The Trump Watch (mid-April 2018)

Pants on Fire

We know Trump lies to us, lies to Congress, even – maybe especially – lies to his wife, but recently we learned that he lies to the leaders of other countries as well, as the Washington Post reported.

President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was the case.

Trump was wrong, of course.

If he’s going to lie – even to one of our closest allies – and then he’s going to reveal publicly that he’s lying, why should the leader of any other country believe a word he says? And doesn’t that hurt the country Trump’s supposed to be leading?

“Would I lie to you?”

Another Lie

Trump recently told a rally in Pennsylvania that he won the women’s vote in his campaign; he said 52 percent of the women who voted picked him.

Okay, that number is off by a little: it was actually 41 percent, which is not only 20 percent lower but also means he didn’t actually win the women’s vote after all.

McMaster Drove Him Crazy

“it’s not like McMaster talks about anything important.”

Kim Jong-Trump and now-deposed national security advisor H.R. McMaster apparently were not a good match from the start but we’ve now learned about one of the things about McMaster that bothered Trump the most: McMaster’s meticulous attention to detail. Whenever they sat down to discuss a policy or a problem or a new way of doing something, McMaster would come armed with a PowerPoint presentation that laid out all of the options and explained the pros and cons of the various choices in great detail.

Which is pretty much what you’d expect of any national security advisor and especially from one who has spent his life in the military.

Trump hated it. He doesn’t want information, doesn’t want to know the details. He just wants to make quick decisions based on his instincts – instincts informed by virtually no knowledge or understanding of the issues at hand. So of course McMaster drove him crazy because professionalism drives him crazy and so of course McMaster had to go.

And replaced by John Bolton, the guy who gets practically orgasmic at the thought of the U.S. attacking North Korea.

Speaking of Bolton…

We now know that as far back as December of 2016 Trump was interested in appointing Bolton secretary of state but decided against it because…he didn’t like Bolton’s mustache.

Seriously.

Firing By Tweet

Agent Orange’s practice of firing people by tweet is appalling. It’s gutless and classless and just plain rude, especially when the people he’s firing, The Curmudgeon’s disdain for most of them notwithstanding, are people of accomplishment and distinction and deserve better.

Everyone deserves better. Remember when he sent his bodyguard to California to give James Comey a letter firing him and then was angry that the FBI let Comey fly back to Washington on the government plane that took him to the west coast?

Also deplorable is the manner in which Trump treats people when he’s getting ready to fire them – as the Washington Post found a source to explain:

“What’s befallen Shulkin is a favorite tactic of Trump’s, who followed a similar approach with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and, to a lesser degree, national security adviser H.R. McMaster,” they continue. “The president emasculates those who fall from favor, humiliating them through media leaks and in disparaging comments to friends. The mixed signals often leave even senior White House officials guessing who will be fired and when.”

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Published reports suggest that Agent Orange has required some of his senior staff members to sign non-disclosure agreements that could cost them as much as $10 million – for every violation.

That’s unacceptable. We may have no right to the inside scoop on operations in the Trump Organization but this is the White House and the federal government and that’s the people’s government, not the Trump Organization government. Books about public service, books about people who work in government, and the ability of people of conscience to express their concerns to the press, either confidentially or for attribution, are absolutely essential to our very form of government.

The Curmudgeon suspects that such non-disclosure agreements would not stand up in court, but that may not even matter if the people who signed them are too intimidated to challenge them.

And if that’s the case, we’re all worse for it.

The Caravan

We know that about 1500 Nicaraguans crossed their country’s border together into Mexico, fleeing violence at home. They were bound for the U.S., the president told us.

Actually, many of them were bound for Mexico, not the U.S. That’s not a surprise: border crossings from Mexico into the U.S. are reportedly at a 45-year low.

But that caravan, he told us, was dangerous: Trump insisted that women on the caravan “…are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”

Only it’s not true. With all of the information sources at his disposal, Trump relied on a newspaper report – and promptly misinterpreted it. It said absolutely nothing about rapes within the caravan. In fact, NBC news reports about “… one woman who praised the men in the caravan for protecting her, noting that it “has begun to feel a little like a family.”

