Trumpster Diving

* If President Donald Trump’s priorities were in sync with national priorities, he would be pushing to build a digital wall. One that would address adversaries with an agenda aimed at undermining America by tampering with elections. That’s a threat to our democracy–in the perilous age of social media, misinformation and gullibility. That’s the real existential threat, not the cruel, anti-immigrant one stoked and ginned up along the Mexican border.

* The opposition to Trump’s Mexican strategy of addressing border security via taunting tariff tweets has prompted pushback from manufacturers to consumer advocates to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. None, however, cut to the quick quite like Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. “This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” he stated. “I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them.”

* Doesn’t it speak volumes when the Treasury secretary and the Trump Administration’s top trade negotiator advised–OK, warned–the president not to impose tariffs on Mexico as border-security strategy? Both Steve Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer opposed the plans because they could very well imperil other priorities, such as the passage of a revised North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. In short, ad hoc, mercurial policy tweets have obvious collateral effects–from consumer prices to roiled stock markets to chaotic foreign policy. Notably, Jared Kushner has sided with Mnuchin and Lighthizer. Wonder what Rex Tillerson thinks?

*Later this month we all will be viscerally reminded that super swing state Florida is a must for President Donald Trump’s re-election. Here’s the official, as it were, Twitter announcement: “I will be announcing my Second Term Presidential Run with First Lady Melania, Vice President Mike Pence, and Second Lady Karen Pence on June 18th in Orlando, Florida at the 20,000 seat Amway Center.” Presumably DisneyWorld was not available.  

* Robert Mueller obviously needs to do a lot more than let his report “stand for itself.” Not in this partisan, cacophonous age. What his old-school circumspection does, in effect, is create an agenda vacuum and partisan opportunities for William Barr, Lindsey Graham, Trump and others to, as we’ve been seeing, frame the narrative for too many before the House Democrats go any further.

When Mueller has declared “that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election” and that “that allegation deserves the attention of every American,” he needs to further expedite the attention-getting. Or maybe we should wait for the HBO movie.

* As a result of the tariff war with China, Mexico is now the U.S.’s largest trading partner–pending the next presidential tweet. That’s how that happens. And the ripple effects of a chaotic trade policy far transcend that quantitative pairing. “I don’t see how our trading partners will continue to negotiate with us as if we have any credibility going forward,” assesses Dartmouth trade economist Emily Blanchard. “They’re going to have a much harder time selling any costly domestic reform or sacrifice that is a concession to the U.S., because the U.S. is acting like an erratic bully.”

* It was unconscionably shameful that the fear of bad visuals, borne of an infamous grudge, was enough for White House officials to request that the Navy “minimize the visibility” of the USS John S. McCain during Trump’s Japan visit. It gives petty vindictiveness a bad name.

Trump insisted he knew nothing of the hide-the-ship’s-identity scheme. That might very well be the literal truth. That’s because key staffers always know what the president wants and doesn’t want–and don’t want to be blamed for antagonizing him. The result, even if it’s the politicization of the armed forces, is “plausible deniability.” Craven enablers don’t need evidentiary marching orders.

And what does it say about this president that he publicly despised and demeaned the patriot McCain–but “fell in love” with the murderous North Korean thug Kim Jong-un, who is now suspected of having ordered even more executions of those, including family, who have fallen out of his authoritarian favor.

* Richard Nixon has never looked so presidential.

* “Never been stronger.” That’s how Vice President Mike Pence characterized the US relationship with Canada–while in Ottawa recently. And that the president, moreover, was “a great friend of the Canadian people.” In other words, so much for Trump having labeled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “weak” and “dishonest,” which he either meant–or didn’t mean.

* We’re often reminded of how critical Florida is to Trump. The state went twice for Obama–and then Trump. Florida, the biggest, most impactful swing state, is a must win again for Trump. Expect more Sunshine State rallies. “If we were to see something where Trump lost Florida, it would be indicative of a very bad night for him,” assessed Rob Schmidt, who polls for Trump’s campaign. “It becomes a domino effect.”

* The way Trump pro-actively keeps stoking the issue of impeachment, investigations, “witch hunts,” “fake news” and certain  “Never Trumpers,” it makes Bill Clinton look downright classy for how he handled the countdown to his impeachment. Clinton could, and did, rant in private, but he didn’t go public. Instead he was, in effect, reminding Americans–not just a support base–that he was prioritizing the responsibility of running the government.

* Non-essential American personnel have recently been evacuated from Iraq. That’s got to be a double-edged sword. Relocation to a safer place–but confirmation that what you do is, indeed, “non-essential.”

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