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.
The “drip, drip” of bad news is mostly due to the demands of the media news cycle and their failure to yet get over the shock and anger of Trump as President. Trump is an ego maniac and an adolescent in his reaction to criticism. As well, Trump makes it clear he will not tolerate those close to him unless they parrot his ideas–even when those ideas are nonsense. Some evidence exists of attempts from within his administration to tame his mouth and his “tweeter”. If such is happening we can only hope more of it takes place. The “elites” are wishing with all their might Trump makes some misstep which they can trumpet(no pun intended) as reason for him to resign or be impeached. What Sen. Schumer and other Dem leaders should be doing is working hard with the other side of the aisle and the White House to accomplish meaningful legislative solutions to the issues. The Republicans will have to curb their own extreme right wing and the Democrats will have to curb their own extreme left wing to allow this to happen. I’m not hopeful. Once again the interests of the voters, citizens and constituents are being swept aside by partisan politics in Washington. If only some on both sides were to take the long view, the voters would respond positively.
Re: defense spending. Defense spending is at almost an all time low as a percentage of GDP. The comment that we spend more than the next 12 countries is a distraction. Our allies not spending enough is what Trump has been bloviating about and you make his point for him. As well, we have international obligations that Russia, China and others do not have. We must require other countries to pick up the slack as we reduce our commitments. An exception is Europe. Putin will strike whenever and wherever he thinks the West is weak. It is my understanding that our M1 Abrams tanks in Poland and our training forces in Ukraine are the tip of some improvement in the willingness of eastern Europe countries(Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc.) to begin to better prepare themselves. Putin, like Hitler, will restrain himself if sees determination from NATO. In the Pacific, Japan, S. Korea, Vietnam, etc.,must be required to step up to China. Just a little determination would go a long way to slowing Chinese imperialism. Believe me, the Vietnamese have no love of their historical subjugaters, the Chinese.
On top of all this, we must get control of cost overruns for planes like the F22 and the F35. We must give up the “fight two wars simultaneously” doctrine because it is simply too costly. We have exhausted ourselves with stupid “no win” wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We obviously have learned little from the Korean and/or Vietnam War. Easy to get into and hard to get out of.
Obviously, the Trumpster cannot have all the stuff on his wish list w/o tax increases and spending cuts to entitlements(40% of the budget and growing).
We must not allow emotionalism about the election to cloud our opinions. We must avoid being sucked into the next media frenzy about nonsense regarding Trump.We must be steadfast in staying focused on the middle ground of governance. We will not be drawn to political extremes if we stay focused on the needs of the people and not the “beltway bandits” from either coast.
“I believe these Twitter rants beg the question: Is Trump emotionally unstable?”
Or are his diversionary attacks calculated and apparently successful, at least in the short term. Look at the Sessions crisis which got replaced over the weekend with the story about Trump’s twitter attacks on Obama. And it doesn’t matter to his followers if his bogus claims are disproven because they will still believe him. The rest of us already know his claims are false but his diversion has changed the discussion from what it should be about: Sessions and the Russian intrusion in our election.