Tremors From the White House

Terry H. Schwadron

March 16, 2018

Of course, you and I could just ignore all the upset and contradictions, and just see how things work out.

But the sheer number of smacks on the political head coming at once is more than a little unsettling when you think about how the government is supposed to be working for us. There is a natural urge to try to make sense of news, to put developments into an order of sorts, but lately there has been no time to allow any one thing to settle in before there are more incoming political missiles.

Donald Trump has succeeded at creating continuous disruption, seemingly a state where he likes to deal:

· The same President Trump who won’t acknowledge that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections for fear of being thought of illegitimate now has lowered sanctions on Russian individuals and agencies who had first to be charged criminally by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Still, the president can’t quite seem to come out with even words to hold Russia responsible for the nerve-agent killings of a former spy and his daughter in Britain, though he is allowing underlings to say rotten things about Russia. And now Russia is said to have tried hacking into electrical systems as a warning message about its reach.

· Then it comes out that this same Special Counsel has subpoenaed all Trump Organization documents and records concerning all-things-Russia, including pending multimillion-dollar business deals in Russia. That’s right, this order was a subpoena, not a request, indicating a much longer inquiry into Trump financial affairs that he had declared off-limits for any special counsel. Trump said he is complying because, well, there never was any collusion with Russia. It seems obvious that Mueller is going after the Trump family finances, which sound more and more involved with various Russian oligarchs and bankers.

· This same president is leaning on Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to fire the all-but-retired deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, denying him a pension after 25 years. And that Sessions may be fired next, if he chooses to save McCabe’s pension. And that all this is about remarks McCabe made to the Inspector General about allowing The Wall Street Journal to discover that the FBI was actually looking into Hillary Clinton’s email world back a couple of years ago. Sessions should go, but all of a sudden, we’re pulling for him to stay just to make it more difficult for Trump to try to fire Mueller. And because the guy lined up to take Sessions’ job is Scott Pruitt, who single-handedly has done his best to destroy environmental regulation.

· In a leaked tape of remarks at a Missouri fund-raiser, this same president boasted of making up facts to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he didn’t know whether the United States has a trade deficit or surplus with our neighbor. And then he ordered the White House staff to come up with alternative facts to buttress his false statements about the matter. What? This is something that businessman Trump is supposed to be expert about, right? He’s making it up?

· And we have open speculation about who is next in the Cabinet to face public humiliation at the impulsive president’s hands. He only wants total loyalty in his appointees — whether they are qualified for the job or not. He is said to be ready to oust Gen. H.R. McMaster, among the single-most respected advisers in his group. The nomination of Larry Kudlow, for example, a garrulous business cable television commentator to run our economy rather than appointing say, an economist, could be explained only by outward displays of loyalty. On MSNBC, panelists were speculating openly that Turmp wants a “war” council around him for dealing with widening problems with the special counsel. I don’t agree but found it interesting that we just speculate about such things now.

Meanwhile, the president was trying to take credit for a Democrat winning a race in Pennsylvania fueled by voters who oppose him, and, he was pretty deep in the weeds trying to extricate his image (a Trump Organization lawyer now seems involved in the payments) from hush money payoffs to porn star and director Stormy Daniels.

What are we learning — again?

The truth in any transaction is fungible, ethical standards are out the window, and the president is increasingly isolated as a leader. Foreign leaders will say they can’t believe anything he says, and they cannot trust that the next Secretary of State will speak for Trump any more than Rex Tillerson did. What do you think Kim Jung-Un is going to do with the guy who couldn’t keep straight deficits and surpluses, never mind nuclear one-upsmanship.

The president’s choice of Kudlow as chief economics adviser guarantees friction because Kudlow doesn’t believe in the same trade thinking that the president does and he believes we should be keeping NAFTA. Meanwhile, Congress is taking away regulations over banking, health care is at sea, and the education secretary is showing publicly that she knows little about schools or education.

High school protesters sound more direct and understandable about gun policies than all the president’s men, and the president could not even take the time of a tweet to recognize their efforts. Instead, he is worried about the image of his Cabinet because of self-enriching schemes rather than about the effects of his government.

Frankly, it is a mess, and an unseemly mess at that.

Throughout all of the muss and fuss, it becomes more and more clear that Trump lacks basic courtesy, basic understanding of issues before him, and any sense of statesmanship.

How about we do something to make Trump Great. Or at least functional.

The obvious question is not about expecting Trump to change. Rather it is about why congressional Republicans and Trump supporters are eschewing reason and staying with their guy.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer