in a very tricky position and applaud you for contradicting the president on other occasions.  And you didn’t really lie in this case.  However, some of your impeccable integrity got chipped away by giving the  impression that this European debacle was actually a positive for U. S./European relationships.

In other words, you helped Trump create some more fake news.  Just giving you a heads up Mr. Secretary.  It is hard being around the nasty boy king who loves playing in the mud without getting yourself dirty.

If we can’t count on you, who can we count on?

Trump’s Hollow Honoring of the Fallen

For a few minutes I watched Donald Trump give a Memorial Day address and that’s all I could take.   His displays of pseudo sincerity are always sickening, but worse yet when he pretends to care about those who lost their lives protecting our shores and our way of life over the years.

Donald Trump cares little about anyone but himself and maybe some of his family to some extent.  Ivanka, yes. As for the others?  I realize that is exceedingly harsh, but I have spent hours and hours reading, watching and thinking about him over the past year and I have no doubt about it.  There is something basically wrong with this guy.

Tony Schwartz,  the “co-author” of the Art of the Deal, sees Trump in the same way.  And he actually spent much time over the course of a year with Trump, so I doubt few know the man better.  I put co-author in quotes because Schwartz says he actually wrote the book, with Trump making a few minor corrections.

Schwartz also has said that Trump could not sit still for an interview for more than a few minutes, so he had to follow him around and listen in on phone conversations and piece together the book from that.  Fairly recently, he said that if he could rewrite the book, he would call it:  The Sociopath.

Many have debated whether Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder or he is a sociopath.  Hey, why not a bit of both?   Both cases share an extreme preoccupation with oneself and a lack of empathy and care for others.  Most thought provoking to me about the rise of Trump is that so many of his fans still don’t see this, but as he said, he could shoot someone on New York’s 5th Avenue and they still would vote for him.

A wave of public insanity that will foster many a book in coming years.

Schwartz has expressed regret many times over this past year or so for helping Trump produce a winning public image through the book and he finds it truly “frightening” the man is president with the nuclear codes in his possession.

I share the uneasiness to be sure, which is why I meant to write this post to examine what seems the most stable element of the Trump administration, Secretary of Defense James Mattis,  I want to share some highlights of a recent article on him because while Trump is ignorant of history and so much else – shallow to the core – Mattis is knowledgeable and thoughtful which means a lot given the inexperience and toadyism of so many of those around him.

Think of this post as a preamble to the next one.

Come Home Donald Trump Before your Coach Turns into a Pumpkin

Donald Trump is about to return from his Mid-East/European jaunt which one NPR commentator has called “big hug diplomacy”.   That was totally true at first in Saudi Arabia, but the hugs were less lavish in Israel, even less so with the Pope – more photo ops with the latter pair – and nonexistent at the NATO summit in Brussels and G7 meeting in Sicily.

At NATO Trump publicly lectured the assembled leaders about not paying their “fair share” of NATO expenses (23 of the 28 nations do not), which is not the way to cement relationships.  Even though he makes a good point, it is not the way to lead off the gathering, a situation made worse by the president’s ignoring Article 5, which is that all- for-one-and-one-for all clause that binds NATO together in common defense.

A clause only invoked once, by the way, in support of our invasion of Afghanistan in response to 9/11, as the other member nations like to point out.  Trump surrogates argue that the we-have-your-backs message was implied, but nations next to Russia, in particular, would likely want to hear it emphasized because Trump said little about the danger Russia poses, a seeming continuation of his policy to go soft on that nation in hopes of developing a better relationship, a likelihood most European leaders doubt.

Then at the G7 it is reported Trump lectured the Germans about flooding our market with their cars, which could not have helped our relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he also refused to shake hands with on her visit here.

That Trump continually acts more warmly to Russia (those recent photos of him smiling with Russian diplomats in the oval office being but one example) than he does to Germany, the strongest democracy in Europe with Merkel Europe’s strongest leader, is just plain strange.  I think no one knows what he is really up to.  Not even him, unless he actually does have hidden ties to Russia.

It prompts thoughts of Trump liking autocrats more than democrats.   He admires their ability to get things done, while ignoring the often brutal, unjust nature of their strength.  We could make a list starting with Putin, and on it would be the King of Saudi Arabia (not so much the elderly king but his royal family).

