Thursday, November 22, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He literally phoned in a message to U.S. troops, and used it to attack judges he doesn't like.

Trump, who dodged service in Vietnam, has come under criticism for his failure to visit American troops in war zones. (Trump, whose physical bravery is not exactly legendary, reportedly fears assassination if he travels to Afghanistan, but another excuse attributed to him—that he doesn't care because he didn't personally start that war—is also plausible.) 

Thanksgiving is a traditional time for such a visit—all of his four most recent predecessors made time to share turkey with troops abroad—but Trump decided a conference call from his Mar-a-Lago resort would suffice.

He used the opportunity to smear the federal judiciary, which has ruled any number of his policies unconstitutional, saying: 

We get a lot of bad court decisions from the Ninth Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side. We always lose, and then you lose again and again, and then you hopefully win at the Supreme Court, which we have done. But it's a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It's a disgrace.

Trump incorrectly believes that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked his attempt to circumvent U.S. law regarding asylum seekers. In fact, it was a district court judge.

Trump's rambling discussion with selected servicemembers also covered his preference for steam catapults on aircraft carriers, rather than electromagnetic ones (which an officer gently corrected him about), the improving "brand" of the Coast Guard, and how good his own undergraduate education was.

He also found time to say what he was most thankful for: that he himself had made a tremendous difference in this country."

Members of the military are forbidden by law from overt political activism, and presidents—until Trump—have usually been content not to publicly drag them into political squabbles.

It doesn't seem to be helping: Trump's approval rating among members of the United States military has been plummeting since he took office. In addition to those deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of troops are "deployed" away from home within the United States today, in what is generally regarded by military experts as an election stunt.

So what?

  • The United States military is not a political prop.
  • Judicial decisions are not "bad" just because they go against the President.
  • Governments that don't have to worry about court decisions are called dictatorships.