Monday, December 31, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He attacked the minority party in the Senate for failing to confirm ambassadors he hasn’t nominated.

Trump, forced by the optics of the government shutdown he demanded and then regretted to stay in Washington, has been spending most of his days on Twitter recently, and today was no exception. Several of his fifteen tweets (so far) concerned the Senate’s failure to promptly confirm his nominees for ambassadorships. Specifically, Trump blamed Democratic senator and minority leader Chuck Schumer, by name, for “not approving... otherwise approved Ambassadors.”

Trump seems to be trying to say that Schumer is using the threat of a filibuster to stall votes on his nominees. This is not true: since 2013, the Senate operates on majority rule where confirmations are concerned. 

In other words, Democrats have not blocked any Trump appointees to ambassadorships because they lack the power to do so. It’s not clear if Trump knows this and was deliberately lying, or if he has made it nearly two years into his term in office without learning how Senate confirmations work.

A bigger problem with vacant ambassadorships is that Trump has simply not bothered to fill them. The entire Jamal Khashoggi fiasco, which saw the Trump administration running interference for the faction within the Saudi government that murdered a Washington Post journalist, took place without an ambassador in place. Trump finally made a nomination in November, six weeks after the murder and subsequent fallout.

Likewise, Trump’s alternating attacks on and embrace of the murderous Kim regime in North Korea happened with no high-level U.S. diplomat in South Korea. Trump only nominated the current officeholder in late May of 2018, meaning that his appointment did not take effect until June 30, after Trump had yielded to North Korean overtures for an equal-status summit meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Why does this matter?

  • Presidents should know how the Senate works.
  • It's wrong to blame others for your own mistakes.