And, yes I will get back to that visit to Saudi Arabia because it illustrates how whatever actions Trump takes with foreign powers they will be devoid of any moral component and friendly to any despot he can make a deal with.

His own brand of realpolitik.

The Armada that is Working It’s Way to Korea

There is much one could say about “President” Trump’s almost first one hundred days, but most of it isn’t worth dwelling upon, which is good news to a one handed typist.

It is not worth dwelling upon because most of it has been empty boasts, unfulfilled promises, fitful threats and ridiculous assertions.  This formula worked well in the TV surreality of the campaign trail, but is falling apart like Cinderella’s coach racing towards midnight now that Trump is expected to actually accomplish things.

Most of this charade most of us can live with while it plays out, but Korea stands out as an exception.  Someone has aptly called it ” a drawn out version of the Cuban missile crisis.”   I was around during that crisis and fear abounded.   If there is less fear around these days, it is because we are more closely wedded to TV’s versions of reality than the real thing.  We have become anesthetized.

As a reality TV show Trump’s tough guy stance is entertaining.  In reality, Trump’s posing is frightening.  He acts like a bloviating bully whose foreign policy comes at the spur of the moment.

Call it gallows humor, but I have to laugh at the fiasco of the fleet that was portrayed as being dispatched to Korea, but actually was going elsewhere on pre-planned maneuvers.   AND THEN IT WAS GOING TO KOREA…..   as spokesman Sean Spicer “explained.”   As always not admitting a screw up.   Blaming the press for misinterpretations.

Leisurely heading towards Korea is not the same as rushing there, implied in Trump’s tough guy talk.  That’s like saying  police are responding to a 9-1-1 call, as soon as they finish their coffee and donuts at Dunkin’s.

Whatever.  I have to hope that charade – which a number of South Koreans running for the presidency there call “a lie” and reason not to trust Trump in the future – does not foreshadow a mishandling of a huge, immensely complex problem that Trump promises to “take care of”, as if he were negotiating just another real estate deal.

REALLY FOLKS.  THIS IS A DANGEROUS SITUATION.

President Trump’s Address to Congress: Free Lunch for All.

President Trump got generally good reviews for his address to congress Tuesday night.

According to various surveys, Trump’s supporters loved the speech, not surprisingly, but even a majority of Americans polled who watched said they felt more optimistic having heard it.  His tone was surprisingly upbeat and uniting, except for those who don’t believe a word he says.  One Democrat described it as “same lies, different tone.”  I’d say the same B. S, but different tone, but let’s not quibble.

Still, the difference in tone was significant, presidential even, and the positive response to the speech of many confirms that.  But can this tone be kept given his temperament amidst a hostile political environment?  Furthermore Trump keeps making sweeping promises that seem impossible to keep because congress will have to get behind them and congress is divided, not just between the two parties but within each.

First:  Trump’s agenda is budget breaking – no, budget exploding – and many in the Republican party have built their careers on criticizing government for over spending and accumulation of debt.  Second:  The senate barely has a Republican majority, so only three Republican “mavericks” are needed to block any of Trump’s agenda, and Lindsay Graham and John McCain  have indicated opposition to several of Trump’s proposals, so that’s two right there.  Third:   There are all those Democrats to deal with.

However, while the Democrats figure to offer opposition often, they may be easier to deal with at times then the Republicans.  The Democrats seem split as to whether to resist all that Trump proposes, as the Republicans did with President Obama, or to just resist some things and work with him on others, like tax reform and/or building infra-structure.

Even though Trump’s selection of a generally conservative cabinet and a supreme court nominee has pleased the right, I think in typical Trump fashion he is only committed to himself and his need to appear successful.   If Republicans resist and deals can be made with Democrats I can see him making them.

And I might even like one here or there.  I’m not one of those resist-everything liberals.  I disliked the Republican party identity being reduced to being the Un-Obama party and I don’t want to see the Democratic party follow suit with Trump.

But no matter how it shakes out, Trump’s fantasied future faces a number of reality checks down the line.   And I will be curious to see what his free lunch is going to cost and who will be willing or forced to pay for it.


P. S. – For those who want to read a good analysis of Trump’s speech, I suggest this piece by Cathleen Decker in the Los Angeles Times.    She sums up the essence in one sentence.

“Trump shifts from doom-and-gloom to a more optimistic vision.  But he offers no clarity on how he’ll get there.”