Trump Turbulence Updates

  • “Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither.” That was former Defense Secretary James Mattis still making the case that, alas, still doesn’t resonate with President Donald Trump. That was also former Defense Secretary Mattis underscoring why he no longer serves in the Trump Administration.
  • Anyone not named Donald Trump not think that this is the absolute worst time for Brazil to have Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing, climate-change skeptic, as its president? Brazil’s endangered rainforest is only technically sovereign territory. In effect, as French President Emmanuel Macron noted, it is the “lungs of the planet.” The fires sweeping the rainforest, which is invaluable for absorbing carbon and emitting oxygen, are beyond globally alarming and threatening.

No surprise that Bolsonaro and Trump get along. If you’re given to authoritarian ways and doubt the reality and impact of climate change, you too can make Trump’s (not) short (enough) list of autocratic buds.

  • Sorry, it’s the way I negotiate.”—There ought to be a better presidential response to questions about an untimely, unnecessary trade war; a dismissive attitude toward allies and trade partners; and mixed, confusion-and-chaos-inducing messages from the White House that inevitably impact the global economy.

At some level, Trump seems to equate sitting down with the G-7 or Chinese President Xi Jinping with how he has impulsively, narcissistically handled previous TrumpWorld negotiations. Only problem: China, a major military power with 1.4 billion people, high-tech wherewithal, intellectual property duplicity, authoritarian roots and holdings of more than $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bills, notes and bonds—has a helluva lot more leverage than Queens subcontractors. Any savvy, prepared negotiator would know that. Of course, they would.

Or maybe Trump is hoping somehow to replay the NAFTA card. After having disparaged NAFTA as the “worst deal ever,” Trump reshuffled the deck and declared that he had won by settling for a deal barely distinguishable from the one he had routinely lambasted. But a declared “win” is a de facto win. If only President Xi, who also knows a thing or two about saving face on the world stage, will comply.

  • Because of Hurricane Dorian, Trump was forced to cancel his visit to Poland. As opposed to Denmark, this one had to hurt because Poland is Trump’s kind of European country. It meets NATO military spending commitments, and its president, Andrzej Duda of the right-wing Law and Justice party, stokes cultural division and attacks the free press. No, it’s not the Poland of Lech Walesa anymore.
  • “Badly run and weak companies are blaming these small tariffs instead of themselves for bad management.” That was President Trump adding tweeted insult to unacknowledged injury.
  • For all the fraught scenarios with North Korea, which actually has nukes, it’s easy to miss the reality that we are, in effect, at war with Iran. Only, mercifully, it’s a cyberwar, that tenuous, gray, conflict zone between military confrontation and peace. For now.
  • “First of all, Mr. President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you … Our job here is to keep the score, not settle scores.” That was how Fox News host Neil Cavuto responded to Trump criticism that “Fox isn’t working for us.” But, yeah, that was Cavuto speaking for Cavuto—not Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham or “Fox and Friends” fawners.
  • So, Madeleine Westerhout is out. If you haven’t been keeping score at the Trump revolving door, she’s the 20-something Trump special assistant and director of Oval Office operations, who was still in college when Barack Obama was RE-elected. Apparently, she got a bit loose-lipped and tipsy with some journalists and divulged some unflattering, to be sure, Trump family details. Two takeaways: First, this is Exhibit A for whom Trump surrounds himself with: the amoral, less-than-the-best-and-brightest-and-accomplished opportunists. Sean Spicer might even agree. Second, look for Westerhout to be out and about with her diary-turned-book in time for the holiday season. Omarosa Manigault might even agree.
  • Here’s a sobering-but-spot-on forewarning from back in the (Trump inauguration) day. “The evidence suggests (Trump) does not have sufficient concentration power to read a book, or even listen to an audio edition, not to mention receive an exhaustive briefing of the duties of his job. … The American presidency has never been at the whims of an authoritarian personality like Donald Trump. He is going to test our democracy as it has never been tested.” That was John Dean, THAT John Dean, who knows a thing or two about how a president can test American democracy.
  • Speaking of back in the day, like a lot of Trump supporters and even advisers, Kellyanne Conway has her own self-serving, political-hack backstory. Before pragmatically pivoting, she ran the Keep the Promise political action committee that championed the candidacy of Ted Cruz. She was the Cruz surrogate who regularly ripped Trump on CNN. She called him “unpresidential,” “vulgar” and not “transparent” with his tax returns. She also noted that he “built a lot of his business on the backs of the little guy” and didn’t actually understand the basic premises of the “pro-life movement.” But that was then.
  • Attorney General William Barr throws a big, pricey party every holiday season, and this year will be no different—with one exception. The 200 guests will gather in the Presidential Ballroom in Trump International Hotel, blocks from both the White House and the Justice Department. Barr, however, will be paying full price and thus avoiding ethical implications of a steep discount. But, yes, at a time when the Justice Department is working to defend Trump against charges that he’s trying to personally profit from his presidency, it’s ironic timing and bad optics–and yet another subset of the “new normal.”

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