* Amid all the zero-sum spin spawned by the Mueller Report, we can all still reassure ourselves about a bottom-line reality. You don’t have to be a dossier conspiracist to ponder why Russia would have preferred that Donald Trump be elected president of the United States. Indeed, preferred that outcome so much that it would flat-out interfere in our election process and interact with the Trump campaign–even if smoking-gun shy of “collusion.”
* “Mueller’s words are very different than Barr’s.” That less-than-nuanced understatement is courtesy of one who would know the difference. It’s the take of John Dean, former White House counselor to disgraced, forced-to-resign-before-being-impeached President Richard Nixon.
* “A sideshow.” Let’s not forget that this was how William Barr, now the attorney general, had characterized Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trumpian obstruction of justice. It was part of his unsolicited, 19-page (de facto job application) memo that Barr had sent to the Justice Department last summer.
* Trump has upped the ante on his get-tough approach to Latin America. He has now moved to cut direct aid to (immigrant-generating) El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Take that. Moreover, he has re-issued his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border. Better believe it. And, of course, let’s not forget the ultimatum to Mexico that it would surely pay bigly for that border wall. Count on it.
* For what it’s worth, shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border would have seriously HUGE consequences. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S.-Mexico trade amounts to about $1.7 billion in goods daily.
* Here’s what Trump doesn’t get when it comes to aid to other countries, especially in this hemisphere. The U.S. doesn’t just give away aid; it’s a form of enlightened self interest. It’s not to be confused with self-serving, self-interest rhetoric. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, cut to the pragmatic chase. “Foreign assistance is not charity,” he recently noted. “It advances our strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens.” Any other American president would know that.
* Used to be that the Special Olympics was something we could all agree on. We all know somebody with a challenged child. This gave those kids and those families a rallying, feel-good forum. Then the government–with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos front and center–proposed cutting its funding as part of the $7 billion 2020 budget reductions. DeVos wanted philanthropists to make up the $17.6 million difference. Put in context: That would pay for about five Trump Mar-a-Lago visits.
That kind of embarrassing context–juxtaposing Special Olympians and the entitled Trump entourage–likely proved a difference-maker. Within hours of DeVos’ announcement, Trump had reversed it. “I have overridden my people,” he stated. “We’re funding the Special Olympics.” In effect, he was responding personally to bad imagery–not bad judgment and skewed priorities–by restoring the funding.
* Unforced errors are the worst kind. They are unearned gratuities to the other side–from Andrew Gillum’s Hamilton tickets to U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s “impeach the MF” rant to liberal Correspondents’ Dinner hosts whose vulgarity transcends right-wing put-downs. And then we have Michael Avenatti, who has always looked and sounded like he was a media-hustling, central-casting-punk mouthpiece for a porn actress. It only got worse, and Donald Trump Jr. even used him as a punch line in a recent rally speech. “MAGA,” crowed Trump Jr., stood for “Michael Avenatti Got Arrested.”
* Rounding up: Whatever Trump’s net worth actually is, a big chunk of it–$4 billion–is the Trump “brand” value estimate. In other words, he wants his brand to be counted among his assets as if it were a hotel or golf course resort.
* Given the new normal that is all things Trump, being accused of situational ethics on the golf course can seem less than newsworthy. “If you’re playing golf with him, he’s going to cheat,” says former Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly in his book “Commander in Cheat: How golf explains Trump.” “He cheats because that’s how he plays golf.” Oh.
It’s relevant, however, because golf reinforces Trump’s life-long, solipsistic pattern, one that became down-right dangerous when he became the narcissistic occupant of the Oval Office. Whether it’s a border wall, a crowd size, a fraudulent “university,” a net-worth claim or North Korean “denuclearization,” it’s ultimately about Trump. It’s also a reminder that this man and this administration must not be given a mulligan.
* Imagine if we were talking about Donald Trump and not Joe Biden. The flap over Biden’s public behavior wouldn’t be treated like “Inappropriate Kiss Gate.” It would be greeted by relief.