Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Week in Review, Confused Edition

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

He got confused, over and over again.

He called "fake news" on news that didn't even exist. In a two-tweet message Tuesday evening, Trump declared: "The Fake News is at it again, this time trying to hurt one of the finest people I know, General John Kelly, by saying he will soon be fired. This story is totally made up by the dishonest media.The Chief is doing a FANTASTIC job for me and, more importantly, for the USA!"

No one seems to know what "fake news" report Trump was talking about. In the three-day range prior to Trump's pre-emptive denial, there were many news items about firings that mention Kelly--as there usually are, because Trump administration tenures are often extremely short and Kelly is the chief of staff--but none suggesting Kelly himself would be fired.

There were stories about Kelly possibly quitting, especially if Trump fired Rex Tillerson for the "moron" controversy, but given the difficulty of managing Trump on a day-to-day basis, there has never really been a day in Kelly's tenure that his resignation seemed all that farfetched.

He seemed to think he'd imposed a 100% tax on corporate valuation. On Wednesday, Trump said this:
The country — we took it over and owed over $20 trillion. As you know, the last eight years, they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet, we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value.
In other words, Trump is saying that $5 trillion in market valuation increases somehow counts against the national debt--which, if true, would mean that he'd "paid off" half of the roughly $10 trillion added to the debt during the Obama administration.

There are, to put it mildly, a few problems with this.

For one thing, stock price increases aren't "real money." The paper value of a company based on its share price is not the liquidation value of the company; But even if it were, for that money to apply to the United States' debt, those paper gains would have to be taxed somehow--no such "valuation tax" exists at the moment--and the rate would have to be 100%. In reality, Trump is calling for corporations to pay massively lower tax rates.

It's also worth noting that the federal debt continues to increase under Trump; the $20 trillion mark was passed eight months after he took office.

He talked through a solemn military ceremony honoring soldiers. On Wednesday night, Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity at an Air National Guard base in Pennsylvania. In the background of the interview, the military bugle call "Retreat" was sounded. Traditionally, the tune is played on bases at the lowering of the flag in the evening, and military protocol demands that servicemembers salute or otherwise pay respects during the call--just as they would during the playing of the national anthem. A similar courtesy is expected of civilians.

This was what Trump said to Hannity when it was sounded: "What a nice sound that is. Are they playing that for you or for me? They're playing that in honor of [Hannity's] ratings. He's beating everybody." Trump continued speaking and mugging for the audience as the call played.

Unlike "Taps," "Retreat" does not sound particularly somber. It is possible Trump simply had no idea why he shouldn't be talking over it, although the servicemembers and civilians who can be seen in the background standing and facing the flag might have given him a hint.

Trump has spent much of the last few weeks claiming that NFL players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem were actually disrespecting the military.

He met the President of the Virgin Islands. Or so he claimed on Friday.

Trump is the President of the United States Virgin Islands.

He forgot to sign at a signing ceremony. This happened Thursday. It is not the first time this has happened, although Mike Pence has gotten better at grabbing him before he can leave the room.

Why are these things problems?

  • Even by Trump standards, complaining about inaccuracy in news reports that don't exist is thin-skinned.
  • Even by Trump standards, confusing stock market capitalization with the national debt is economically illiterate.
  • A president who treats silent protest as a dishonoring of the military should be willing to remain silent during actual military honors.
  • The President of the United States of America should know offhand what he is president of.
  • Minor lapses in concentration are a lot less troubling in a president when they are rare.