Try and square this circle:
On the one hand, Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, goes on the Sunday shows on July 16, 2017 to emphatically pronounce President Trump knew nothing about the meeting of his son, Don Jr, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with Russians in Trump Tower.
On the other, on July 13, 2017, while on a state visit in France Trump said “Most people would’ve taken that meeting.”
Remember when Trump fired FBI director Comey last May? His surrogates put out a carefully-worded memo saying Trump fired Comey because of his failed leadership, etc, but then in a nationally-televised interview on NBC, Trump admitted he fired Comey because of his Trump/Russia investigation!
President Trump is like Colonel Nathan Jessup in the movie, ‘A Few Good Men’, where he’s just itching to tell everyone he ordered the ‘Code Red’, because nobody’s gonna tell him how to run his ice cream stand, dammit!
That’s what’s going on with President Trump’s tweet this morning, Monday July 17, 2017: he’s basically giving the country the middle finger, telling us, Colonel Jessup-like, “You’re damn right Don Jr. had the meeting with the Russians!”
No, Mr. President, Don Jr’s meeting with people who he thought were agents of a hostile foreign power who he thought wanted to help you win the election by delivering damaging information on your domestic political opponent is most certainly not business-as-usual politics!
And if you believe Trump didn’t know about Don Jr’s meeting with the Russians, then I’m a Nigerian prince here to talk with you about a fantastic investment opportunity.
Hello, Mr. President…have you got a moment? I’d like to have a word with you.
Come in, please close the door behind you, and have a seat.
We have a problem, Mr. President. It’s your compulsive tweeting.
Sure, your rabid, die-hard followers who inhabit your cult of personality fever swamp can’t get enough of it. But, Mr. President, have you seen your approval numbers lately?
Remember you said you’d reduce or even stop tweeting right after you got elected? What happened to that, Mr. President?
Here’s the main point, Mr. President: your tweeting is damaging to you. It’s damaging to your presidency. It’s damaging to the legislative agenda of the party you belong to. It’s damaging to the country. It’s damaging to the world.
Apart from your base – you know, the folks who would heartily approve of you ripping the beating heart out of an adorable puppy on live TV – the rest of America is looking at you and saying, ‘What is wrong with this guy?’
As an American citizen and your employer, Mr. President, it is my duty to inform you that America is not happy with you and your compulsive tweeting.
I am hereby directing you to cease and desist from tweeting from this day forward. Please know that failure to comply with this directive will result in progressive discipline, up to and including termination.
Please close the door on your way out.
Everybody heard of the ‘Streisand Effect‘?
The ‘Streisand Effect’ is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, obscure, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information even more widely.
Named after singer Barbra Streisand, who, in her attempt to stop media and the paparazzi from taking photographs of her exclusive cliffside Malibu estate, actually ended up attracting even more attention and notoriety to it and her.
It looks like President Trump has taken a page from Streisand’s playbook.
Trump says he wants the ‘Kremlingate’ investigation to go away, but he keeps on doing and saying things that make ‘Kremlingate’ stay in the headlines and news cycle.
Case in point: on Friday May 12, 2017 Trump tweeted:
Trump’s tweet led many to wonder if Trump had recorded conversations he had with James Comey, the F.B.I. Director he fired on May 9, 2017.
As a result, congress-critters on both sides of the aisle went to the Sunday shows on Mother’s Day 2017 (May 14, 2017) to demand Trump turn over the tapes (if they in fact exist).
If Trump’s intention was to try to make the ‘Kremlingate’ story diminish or go away, his words and actions of late had exactly the opposite effect.
Pick your metaphor – pour gasoline on a fire…poke the hornet’s nest…dig the hole you’re in deeper – Trump bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the political poop-storm he currently finds himself in.
Heckuva, job, Mr. President!
First President Trump gave Steve Bannon the heave-ho from the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, then Trump damns Bannon with faint praise (“I like Steve, but. . .”).
Now in the chaotic, drama-filled, and ever-changing Trump White House, it appears Trump is pivoting towards the preppy looking 36 year-old Jared Kushner, the man married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
If you’re a conservative who believes in small government and fiscal responsibility, this latest pivot by Trump isn’t anything to celebrate.
Both Jared and Ivanka Kushner have been called Manhattan liberal Democrats (they’re both registered Democrats), with ties to Wall Street, in favor of such things as creating another expensive entitlement like Ivanka’s proposed maternity leave program.
Some are celebrating Trump’s latest pivot as an example of his ‘pragmatism’ and ‘flexibility’, but I think this is a misread.
To understand why, take an NFL football quarterback, who would never set foot into a stadium without a comprehensive set of plays he has carefully gone over with the coaching staff and practiced endlessly with his team; sure, he has some flexibility to call an audible and scramble out of the pocket, etc, but this flexibility is always under the umbrella of a previously well thought out, endlessly practiced, established game plan.
The notion that Trump is being ‘pragmatic’ and ‘flexible’ is absurd. Rather, what we’re seeing is the chaos and disorganization that is brought about by a lack of knowledge and inexperience in governance, along with more than a fair share of palace intrigue, backstabbing, and fighting over who’s top dog in the pecking order (to mix metaphors).
Remember, most thought (even Trump, at one point in his campaign) Trump wasn’t going to win the election, and apparently Trump forgot or never learned the Boy Scout Motto.
What we’re seeing now is Trump stumbling and fumbling, learning as he goes, and some people around him know they can take advantage of him and play Jedi Mind Tricks on him to get him to adopt their position and point of view on a given matter.
