Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Fact-checking. Last Sunday, the New Yorker reported about an incident where Trump joked about his vice-president's faith. The aggressively unchurched Trump likes to poke fun at Pence's religiosity--"to let Pence know who's boss," in the words of one source. On the subject of gay rights, the article quoted Trump as saying that Pence wanted to "hang them all."

Not surprisingly, Trump denied it all. But in doing so he may have set a personal best for calling people liars. In a statement issued after Trump's denial, the New Yorker said:
In the course of fact-checking this piece, we talked to more than sixty people to confirm the reporting contained therein, including senior White House officials, a senior member of the Vice-President’s office, the RGA [Republican Governors' Associaton], Rep. Elijah Cummings, and multiple people who were in the room when President Trump joked that Vice-President Pence "wants to hang" gay people. We stand by the story.
The White House did not issue a clarification on whether all sixty-plus people in the room were lying or simply mistaken.

Obamacare. In explaining his refusal to continue making the CSR payments required under the Affordable Care Act, Trump said this on Monday: "Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore."

In fact, the ACA (also known as Obamacare) remains law, and Trump remains obliged to administer it in keeping with his presidential oath to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States" and his constitutional obligation to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." But oaths and obligations aside, Trump has continued to try to sabotage enrollment, which will necessarily raise premiums for those who remain insured.

In related news, it was announced this week that the uninsured rate rose for the first time since the ACA took effect.

Niger. Trump spent much of the week trying to make the issue of his silence on the Niger attacks about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). It was Wilson who publicized the details of Trump's belated phone call to Army widow Myesha Johnson, in which he seemed unsure of the identity of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, and took it upon himself to explain military duty to her.

Thursday, while defending Trump during this week's bizarre condolence scandal, chief of staff and former Marine general John Kelly made a number of false statements. In particular he pronounced himself "stunned" when, in 2015, he saw Rep. Wilson had made self-aggrandizing claims at the dedication of a new FBI building in Miami about her role in getting funding for it.

But, as Wilson herself pointed out, the FBI building in question had been funded before she even entered Congress, and her role was limited to helping get the building renamed for two FBI agents killed in the line of duty. Within hours, videotape had surfaced proving Wilson right: her remarks lavish praise on the Republican members of Congress who helped pass the necessary legislation. At no point does she make any of the statements Kelly claimed to have heard and been "stunned" by.

Asked the following day about whether Kelly would address his false claims, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders bristled: "If you want to go after General Kelly, that is up to you. If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that is something highly inappropriate."

Predictably, the idea that military officers (retired or otherwise) are beyond question by civilians and the press did not go over well with Republicans, Democrats, other generals, the media, or almost anyone outside the Trump administration. Trump himself has a long history of criticizing generals and ran on the claim that he knew more than them about how to fight ISIS.

Why do these things matter?

  • Suggesting that the military is beyond question by mere civilians is un-American.
  • Laws do not cease to exist just because a president wishes they would.
  • A president who cannot or will not fulfill his oath of office should not be in office.
  • Presidents who don't want to be seen as hostile to religion shouldn't make fun of a person's faith in front of sixty witnesses.