Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Mixed Messages edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He had a little trouble staying on message.

Iranian nuclear certification. During and after the campaign, one of Trump's favorite subjects was the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and six other countries including the US. While a lot of what Trump had to say about the deal was false (whether or not he knew it), the message was clear: he promised to blow up the deal at the first opportunity, even in the face of opposition from Israel.

But! This week, on schedule, Trump duly certified that Iran was in compliance with the agreement, thereby committing the United States to continue with its end of the bargain for another six months.

Coal jobs. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to "bring back coal," a promise he has fulfilled in the sense that he has begun deleting environmental protection rules, and taking advice from mine owners on whether they should be responsible for worker safety. (His secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, who presided over the Sago Mine disaster, may have some opinions as well.) More recently, Trump crowed over the opening of a Pennsylvania mine which may add as many as 70 new jobs in the industry. (The mine's opening was planned long before Trump took office.)

But! While there are 800 new coal jobs nationwide during the Trump administration to date, he claimed that there were 45,000 new mining jobs, an exaggeration of 5,625%. (By comparison, President Obama saw 1,300 new coal jobs created during 2016.)

Conspiracy. Last Sunday, Trump arose bright and early to praise Michael Caputo, a Republican political strategist, "for saying so powerfully that there was no Russian collusion in our winning campaign."

But! Michael Caputo is himself a subject of the investigation into the Trump campaign's conspiracy with Russia to influence the election. Caputo, who was part of the Trump campaign as a communications advisor, also worked for the Russian state oil company Gazprom.

Generally speaking, a claim that there was no criminal conspiracy is more plausible if the person making it is not suspected of being a part of it.

Insurance. During the New York Times interview in which he trashed his own Attorney General for recusing himself from the Russia conspiracy investigation, Trump also shared his thoughts on health insurance. Asked about how he'd preserve the Obamacare mandate to cover people with pre-existing conditions, Trump said:
So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
But! As most people without a personal physician on retainer know, even the healthiest 21-year-old cannot get health insurance for $1 per month. (Such a person not otherwise eligible for subsidies would pay about $250 per month at the lowest level of coverage allowed under the Affordable Care Act.)

The only remotely likely explanation that fits with what Trump said is that he was confusing health insurance with life insurance.

Jobs. Trump declared this "Made In America" week at the White House. The observance featured a display of products made in each state.

But! as many observed, Trump's businesses--which he still retains full legal control over--still make many products overseas. His daughter Ivanka's businesses do, too.

It didn't help that Trump's Mar-A-Lago club--of which he is the legal owner--chose this week to apply to Trump's own Labor Department for permission to hire 70 foreign workers, under a visa program that stipulates that no American is willing or able to do the job at the salary offered.

Trucks. There was one important bit of messaging consistency this week, though: three months after he was last photographed behind the wheel of a truck, Trump's enthusiasm for such photo-ops remains undiminished.

What's wrong with these things?

  • Voters who heard candidate Trump say that his "number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran" may have believed him.
  • It's bad if the president quotes job creation numbers 56 times higher than the actual numbers.
  • Presidents should not rely on the support of their suspected co-conspirators.
  • It's insanely bad if a president is unclear on the difference between health insurance and life insurance while promoting his health insurance bill.
  • Encouraging others to manufacture things in America while refusing to do so yourself is hypocrisy.
  • There's more to the presidency than fun photo-ops.