Welcome to the new Trump Watch, an alternative fact-free zone.
Let’s get started.
Putting People to Work Again
But not necessarily American people.
The Curmudgeon nearly swallowed his Ring Ding whole when he sat down the evening of the inauguration to listen to President Trump’s address and heard the following:
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
Why so surprised?
So glad you asked.
It just so happens that in December, Trump Winery, owned by you-know-who, asked the U.S. Department of Labor for permission to import into the U.S. six foreign workers to work for six days a week for six months for $10.72 an hour. This is nothing new for The Donald, whose companies have, over the past fifteen years, hired more than 1200 such foreign workers for short-term jobs.
Because he apparently either doesn’t want American workers or refuses to pay enough to hire American workers.
But he wants everyone else to “hire American.”
So do you think the Trump Department of Labor will grant the Trump company’s request?
So it looks as if this will be a “Do as I say, not as I do” administration rather than a “practice what you preach” administration.
One Guy Maybe We Shouldn’t Put to Work
That would be Steve Mnuchin, the Goldman Sachs alumnus whom Trump has nominated to be Treasury Secretary who “forgot” to report $100 million in assets on the financial disclosure forms that are part of the review process for cabinet nominees. Mnuchin said he misunderstood the form.
Two observations here.
First, how do you forget that you have $100 million?
Second, do we really want a guy who can’t understand a simple financial disclosure form in charge of the country’s treasury and financial operations?
The White House Web Site
Within minutes of the inauguration, the Obama White House web site came down and the Trump White House web site took its place – as it should.
But with a few pieces missing: the sections on health care, climate change, and LGBT rights.
Take that, Caitlyn Jenner and liberal do-gooders!
That new White House web site told visitors that Caitlyn lookalike Melania Trump has a jewelry line available on QVC. This was necessary because the Trump family is obviously hard up for money and looking for ways to scrape together a few extra bucks. That notwithstanding, this was a problem for two reasons, depending on your perspective: if you were a prospective customer, Melania’s stuff is no longer available through QVC; and second, it’s just so…so…so very wrong for the wife of a billionaire president to be selling sparkly tchotchkes on a web site paid for by American taxpayers and with the implied endorsement of the president of the United States.
Lending a Hand to the Needy…Insurance Companies
To counteract the impact of rising home mortgage interest rates, the Obama administration planned to reduce the annual fee for FHA mortgage insurance. (The Curmudgeon is a big fan of FHA mortgages: they helped him buy his first home.)
Who would benefit from this? Mostly working people trying to buy their first home.
But the very day it took office, the Trump administration canceled that plan; the fees will remain where they are.
And who benefits from this? The insurance companies that offer mortgage insurance.
And who will be hurt by it? Working people who haven’t been able to scrape together enough money for a down payment on the American dream.
So when Trump said in his inaugural address that
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families
…he apparently didn’t entirely mean it.
Still, it’s nice when our government can do something for the downtrodden insurance industry, isn’t it?
Far From the Madding Crowd
So how big was that inaugural crowd?
The biggest ever ever ever, said presidential puppet Sean Spicer.
Can you believe that with all of the things our new president needs to address he sent his press secretary out to spend about twelve minutes of the fifteen minutes of his first formal White House press briefing verbally spanking the press about its reporting on the size of the inaugural crowd – and offering lie after lie to prove his point?
If nothing else, this episode proves once again that to Trump, size really does matter.
Did you notice, by the way, that during his scolding of the press, Spicer was mostly reading a statement? Who do you think decided he had to take this approach in his first full-scale press briefing – and who do you think reviewed the script before he delivered it?
On the other hand, the press let this nonsense distract it from the real business of how America is being governed for a full twenty-four hours. Did you see Chuck Todd’s interview of Kellyanne Conway? With all the issues swirling around Washington, Todd decided that he needed to toss down the gauntlet over…crowd size.
But some good certainly came out of it. First, Chuck Todd proved once again that he’s all about politics and not at all about government. Why? Because you can do the politics by reading the morning paper. Doing the government part requires hard work and, you know, learning stuff.
Second and much more important, Kellyanne Conway gave us the gift of “alternative facts.”
When the laughter elicited by Conway’s assertion of “alternative facts” died down, people began reflecting on when they encountered that kind of nonsense in the past and the answer came to them easily: in the George Orwell novel 1984, which The Curmudgeon suspects most of us read in high school. And what do we remember about 1984? 1984 is about the takeover of the British government by a totalitarian regime that, among other things, makes extensive use of propaganda and likes to rewrite history. Remind you of anyone? If you remember anything specific about 1984 it’s probably expressions like “Big Brother is watching” (and yes, that’s where the title of the reality television program of that name comes from) and “War is Peace – Freedom is Slavery – Ignorance is Strength.” Conway called them “alternative facts;” Orwell called them “Newspeak.” Orwell had a lot of newspeak words: see some of them here.
You might even say Orwell was into them hugely. Or bigly.
This sparked renewed interest in 1984 – enough, anyway, to make it Amazon.com’s number one bestseller at one point last week. If you have an e-reader, though, save your money: 1984 is now in the public domain and you can download it free from many sources on the web. If you want it and can’t find one, let The Curmudgeon know and he’ll point you to one of those sources.
Back to Sean Spicer
Seven years ago Spicer, the vessel for Trump’s newspeak, went to a Dippin Dots ice cream parlor and it was out of vanilla ice cream. Ever since, Spicer has been tweeting negative things about the company, even expressing delight about its financial problems.
A seven-year grudge over an out-of-stock ice cream flavor.
On the other hand, you have to admire the wisdom of the choice of a guy who can hold onto a grudge for so long by a president who has been known to hold onto grudges pretty long himself.
That’s what parents say to misbehaving children. In the social media era, the punishment apparently is “No more tweeting for you, young man!”
The new Trump administration grounded the Interior Department last week after it got the whole alternative facts kerfuffle started by tweeting side-by-side photos of the crowd at this inauguration and at the first Obama inauguration eight years ago. Its reward: the new Trump administration told the offending tweeters that their tweeting days were over and they could tweet no more. The punishment, alas, was short-lived, but the point was made.
To be fair, the Interior Department people who tweeted the photo were wrong: you don’t do that to the boss. They also were stupid: all they had to do was tweet the photo of this year’s inauguration and it would’ve taken folks what, maybe eleven seconds, to find the 2009 photo and post them side by side.
Maybe they’re just too dumb to tweet.
But the Trump administration was just getting started on grounding people and agencies. Shortly thereafter it sent directives to the Department of Health and Human Services ordering officials there, at the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and elsewhere in the government’s vast health care bureaucracy not to send any communication to Congress or state and local officials until February 3, not to issue any new regulations (not, to be fair, an unusual directive for a new administration), and to halt much communication with the public and stakeholders, such as news releases, discussions or questions about policies and regulations, and social media posts.
Seeing how much fun it was to stuff gags into the mouths of public officials, the Trump administration issued similar directives to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Agriculture.
But the Trump folks have even more in mind for the folks at the EPA: they can’t release any new work until it’s scrutinized by the White House, can’t enter into any new contracts for research, and have to stand by while the new administration decides whether its web site should be scrubbed of the term “climate change.”
Big Brother is definitely watching.
(part 2 tomorrow)