Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Terrorism hype. Trump began his speech on withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords by referencing "the terrorist attack in Manila," saying that "it is really very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror." There was no terrorist attack in Manila, although there was a casino robbery that ended with a tragically high body count due to a fire set by the robber. An American intelligence official described Trump's characterization of the attack as "freelancing."

This is not the first time Trump or members of his administration have offered their "thoughts and prayers" for nonexistent terror attacks. Senior advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared to believe that there had been a "Bowling Green massacre," referencing it twice in interviews before being told that no such thing had ever happened. Trump himself made a specific reference to a nonexistent terror attack in Sweden in February, which he blamed on that country's welcoming stance towards immigrants. ("Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden.")

Terrorism victim-blaming. Trump's reaction to what he apparently believed was terrorism in the Philippines contained no hint of criticism for that country's ruling Duterte regime, although Duterte's draconian "security" measures have indeed provided fertile ground for anti-regime terrorist groups, sometimes claiming affiliation with the Islamic State. Duterte and Trump have an oddly cozy relationship, given the former's long list of human rights abuses. Trump has no such friendly feelings towards London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has called Trump's proposed ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries Islamaphobic.

The lingering bad feelings between the two on that subject are presumably why Trump took to Twitter this morning to use yesterday's London attack to bolster support for the travel ban, and to specifically criticize Khan's call for calm.

Climate change. After a day in which no fewer than five Trump administration officials refused to say whether Trump believed that humans caused climate change, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley broke ranks and said Saturday that he "believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation." But even this mild endorsement of the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change was quickly walked back this morning by Trump's own EPA director Scott Pruitt. Pruitt, who was appointed as an open denier of human-caused climate change, carefully reasserted the deliberately opaque position the White House had put forward on Friday: that withdrawal from the Paris Accords was about economics rather than any specific belief about climate change, and that Trump's previous statements on the matter are sufficiently clear.

In fact, it's not at all clear whether Trump himself knows what, if anything, he believes on the subject of climate change or whether human activity has anything to do with it. In the last eight years alone, Trump has gone from demanding that President Obama take action on the subject, to declaring the entire thing a Chinese hoax disproved by each new snowstorm.

Phone security. It was reported this week that Trump is in the habit of giving out his personal cell phone number to world leaders and encouraging them to contact him on it. This violates diplomatic protocol, but more seriously, it is a grave security risk. One of Trump's main attacks against Hillary Clinton was her supposed carelessness with secret information in setting up a private e-mail server (although it was never shown to have been breached). Trump is also known to tweet from an older Android phone which is not only insecure, but can no longer receive security patches.

Heraldry. Trump's Trump National Golf Club in northern Virginia hosted the Senior PGA championship, drawing attention to the Trump "coat of arms" that serves as a logo for his golf courses. The design that Trump has adopted as his family's crest is copied from that of the British family that built Mar-a-Lago, except with the Latin word integritas ("integrity") replaced with "Trump."

Why should I care about these things?

  • It's bad if a president doesn't wait for all (or even some) of the facts before making public statements.
  • It's very bad if a president sees a terrorist attack against an ally as a chance to insult a political enemy and promote his own domestic agenda.
  • Presidents who won't tell you their what their basic views are on major issues probably have a good reason for not telling you.
  • Presidents shouldn't break diplomatic and security protocol for no benefit whatsoever.
  • It's not technically illegal (in the United States, at least) to copy another family's coat of arms, but replacing the word "integrity" with your own name is a bit on the nose.