The biggest problem is when the head coach lacks a philosophical North Star with which to serve as a guide to lead and create a coherent game plan and direction for his team. As a result, Trump flits this way one day and that way the next, allowing personnel and/or events to inordinately control him instead of him controlling events.
Trump’s saving grace in his nascent presidency is that he does have some adults in his administration, such as General Mattis as Secretary of Defense, General McMaster as his National Security Adviser, and Nikki Haley as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
Whether a great team can make up for a disordered, chaotic quarterback is yet to be seen.
With word of President Trump’s decision to conduct a missile strike against a Syrian airfield in the news (the Tomahawk cruise missile strike occurred on Thursday April 6, 2017), so much of my social media and Twitter feed is filled with uninformed bravado and fist pumping that is reminiscent of the scene in ‘Gone With The Wind‘ where young, hot-headed southern gentlemen learn of and celebrate news of war with the north:
In stark contrast to the impetuous Sons of the South stand Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler, two world-wise and even-keeled men who know something of the negative impacts on society wars cause and the horrors of bloodshed. Wilkes and Butler are a welcome counterbalance to the mansion full of young men with heads full of misconceptions of the glory of battle.
I am in favor of President Trump’s decision to conduct a tactical, limited missile strike on the air field reported to be where the aircraft that dropped the chemical weapons came from – Bashar al-Assad is a evil man and Russia and Iran are propping him up and are also our enemies.
But I am worried about our untested, impetuous president, while also thankful for his superb military leadership and our superb military.
Fun as it may be to engage in it, this isn’t the time for swagger and whoopin’ and hollerin’, but prayer, deliberation, and serious-mindedness.
A quote attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman, an actual Union general in the Civil War, sums up his view of war:
I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!
War is hell.
There are three legs to the Trump/Russia controversy stool:
- Russians meddled in our electoral process
- Trump’s ties to Russia
- Obama administration’s politicizing/leaking intelligence on Team Trump.
On March 30, 2017, Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and Russia expert, testified to Senator James Lankford (R, Oklahoma) that the Russians targeted Donald Trump with fake news and conspiracies at times they knew he was browsing/tweeting on-line.
Watts testified Donald Trump parroted the same fake news and conspiracies as known Russian propaganda outlets ‘Sputnik’ and ‘RT’ (election “rigged”, voter fraud, denying U.S. intelligence, Obama not a citizen, Ted Cruz not a citizen, etc.)
“I can tell you right now, today, grey outlets that are Soviet pushing accounts Tweet at President Trump during high volumes when they know he’s on-line and they push conspiracy theories.” (1:48, in the below video).
During the campaign, people speculated that Trump’s conspiracy mongering might just be a showman’s shtick and/or throwing red meat to his fervent base – but not any more.
Now we know this is who Trump is: a profoundly disordered man of low character who has a proclivity for believing in and spreading fake news and conspiracy theories.
The estimable Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center described Donald Trump as follows during an appearance on C-SPAN in the summer of 2016:
Now it appears Trump is deserving of another title for believing in and helping spread Russian fake news and conspiracies: ‘Useful Idiot‘.
Putin and his cronies are laughing at Trump and at us. I don’t think even Putin could have seen how wildly successful his espionage/active measures have been to roil and divide Americans and cause us to lose confidence in our democratic institutions.
There are a lot of bad actors in this story, and President Trump certainly has his share of the blame for this lamentable state of affairs.
While President Trump’s approval numbers sink and his disapproval numbers rise, Republicans in Congress have to be worried about Trump becoming an albatross around their neck that will hurt them in the 2018 midterm election and beyond.
Trump appears to be failing to fully make the transition from being a reality television star to being president.
During the campaign, Trump said he would stop Tweeting once he was in office and he would become “so presidential”.
But like his pledge to release his tax returns, Trump has gone back on his pledge to stop Tweeting.
On March 4 2017, Trump, via Twitter, accused former President Obama of wiretapping him, calling him “bad (or sick) guy”, showing once again Trump’s proclivity to believe in and spread conspiracies.
Then, through his press secretary Sean Spicer, he raised the possibility that British intelligence helped Obama “tapp” him.
Since Trump’s Saturday morning tweets, multiple congressmen, including enthusiastic supporters of Trump like Devin Nunes, have stated emphatically there is no evidence of Obama wiretapping Trump, either with or without help from British intelligence.
While Trump’s conspiracy-mongering will likely have little effect with his rock-solid base, Trump’s suggestion that the British were somehow involved with former President Obama in wiretapping him has created an international incident with one of America’s staunchest and most important allies.
While Bill Clinton was in office, his surrogate Betsy Wright coined the phrase, ‘Bimbo Eruption’, to describe when women would go public with accounts of Clinton groping and/or sexually assaulting them.
Similarly, Trump’s tweets are keeping White House staff fully occupied cleaning up after their boss’ intemperate and ill-advised remarks, offering explanations for what Trump meant and the like.
During the campaign, Trump said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, Okay?”
Trump may be right, but campaigning/throwing red meat to your base is entirely different from responsibly governing, advancing a legislative agenda, and leading the free world in increasingly perilous times.
Hopefully these latest dismal approval/disapproval numbers will be the equivalent of Republicans getting hit upside the head with a half-frozen tuna, because if Trump doesn’t stop tweeting and spreading conspiracies, the Republicans – and their agenda and electoral prospects – could be heading in the same direction as Trump’s approval numbers.