This isn’t as easy as it looks. It seems like almost every day someone associated with the Trump administration says or does something that reasonable people might consider…well, idiotic. So how to decide what belongs in The Trump Watch and what doesn’t?
This is probably a moving target, but for now, The Curmudgeon intends to try to reserve The Trump Watch for Agent Orange himself and comment elsewhere on the actions of the Trump administration when the intentions, words, or deeds of those who lead it scream out for special attention. As he has written in the past, The Curmudgeon hopes not to do the latter so often that it sends readers screaming for other internet entertainment (because The Curmudgeon understands there’s a whole word of entertainment at people’s fingertips on this internet thingamabob). If you think he’s going in that direction, by all means, please let him know.
Wagging the Dog
On March 29 The Curmudgeon wrote a note to himself about a potential Trump Watch item. It said:
In light of how he uses tweets to use little issues to distract people from bigger challenges, doesn’t he seem likely to get into a Wag the Dog situation?
Wag the Dog, you will recall, was a movie about a president who, while running for election, fabricates a war to distract voters from his sex scandal.
Color The Curmudgeon clairvoyant: just a week after deciding this might be something worth writing about, Agent Orange went ahead and wagged the dog with his bombing of Syria. That bombing had nothing to do with Syria and nothing to do with the kids who were gassed and everything to do with: a) trying to look “presidential,” whatever that means; b) doing something popular – Americans love nothing more than using their military to beat the crap out of third-world countries; and c) distracting attention from Trump’s failure at almost everything he’s tried since he took the oath of office.
Wagging the Dog, Part Deux
But Trump the Terrible wasn’t done: next came his use of the so-called “mother of all bombs” on a target in Afghanistan. If you’re trying to kill people, the big bomb isn’t the weapon to use; smaller, easier-to-target munitions do the job better and more efficiently. No, the purpose of the big bomb is to blast a really big crater, which, in the case of a target like Afghanistan, ideally would collapse the caves in which ISIS fighters live and operate and pursue their evil-doing. That, and that alone, is the purpose of using a bigger, more concussive bomb; in fact, that’s why such bombs are often referred to as “bunker-busters.”
So when you read that only thirty-six ISIS fighters were killed and not a word about caves destroyed, you can be pretty sure it was a very big blast that produced very small results.
Unless all you’re really trying to do is look tough and pretend you’re doing something about ISIS.
It Never Ends
Comrade Trump is reportedly jealous of all the attention that Satan, er, Steve Bannon, is receiving from the press and public. Bannon’s actually being a pretty good soldier in the sense that he does nothing to take attention away from his boss. He barely speaks to the press and keeps a very low profile.
But Trump reads newspapers periodically and watches television voraciously (“What do you mean they’re preempting Gilligan’s Island to show the Australian Open? We want America First programming”) and he sees all the attention Bannon receives and can’t stand the thought that Bannon is receiving credit for what he has deceived himself into believing are his own ideas. So he went on a mini-offensive recently in which he told the New York Post – because in Comrade Trump’s world that’s considered a real newspaper – that Bannon didn’t play nearly as big a role in his successful campaign as people say he did.
But when talking about that campaign, Trump once again had to pick at an old scab, saying
I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.
The campaign’s over and he won, but he just can’t resist resorting to name-calling and casting aspersions every time he opens his mouth. It’s the kind of behavior you expect from a third-grader, not the leader of the free world.
In the last Trump Watch we presented a Trumpian “who knew” moment when the president declared that
“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
Well, Agent Orange hasn’t had his last “duuuuh” moment. He recently went into a meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping, with a long-held belief that China has what he described as “tremendous power over North Korea.”
But Xi disabused the president of that notion – and did so quickly.
After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy. I felt pretty strongly that [China] had a tremendous power over North Korea. But it’s not what you would think.
No, Comrade, it’s not as easy as you thought, but people who do this kind of thing for a living know this – if only he would have asked them.
But oh, that’s right, his team is purging the State Department of people who understand diplomacy.
In the past, Trump has said he has read extensively about China over the years – something almost everyone suspected, if for no other reason than because it’s pretty widely known that Trump isn’t much of a reader. In this situation, though, it took all of ten minutes for him to learn that everything he believed on the subject of China’s influence on North Korea wasn’t true.
Ten whole minutes.
But that’s not the end of the story. Trump revealed that part of his rationale for his perception that China would have considerable influence over China is that Korea was once part of China.
Except it wasn’t.
This is what happens when amateurs try to run things.
Once Again, With Feeling
Remember during the presidential campaign when Trump the candidate declared NATO obsolete?
Trump the president, however, announced that “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
Surely he doesn’t expect anyone to believe that the enormous, highly bureaucratic NATO organization completely changed in three months. So what’s the story? The story is that Trump knew as much about NATO as the average person on the street, which is to say, very little.
