Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Leisure. In what is becoming standard practice, Trump spent his Saturday playing golf while his staff attempted to conceal the extent of it from public view. Trump spent four and a half hours at his golf course, which aides characterized as "hitting a few balls." It was the tenth time Trump has played golf in eight weeks as president. 

Campaigning. On Wednesday, Trump held the second campaign rally of the 2020 presidential campaign in Nashville. (Trump has been a declared candidate for re-election since the day he took office.) His staff has made no secret of the fact that he prefers campaigning to governing, not least because official campaign events allow him to appear before enthusiastic crowds, rather than deal with his approval rating among Americans in general. However, not everything went smoothly for Trump 2020: in its weekly e-mail newsletter, the White House included a link to a Washington Post article headlined “Trump's budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Unfortunately, the satirical article by Alexandra Petri was not exactly an endorsement.

Family. He once again absolved his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, from conflict-of-interest rules. Kushner's family real estate business stands to gain $400M from a suspiciously generous $4B investment from a Chinese company. Notwithstanding his lack of government experience, Kushner is one of Trump's closest advisors, and has been directly involved in Trump's adventures in Chinese diplomacy. A Trump spokesperson said that Kushner could simply recuse himself from matters he felt would present a conflict.

Handling of classified material. At least twice this week, he revealed classified information during media appearances--presumably by accident. In his Wednesday interview with Tucker Carlson, Trump said that the release of CIA information by Wikileaks came about because the agency was hacked. Trump was attempting to put the blame for the release on the Obama administration, but in doing so gave away information about the nature of the leak that would have been highly classified. Two days later, in an ill-fated attempt at a joke, Trump suggested that the Obama administration had surveilled German chancellor Angela Merkel--which, if true, amounts to a confirmation of details about American espionage capabilities that previous administrations had worked hard to keep secret.

Trumpcare. Finally, in a chaotic week for his health care plans, he made a surprisingly candid admission: that his proposed plan would disproportionately hurt the older and more rural demographics that voted for him.

Why should anyone care about these things?

  • Presidents are entitled to their leisure time, but not to insist that others pretend it isn't happening.
  • It's bad if a president is more interested in campaigning than governing.
  • Simply declaring that foreign powers are not buying influence at the White House doesn't make it true.
  • A president who reveals classified information--intentionally, or through carelessness--in order to score political points is derelict in his duty.
  • Trump voters may have taken Trump both literally and seriously when he said he would make their health insurance better as opposed to worse.