Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

CNN. In a week when Trump's obsession with managing his media profile reached new heights, Trump reserved special ire for CNN. On Saturday, he tweeted "I am thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!"

Trump recently settled a $25,000,000 fraud lawsuit.

Eid al-fitr. In a break with customary White House practice, Trump declined to host an Iftar dinner marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. While presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson in 1805 have hosted such dinners as means of strengthening diplomatic ties with predominantly Muslim nations, the white nationalist core of Trump's political base does not look kindly upon the practice. 

Comments on female journalists' appearance. Trump's curious fear of female blood came back into the headlines today with his insistence that Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski was "bleeding badly from a facelift" at a New Year's party. (Brzezinski did not have a facelift and was not bleeding.)

But it was not the only off-color comment that Trump made about a female journalist. On Tuesday, Trump interrupted a staged diplomatic call to the Prime Minister of Ireland to enthuse about the appearance of an Irish reporter who was in the room. Trump beckoned over an RTE reporter and said, "Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press. Caitriona Perry. She has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well."

Perry posted video of the encounter, calling it "bizarre." To date, Trump has not complimented any male reporters on their smile.

Russia. Trump, who last week showed a brief flicker of awareness that Russia's interference in American elections is a problem (in that he blamed it on President Obama), is reportedly sliding back into denial. CNN reported Wednesday that senior White House officials are becoming alarmed at Trump's unwillingness to engage with the ongoing threat Russia poses to democratic elections. A former NATO ambassador from the George W. Bush administration, testifying before Congress, called Trump's inaction "dereliction of duty."

This comes as Trump has asked his staff to come up with "deliverables," like the rollback of Obama-era sanctions, that he can offer to Russian leader Vladimir Putin during their scheduled meeting next week. Trump, who regards himself as the ultimate negotiator, reportedly does not intend to ask for anything in return for such concessions.

Economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia and specific money launderers for the Putin regime are the only price Russia has paid to date for their interference on Trump's behalf in the 2016 election.

Science and technology. The number of staff in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy dropped to zero this week, with the resignation of the last remaining member. Trump has generally neglected to staff his own administration, but science and technology experts have faced particularly difficult choices over the question of whether to work for the Trump administration.

The Trump administration this week denied a group of Afghan girls has been denied permission to enter the United States to participate in a robotics competition. Because of the lingering influence of the Taliban, girls who seek education in Afghanistan risk terrorist attacks.

Why are these bad things?

  • Presidents who live in fraud houses shouldn't throw stones.
  • Relentlessly attacking or trying to delegitimize the press is what authoritarians do.
  • As a rule, Presidents of the United States should try to put themselves on the opposite side of policy from the Taliban (or its domestic equivalents).
  • While there is not a lot of precedent for what presidents under suspicion of colluding with a hostile foreign power should do, giving unsolicited gifts to that hostile foreign power probably isn't on the list.
  • It's bad if a president doesn't make defending the United States and its democratic processes his single highest priority.
  • Publicly treating women exclusively in terms of their appearance is one sign that you have a real problem with women.