President Donald Trump managed to give a decent speech to a joint session of Congress last Tuesday without the rancor he displayed on the campaign trail or making cringe-worthy statements. The bar was set very low and he managed to clear it. But improving the wrapping doesn’t change what is in the package. As usual he made numerous false and misleading claims; they just sounded more reasonable.
Still, Trump’s night of glory didn’t last more than a day before his newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire for allegedly lying to the Senate about his meetings with Russians during the campaign. As one commentator put it, there is a drip, drip, drip of bad news about Trump’s connections to Russia that the White House can’t seem to stop. Perhaps Trump needs to reestablish President Richard Nixon’s “plumbers.”
But Trump has his own method for dealing with bad news; he tries to deflect it onto someone else. Yesterday he let loose a torrent of tweets accusing President Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower last October. No doubt Trump got this information from one of his conspiracy theory friends like Mark Levin, or from Breitbart News where Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon was formerly CEO. I believe these Twitter rants beg the question: Is Trump emotionally unstable?
With every passing day we get more evidence that Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. The New York Times Editorial Board reported in a recent op-ed that “President Trump has appointed fewer than three dozen of the top 1,000 officials he needs to run the federal government.” When asked about the open positions by Fox News he said, “Well, a lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint because they’re unnecessary to have.” Trump and Bannon seem to be organizing a top down administration where they think very little staff is needed. This is dangerous!
So it’s not surprising that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who holds a very powerful position, seems to be, as one article put it, “invisible.” He did not attend the high level meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House, nor did any other State Department official. But Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was there.
Meanwhile it has been reported that numerous layoffs have occurred at the State Department and huge budget cuts are planned. This means key foreign policy issues will be handled directly by the White House, rather than by professional diplomats. What could go wrong with that?
Trump’s has proposed a military buildup like we haven’t seen since the days of President Ronald Reagan, including a larger nuclear arsenal. Never mind that the current stockpile of 5,000 nuclear warheads is enough to destroy the entire world; and the U.S. defense budget of around $580 billion was greater than the next 12 countries combined according to 2015 estimates.
Where is the enemy? Defending against North Korea is no excuse. And the Islamic State (ISIS) has neither ships nor aircraft except for a few they might have captured. The military needs to go after them with drones and special ops forces, not nuclear weapons.
Trump apparently wants to cut $1 billion from the Coast Guard’s already strapped budget, perhaps to offset the cost of building a few miles of wall on the 2,000 mile U.S./Mexican border. This is shocking given Trump’s statements condemning illegal immigrants, drugs and ISIS. These threats can also enter the country by sea along the 12,383 miles of coastline that the Coast Guard patrols.
And the guardian of our coast has only two icebreakers; the largest of which is decades old. Russia is reported to have 40 icebreakers, more than enough to take control of the Arctic waters where large oil reserves are believed to exist and where the U.S. has vital national security interests. Cutting Coast Guard funding not only shows incompetence; I think it is grossly negligent.
It is difficult to tell which of Trump’s policies come from strategist Bannon. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Bannon vowed that the Trump administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Is he referring to the system of taxes, regulations and trade policies that Trump continuously rails against? Or is he advocating the “deconstruction” of the federal government?
Bannon claimed that Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.” He believes the current world order should be replaced by a system that “empowers” ordinary people over coastal elites (a.k.a. Democrats) and international institutions. Well, withdrawal from the TPP and cuts in the State Department budget probably mean that China and Russia are being more empowered.
Choosing what to cover in my blog these days is like trying to pick one of Baskin and Robin’s more than 31 flavors of ice cream. But here are a few other things I need to include:
- Reviews of court documents by the Guardian indicate that Attorney General Sessions used his position as U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s southern district to bring thin prosecution cases against Democratic politicians.
- In February the Justice Department dropped its position that Texas intended to discriminate when it passed its strict voter-ID law. This was one of the Department’s strongest claims.
But above all one thing seems clear to me: The truth about Donald Trump is worse than the lies Republicans continuously spread about Barack Obama.