Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Mood Swing Edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He felt strongly about a lot of different things.

This week Trump was angry with...
Amanda Knox. Back in 2011, Trump tweeted his support for the young American woman then incarcerated in Italy for a murder she was ultimately exonerated for. But Knox supported Hillary Clinton in the election, and retweeted a call for Trump to release his tax returns. This was enough to make Trump "very upset," according to his advisor George Lombardi.

Tax Day protestors. If the intention of last Saturday's Tax Day protestors was to anger Trump, they seem to have succeeded. The following day, he took that anger out on Twitter, saying the protests had been "small" (about 125,000 marchers in some 200 locations) but also of having been "paid for." Accusing crowds of being on secret payrolls is a favorite tactic of Trump's. Ironically, he has the unusual distinction of being one of the only politicians in recent memory to have actually been caught hiring actors: the cheering crowd at his official campaign announcement was earning $50 apiece for their enthusiasm.

An unnamed former Marine. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the 30-year-old Intelligence Director of the National Security Council, began his tenure as a protege of Michael Flynn, who was forced into an almost instantaneous retirement as Trump's National Security Advisor because he lied about his ties to members of the Russian government. Cohen-Watnick was himself about to be fired by Flynn's replacement, H.R. McMaster, but survived with Trump's personal intervention. And last month, he surfaced again as one of the figures in the sham "briefing" that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) gave Trump after having secretly received supposedly exculpatory evidence from Cohen-Watnick the night before. The resulting scandal cost Nunes his oversight of the Trump-Russia investigation. 

Now Cohen-Watnick is reported to have been involved in yet another firing--this time of the former U.S. Marine officer who served as the liaison between the CIA and the NSC. According to the Guardian, both career intelligence agents and White House staff were appalled at the way in which Cohen-Watnick dismissed the officer, in a way that "seemed designed to humiliate" him, and which one Trump administration official called "fucked up."

But this week Trump was pleased with...
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan claimed victory in a national referendum this week that gave him sweeping new powers and the opportunity to keep them through 2029. The official margin of victory was small--smaller in percentage terms than the mythical "three to five million votes" Trump claims were fraudulently cast for Hillary Clinton--and external monitors have refused to certify its legitimacy. Trump, however, called Erdoğan within hours of the official announcement to congratulate him, effectively committing the United States to that position.

Erdoğan has said in the past that he believes he has leverage over Trump because of the substantial value of Trump's business interests in Turkey.

Marine Le Pen. Trump's extraordinary haste to shore up Erdoğan's position was unusual in part because American presidents almost never weigh in on foreign elections until they are well and truly done, for obvious diplomatic reasons. But Trump could not resist weighing in on the first round of France's presidential elections, endorsing far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in every way possible without actually using the word "endorse." In particular, he attempted to make political hay out of terrorism on Le Pen's behalf by talking up a recent shooting of policemen in Paris and saying it would help her because she is the "strongest."

Le Pen represents the National Front party, and inherited leadership of it from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, a Holocaust denier and outspoken antisemite. Openly fascist until recently, the younger Le Pen has tried to rehabilitate its image--substituting open attacks on Jews for coded attacks on Muslims--and to reframe it as a purely nationalistic, anti-immigrant party, though not entirely successfully.

His own poll numbers. Trump apparently found some comfort in the latest ABC News/Washington Post polls, triumphantly tweeting about them this morning. Exactly why isn't entirely clear, as the numbers are the worst for any president at this point in his term since 1945.

Why should I care about these things?

  • It really should not be possible for a president to become "very upset" by the loss of a single vote, even if it belonged to someone he Tweeted support for six years ago.
  • Reflexively blaming others for things you do yourself is called projection, and it is not a sign of good mental health.
  • Presidents are accountable for the behavior of their staff.
  • It's not a good sign if the world leaders that an American president expresses the highest regard for are dictators.
  • It's bad to try to intervene in a foreign country's election, even if it's the United States doing it in the open.
  • Being unable to believe that others don't like you is called egotism, and it is not a sign of good mental health.