Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Hypocrisy Edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He did a lot of things he doesn't think other people should do.

Trump had a bad week, as even his closest allies were willing to admit. (It's difficult to interpret a senior campaign and administration official saying "I don't see how Trump isn't completely fucked" any other way.) But a great many of the things he did this week, for better or for worse, were things he's been critical of others for doing.

Syrian air attacks. Although it did not get the full media rollout that the White House gave Trump's previous Syrian air attack, he did authorize airstrikes against Syrian forces this week. While presidents' orders cannot be questioned by the military officers who must carry them out, Republicans and Democrats alike immediately pointed out that in the absence of an immediate threat to the United States, such an order was illegal because Trump had not sought Congress's approval.

President Obama debated launching airstrikes against the Assad regime in 2013, but decided against it when Congress made it clear it would not authorize them--a position Trump agreed with at the time.
Diplomatic protocols. Trump is accompanied by his wife and daughter on his current overseas trip. The first stop is in Saudi Arabia, where Melania and Ivanka disembarked from Air Force One with uncovered heads. It is quite common for women from Western countries to refuse to accommodate the Saudi norm of women keeping their heads covered, as a form of protest against the male-dominated nature of Saudi society. No First Lady at least as far back as Barbara Bush has worn a head covering, nor did other female Western leaders such as Theresa May or Angela Merkel on their recent visits.

Trump's opinion seems to have changed since Michelle Obama's visit two years ago.
Deference to foreign leaders. In a customary gesture of friendship, the Saudi government presented Trump with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal. In order for King Abdullah to place the medal around his neck, Trump was obliged to bend at the waist. In other words, he bowed. After the medal was placed, Trump then added a flourish akin to a curtsy.

Trump has not always taken such a permissive view of diplomatic body language.
"Radical Islamic terrorism." As part of his Saudi trip, Trump gave a speech today. Given Trump's open hostility to Islam and the Saudi government, both on the campaign trail and while in office, even an uncharacteristically soft-spoken speech might have seemed a little disingenuous.

Most of the early criticism of the speech came from Westerners who saw it as too conciliatory, or forgiving of Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses and undemocratic form of government. But the harshest criticism of all came from Trump himself--or at least, previous versions of him. Until today, Trump had no patience for anyone who refused to use a specific three-word phrase--"radical Islamic terrorism"--which he seemed to think had an almost magical effect. The words were pointedly absent from today's speech.
(As of 11:50 p.m. Sunday, Riyadh time, Trump had not resigned.)

Taking money from the Saudi government for one's nonprofit project. Ivanka Trump, who is Donald Trump's daughter and an official member of his administration, received a $100 million donation from the Saudi government for her pet project, a "women's empowerment fund" administered by the World Bank that she announced a few years ago. The announcement was made shortly after Trump signed off on a major arms deal negotiated in part by Ivanka's husband Jared Kushner, which will provide the kingdom with $110 billion in weapons.

Although it is essentially just a concept at the moment, the younger Trump's project is attracting a great deal of largess from world leaders. She is barred by conflict of interest rules from soliciting donations, although it is probably not a coincidence that the Saudi government took it upon themselves to present her personally with the gift.

Trump's views of whether a woman is corrupted by accepting money from Saudi Arabia on behalf of a nonprofit seem to have changed since last June.

What's the problem with all these things?

  • People who voted for Trump may have thought he believed the things he was saying.