Well, he finally learned.
Ignorance is a candidate’s bliss, a president’s challenge, and a country’s worst nightmare.
Back to China
While running for office, Comrade Trump repeatedly accused China of manipulating currency. Damn near no one knows what that actually means but it played well with audiences that were looking for bad guys to blame for…well, no one’s entirely sure what his voters were so angry about.
But now that China’s agreed to work with him to try to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions?
“They’re not currency manipulators,” he says.
Why not? What changed?
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” Trump tweeted.
That’s an attitude that can only make pretty much everyone suspicious of pretty much everything he says or does. How can foreign leaders – or anyone who deals with him, for that matter – trust a guy who’s so completely two-faced in his dealings with people? It’s just like last month, when he raved about what a great meeting he had with Germany’s Angela Merkel and then, before you could even say “Colonel Klink,” blistered her and her country over what he believes is Germany’s inadequate financial support for NATO (even though at the time NATO was still on his “obsolete” list).
This Behavior is Not New
A January edition of the New Yorker offered this gem in an article about the potential effects of nuclear weapons on the environment:
“This morning, Trump has a new idea,” Lois Romano wrote in a Washington Post profile of Donald Trump in November, 1984, the week after Reagan defeated Mondale. “He wants to talk about the threat of nuclear war. He wants to talk about how the United States should negotiate with the Soviets. He wants to be the negotiator.” He knew just how to do it. “It would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles,” Trump told Romano. “I think I know most of it anyway.”
Yes, he thought he knew most of it anyway.
Like he knew about health care.
And about China’s influence on Korea.
And about the role of NATO.
And about so many, many, many other things.
There’s an old expression that goes “If he had a brain, he’d be dangerous.”
That may be true, but it appears that a president of the United States not having a brain is even a greater danger.
Hey, Benito, Way to Get Those Trains to Run on Time
In Turkey, voters narrowly decided to turn their democracy into a dictatorship, giving their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unprecedented power. The referendum, which barely passed despite considerable intimidation of voters and possibly even vote fraud, dissolves the position of prime minister and vests all executive powers in the president – Erdogan – and gives him power to assume virtually complete control over the country’s government: he’ll be able to pick cabinet ministers and judges, dismiss parliament – a parliament stripped of most of its powers – declare states of emergency, push the country toward a more religious state, and more.
So what does the president of the United States do when something like this happens? Well, since it’s President Trump we’re talking about, he gets on the phone and – congratulates Erdogan.
He called the leader of a democratic country to congratulate him for seizing power and turning that democracy into a virtual dictatorship.
Seriously. He did that.
Let us hope this doesn’t give Trump any ideas. He already shows every interest in being some kind of political strongman without precedent in this country and the last thing we need is someone running ahead and marking the trail for him.
Maybe He Thinks They Don’t Get the News in Wisconsin
How else do you explain Agent Orange telling a Kenosha audience that
No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days. That includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement — we love our law enforcement — and on government reform.
Forgive The Curmudgeon, but he’s not aware of any accomplishments in these areas. There have been proposals, ideas have been discussed, things have been put into motion that could certainly come to fruition eventually, but accomplishments? Has the Trump administration actually accomplished anything yet? The Curmudgeon thinks not.
About Those “Accomplishments”
That’s twice now The Curmudgeon has pointed to a lack of accomplishments for the new Trump administration. The truth is that he doesn’t find that particularly alarming; governing is hard work and it’s just not reasonable to expect anyone newly elected to office to achieve his entire agenda in such a short period of time. What he does find alarming, though, is the deceit in claiming non-existent accomplishments.
Last week the Washington Post decided to dig into the question of those accomplishments. It found that Agent Orange hasn’t yet even acted on 60 percent of his campaign promises; a respectable quantity of bills passed but none of them significant; plenty of executive orders but two – the Muslim bans – rejected by the courts; the failure of his health care bill; a so-called “skinny budget” that no one took seriously; slower-than-normal filling of cabinet seats; and zero – zero – U.S. attorneys appointed after he fired all of the ones he inherited.
By contrast, FDR’s first 100 days were extraordinary; George W. Bush laid the foundation for a major tax cut; Obama got his stimulus bill passed; and LBJ launched an effort that resulted in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
So when Trump says he’s accomplished great things in his first 100 days, he not only has no real accomplishments to point to but his performance also has paled in comparison to those who came before him.
White House Visitors Logs
Many people were disappointed when the Trump administration announced that it would no longer share logs of visitors to the White House. It cloaked this decision in the garb of confidentiality and even “national security.”
The Curmudgeon has another theory, and it has to do with the photo to the right: would you want to tell the world that these people visited your home?
Then It Looks Like Nobody Can
The New Yorker reports that at a pre-inaugural event, Trump said to son in-law Jared Kushner, “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”
Yet another reason we’re in deeeeeep shit.