Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Coal. Trump kicked off the week by trumpeting the news that a new coal mine would be opening in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, both in a tweet and in his remarks at his unusual Cabinet meeting. The mine is expected to host 70 jobs, or 0.04% of the number of new jobs needed to be created each month in order to keep up with the growing population.

Plans to open the mine began during the Obama administration.

Twitter blocking. Trump recently began blocking accounts on Twitter, often for no apparent reason than the users in question got under his skin. One prominent blocked account belongs to VoteVets, a political organization representing military veterans and their families. It's not clear exactly what VoteVets did to prompt the block; recent tweets of theirs dealt with Trump's belated and extremely brief acknowledgement of continuing American casualties in Afghanistan, his continued inability to get judicial approval for his travel ban on Muslim countries, and a retweet about Russian cyber attacks aimed directly at US servicemembers.

Appointments. Trump has broken all records for his slowness to nominate the people who actually make the executive branch run: as of today, he had attempted to fill fewer than 17% of the positions requiring Senate approval. (By another count, he's bothered to put forth names for about 10% of the roughly 1,100 "top-tier" jobs in the executive branch.) Trump spent much of this week grousing that Congressional Democrats--who cannot use the filibuster to stop nominees in the Senate--were somehow responsible for his failure to make nominations.

But he did manage to signal at least one appointment this week: Cindy McCain is reportedly going to be appointed to an ill-defined State Department job. She is the wife of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a sometime critic of Trump, and would be one of many influential political family members to find a home in the Trump administration. A partial list of others would include Elaine Chao (the Secretary of Transportation and wife of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), Callista Gingrich (recently named Ambassador to the Vatican, and wife of Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (daughter of former Arkansas governor and Trump convert Mike Huckabee), Ivanka Trump (his own daughter and holder of a similarly open-ended job description), and Jared Kushner (Ivanka's husband, whose White House portfolio is, at least in theory, about half the government.)

Qatar. After claiming responsibility last week for the diplomatic embargo and de facto blockade of Qatar by other Middle East nations, Trump signed a $12 billion arms deal with Qatar that would, according to the Department of Defense, "give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability" in joint military operations with the United States.

Trump sometimes appeared unaware last week that Qatar is a major part of the United States' strategic presence in the region, home to a substantial number of American planes and 11,000 troops. He did, however, accuse the country of being a "very high-level" sponsor of terrorism.

Civil rights investigation. Trump and his administration became the target of an investigation internal to the executive branch this week, as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted to conduct a two-year probe of Trump's proposed cutbacks to enforcement of civil rights violations, and the effect that his immigration enforcement activities could have on Americans' safety. It wrote that "communities of color, LGBT people, older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups" would be "exposed to greater risk of discrimination" by Trump's actions.

Fake credentials. Less than a week after the most recent fake-credential scandal among Trump's paltry appointee list, another one arose on Wednesday with Trump's selection of Lynne Patton to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development's office in New York. As the New York Post reports, the job involves overseeing the disbursement of billions of dollars in federal funds.

Patton claims, falsely, to have a law degree from Quinnipiac University, and to have attended Yale University. In fact, she did not complete her law degree, and never attended Yale. She did, however, plan Eric Trump's wedding.

What's the problem with these things?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things you didn't do.
  • Presidents who try to block out criticism may be doing so because they cannot handle criticism.
  • Government jobs should be given to the people most qualified to do them, not to people who happen to be married or related to other political figures.
  • It's bad if a president doesn't know whether he wants to sanction or arm a country.
  • Given that the main function of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is to serve as a watchdog on the subject, it's not a good sign if they've decided that a president is a major threat to civil rights five months into the first term.
  • Government jobs should be given to people with actual credentials, not event planners who lie about having law degrees.