Monday, January 1, 2018

Sunday Monday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Christmas. He spent Christmas at his Mar-a-Lago residence.

In and of itself, there's no problem with this. Trump is entitled to spend holidays--or any days--at any of his six known private residences if he likes. (Roughly every third day of his presidency has been spent at a property he owns.)

But Trump had previously expressed the opinion that it was unforgivable for a president to spend the holidays away from Washington D.C., out of consideration for his Secret Service detail.

Chain migration. In one of the less coherent portions of his impromptu interview with the New York Times last Thursday, Trump appeared to be trying to speak on the subject of so-called "chain migration." The term refers to the fact that people who successfully go through the lengthy process of obtaining U.S. citizenship often sponsor other family members. Trump said:
We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [crosstalk] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries. They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me.
Setting aside the question of whether Democrats agree with him on immigration policy (they emphatically do not), there's one problem with Trump's stance on chain migration: he wouldn't be an American without it. Both Trump's mother and paternal grandfather followed their siblings to the United States. His wife Melania, a Slovenian-born naturalized American citizen, has brought both her parents to live in the United States as well.

The NYT interview. Trump's free-form interview with the NYT's Michael S. Schmidt was alarming for a number of reasons, some of which the Times itself addressed the following day. Other reports characterized it as a "rambling" portrait of a "mind in denial," or "scary" in its depiction of a president who is "not well" or "delusional." Still others simply toted up the false, incoherent, or otherwise disturbing statements Trump made: CNN found 47, for example.

But perhaps no one was quite so horrified by the interview as the handlers who only found out about it while it was already in progress. Trump, relaxing in the dining room of his golf club after a round, simply granted Schmidt's request on the spot. One of Trump's own staff called the resulting interview "embarrassing," in spite of communication director Hope Hicks's belated attempts to cut it short.

Off the record, Trump's staff has been very candid about the problems that the less formal environment of Mar-a-Lago presents for their ability to, for lack of a better way of putting it, keep Trump under control.

For his own part, Trump was reportedly thrilled that the interview was a big TV news story the day after it broke.

Global climate change. On Thursday, during colder-than-average temperatures in much of the country, Trump took to Twitter to make a joke about "good old global warming," which he has called a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

There are two ways of approaching this. One is to "debate" Trump on the merits of whether cold weather anywhere means the overwhelming scientific consensus of human-driven climate change is some kind of conspiracy. For example, by showing that the globe as a whole was a full degree Fahrenheit warmer than average that day--a significant amount, but a fairly typical result lately.

But it's probably more relevant to point out that Trump himself almost certainly doesn't actually believe that climate change is a hoax. He's certainly crafted the image of a climate denier on Twitter in recent years for political purposes, but the White House is extremely cagey about his stance, consistently refusing to answer direct questions on the subject. That's because Trump gives a different answer every time he's asked, and has basically taken every stance in recent years.

Golf. After a morning spent on the links, the streak of consecutive days Trump has spent golfing after he declared on Christmas Day that it was time to go "back to work" is at seven.

Why are these bad things?

  • Criticizing someone for doing something and then doing it yourself is hypocrisy, and it's not a good trait.
  • There might be a long American history of each generation of immigrants wanting to slam the door on the next, but that doesn't make it right.
  • It's a very bad sign if a president's staff doesn't trust him to have lunch without adult supervision.
  • It's even worse if they're right to worry.
  • Presidents need to actually know what they believe on major policy issues.