Mac Deford: Groundhog Day and Trump; Four More Years of Winter
Wednesday, February 01, 2017 5:20 PM
Yeah, another week, another column, and don’t tell me you’re surprised — of course it’s about Trump. And why not: the Trump Amateur Hour, pathetic though it is, has swamped the news.
The problem is not that Trump lies, that he’s mean-spirited, that he’s a diplomatic time-bomb, it’s the increased danger his policies pose to the US.
Tuesday’s NY Times headline spread across the entire front page: “Trump Fires Justice Chief Who Defied Him.” The Washington Post meanwhile focused more on the opposition’s reaction, “Democrats Boycott Hearings, Delaying Votes on Two Nominees.” Back to the Times, zeroing in on the bigger picture, “Jarring New Level of Confrontation Hits Washington.”
It all started, of course, with Trump’s refugee ban: “Pox Americana,” as Foreign Policy magazine calls it, “a blight befalling the world as a consequence of mean-spirited, ill-considered, short-sighted US foreign policy.’’
While the Times’ original headline on the story — “Trump’s Ban on Refugees Draws Deep Anger and Muted Praise” — acknowledged that not quite everyone was against the ban, the article pointed out that “some immigration policy experts in the United States question the logic behind the action. They noted that terrorists who had carried out attacks in the United States had not entered as refugees, and that Muslim attackers had been born here or came from countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia — which were not on the list of the seven countries that had been singled out for a halt to entry.”
And don’t think it was just the liberal press that had problems with the rationale behind Trump’s edict. The Wall Street Journal made the same point as the Times: “Few of the dozens of plots during or after 2001 were attempted or carried out by suspects who came from the countries targeted under the ban.’’
Nor, publicly, was it only Democrats attacking the Trump ban. The Journal again: “A growing number of Republican senators said they were uneasy” with Trump’s decision, it wrote in an article headlined, “Republican Senators Question Trump on Executive Order.” It noted that at least a dozen Republican senators raised concerns, quoting a joint statement from Senators McCain and Graham that Trump’s order "may do more to help terrorist recruitment than to improve our security.”
Not to single out that bastion of conservative Republican journalism, but the Journal’s editorial on Monday was particularly damning: “President Trump seems determined to conduct a shock and awe campaign to fulfill his campaign promises as quickly as possible, while dealing with the consequences later. This may work for a pipeline approval, but the bonfire over his executive order on refugees shows that government by deliberate disruption can blow up in damaging ways.” It ended with this warning: “Political disruption has its uses but not if it consumes your Presidency in the process.” And this was before the acting attorney general refused to carry out Trump’s order.
And it’s not just “political disruption’’ that’s the major problem, it’s Trump’s total disregard for facts: “‘Up is Down’: Trump’s Unreality Show Echoes His Past Dubious Claims in Business” was the lengthy headline the NY Times gave its story outlining Trump’s playful approach to reality. The Times reported that PolitiFact, a website devoted to checking the veracity of claims by public officials, reported it “has scrutinized 356 specific claims by Mr. Trump and found that more than two-thirds were ‘mostly false,’ ‘false,’ or in 82 cases, ‘Pants on Fire’ false. Trump is a different kind of figure than we’ve ever seen before in our 10 years of fact-checking,’’ the Times quoted PolitiFact’s creator. “No one has come close to him in the high percentage of falsehoods.”
Mainstream Republican Steve Schmidt, who helped manage McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, had a particularly damning comment, calling Trump’s lies “a direct assault on the very idea of representative democracy.’’
Not that any of this should be surprising. As David Rothkopf had written a few days earlier in Foreign Policy, Trump’s “transition period will almost certainly go down in history as the most badly executed and chaotic in modern American history.’’ And quite apart from the chaos, Rothkopf added, “that’s to say nothing of the off-the-cuff elements of Trump’s foreign policy, as occurred when he escalated a growing problem surrounding the impending visit of Mexican President Pena Nieto with an ill-considered, early-morning tweet that resulted in the cancellation of his visit.’’
The problem is not that Trump lies, that he’s mean-spirited, that he’s a diplomatic time-bomb, it’s the increased danger his policies pose to the US. “Trump’s Immigration Order Gives Ammunition to ISIS, Endangers US Troops” headlines another Foreign Policy story. The opening paragraph amplified the point: “The executive order is ostensibly meant to protect the US from terrorism, but will almost certainly have the opposite effect, said experts, former senior officials and lawmakers from both parties.”
The Washington Post confirmed that fear, headlining a story, “Jihadist Groups Hail Trump’s Travel Ban as a Victory,” in which it quoted one ISIS site as praising President Trump as “the best caller to Islam.” A former senior CIA official agreed, “This was a win for jihadists and other anti-US forces.”
The Times’ David Brooks even quotes Eliot Cohen, a former Bush administration high-up, as fearing that Trump’s presidency “will probably end in calamity … domestic protest and violence … or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have.”
Enough bad news? How’s this to cheer you up: an adjacent article in the Post pointed out that in reaction to Trump’s first week as president, “ACLU Says It Got $24 Million in On-line Donations, Six Times its Yearly Average.’’ Trump as a key fund-raiser for the American Civil Liberties Union is a fine bit of irony.
But hardly compensation. As the weeks and months ahead stretch out to four years, we will be facing a serious problem — not just how to cope with the tweets of this emotional, in-your-face incompetent, but much more important, how to prepare for, and then defend against, his potentially very dangerous policies.