Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, grudge edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He revisited some cherished old grudges, and started some new ones.

"Pharma bro." Martin Shkreli, the universally loathed pharmaceutical executive facing sentencing for securities fraud, had his bail revoked this week for tweets in which he encouraged people to grab hair from Hillary Clinton's head. In a last-ditch attempt to keep their client out of jail, his lawyers cited none other than Trump, arguing that his use of "political hyperbole" during and after the campaign had blurred the line between a legitimate threat and free speech. Among other things, Trump suggested that "second amendment people" were the only thing that could prevent Clinton from appointing federal judges who'd restrict gun rights if she were elected. (As with Shkreli's tweet, that incident prompted the attention of the Secret Service.)

Trump may or may not be aware of his influence on Shkreli, but it's not all they have in common. This morning, as part of a tweet-storm bizarre even by Trump standards, he retweeted an animation of him hitting a golf ball and knocking Hillary Clinton over.

Trump is a lot more sensitive to jokes about violence towards politicians when he's the target.

Clinton Clinton Clinton. The golf tweet wasn't Trump's only indulgence this week of his ongoing obsession with Clinton, who recently released a book about the campaign in which she acknowledges the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's involvement with the Russian government's attempt to get him elected. Trump, who is easily upset by Clinton under the best of circumstances, fired off angry tweets and sent his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, out to attack Clinton.

Again with the hands thing. Trump traveled to Florida to pose for photos amidst relief efforts for Hurricane Irma. During a few minutes of handing out sandwiches, he mugged for the cameras by visibly struggling to put on plastic gloves, declaring, "They're too small."

He did the same my-hands-are-too-big schtick earlier in the month during his do-over visit to Harvey relief efforts.

Trump has been on a short fuse over the size of his hands since Spy magazine editor Graydon Carter called him a "short-fingered vulgarian" more than a quarter of a century ago. This apparently got even deeper than usual under Trump's skin, who over the years sent photographs of his hands to Carter in an attempt to disprove the joke, and then (apropos of nothing) escalated it into a discussion of the size of his penis during a presidential debate.

Congress. Normally Congress does not bother passing joint resolutions "rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President's Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups." But it did so on Tuesday, unanimously in both houses, as a reaction to Trump's equivocation about whether those groups also contained some "very fine people," or whether the terrorist murder of a counter-protestor was part of violence "on many sides."

On Thursday, Trump signed the resolution--and then immediately sought out reporters to declare that "you have some pretty bad dudes on the other [non-Klan, non-neo-Nazi] side also" and singled out anti-fascist groups as evidence that he was right all along. He did not mention white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, or other hate groups in his remarks.

The remarks prompted the Senate's only black Republican, Tim Scott (R-SC) to tell reporters that it was "unrealistic" to expect Trump to find his way to an unequivocal condemnation of neo-Nazis and Klansmen in so short a period of time.

ESPN. On a related note, Trump devoted a fair amount of his time this week--to say nothing of other White House employees'--to a new vendetta against the sports network ESPN and its anchor Jemele Hill.

On Monday, Hill tweeted that "Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists." She later acknowledged that the tweet was inappropriate as it suggested she was speaking for ESPN, and apologized to the network, but stood by her words.

Trump responded by mocking the network's supposedly low ratings in a tweet (a favorite insult, given his obsession with TV), and by once again sending out Sarah Huckabee Sanders three days in a row to call for Hill's firing. (Sanders, who may have committed a crime in following Trump's orders, had a busy week: she was also the designated attack-surrogate for Trump's renewed campaign against Jim Comey.)

Hill is not alone in her opinion, but for whatever reason Trump was apparently far more upset by being called a racist by her than he was when similar accusations were made by the New York Times'Nicholas Kristof, Jesse Berney of Rolling Stone, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, and dozens of other white men.

Why are these bad things?

  • A president who can be this easily upset is a president who can just as easily be manipulated.
  • It should not be possible to upset a president by talking about an election that he won, or by condemning neo-Nazis and the Klan.
  • "Pharma Bro" isn't a good role model for the President of the United States.
  • A president who doesn't want to be called a white supremacist could always take an unequivocal line against white supremacists.