So once again, he made up fake facts to support the story he wanted to tell rather than the story of what actually happened.

Vote Fraud – Again

Never one to abandon a good lie even after it’s been debunked, Kim Jong-Trump continues to insist that millions of votes were cast illegally, most of them against him, in the 2016 election.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, he doubled down on his lies to a Virginia audience.

In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that,” he told the crowd. “They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.

Of course there’s never been a whiff of proof that this is true. In fact, Trump appointed a special commission to look into vote fraud in the 2016 election and that commission found nothing and disbanded.

But it’s a great way to get a sympathetic crowd going and he’ll no doubt continue using it.

Bad Faith

Republicans and Democrats worked together through an agonizing process to craft a makeshift budget to take the federal government through the rest of the current fiscal year and to set spending levels for the year after that as well. There was a lot of give and take, a lot of compromises by both sides, and both sides had victories they could show their supporters and promises on which they failed to deliver. The final product is a hot mess that pleases no one but got the job done.

But just a few weeks after it passed, Agent Orange decided that he wants to cut spending some more as soon as possible.

To their credit, even a lot of Republicans are telling him his idea is a non-starter and that if they go back on their word just weeks after they gave it, they’ll never be able to negotiate with Democrats again because those Democrats would never have any reason to believe them about anything.

But Trump doesn’t understand that kind of thing, doesn’t understand integrity, doesn’t understand the importance of keeping one’s word.

Using the Presidency to Promote His Businesses

How does a president make a golf tournament all about him?

Trust Agent Orange to find a way.

When Patrick Reed won the Masters golf tournament, Trump tweeted his congratulations:

Congratulations to Patrick Reed on his great and courageous MASTERS win! When Patrick had his amazing win at Doral 5 years ago, people saw his great talent, and a bright future ahead. Now he is the Masters Champion!

 That’s nice, right? It’s arguably the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, the golf equivalent of the Super Bowl, and the president congratulated him. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, a closer look finds that the Masters was Reed’s sixth golf tournament victory, so why did the president mention only one of his other five?

Because the Doral tournament Reed won five years ago about which the president tweeted is actually called the Trump National Doral and it’s played on a Trump course in Florida.

The guy never misses an opportunity to use his office to promote his own business interests.

The Seven Deadly Sins

The seven deadly sins, we’re told, are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. When it comes to these standards, Agent Orange is a real achiever. His pride, we’re told, is off the charts. Greed we all know about. Lust? Ask Stormy Daniels and the others. Envy? He’s always been envious of anyone who has more money than he does. Wrath: we’ve certainly seen it, the adult version of a two-year-old’s temper tantrum.

But you wouldn’t suspect sloth. After all, he’s an enterprising guy who appears to have worked pretty damn hard to make money, build his reputation (such as it is), and then, late in life, enter politics and get elected president. But we’re hearing that he’s sort of resting on his laurels now, as many people his age do, and last week Vanity Fair wrote about a guy who’s apparently incredibly lazy.

This past weekend, we saw yet another report, this time from Jonathan Swan at Axios, on how little time Donald Trump spends at the office. Swan reports that Trump is spending about seven hours a day in the West Wing, much of it watching TV in the dining room, then taking off for home to watch more TV. This is consistent with other reports suggesting that Trump’s schedule consists largely of coming into the office to scream at people for seven hours and then going home to tear through cheeseburgers and scream at Fox. Even before the feds raided Trump’s lawyer, the president, according to The New York Times, spent his weekend “engaged in few activities other than dinner at the Trump International Hotel.” Policy discussions seem to be so difficult that the president now gets doses of “Policy Time” once or twice a day. Trump has bowed out of a Summit of the Americas trip, sending Mike Pence in his place, so that Trump can focus on Syria, except that Pence seems to be taking the lead on that, too.

 Even worse is what he does with all that free time.

Unstructured time seems to be incubating his biggest outbursts of rage, and those have mostly negative policy consequences. This week, he has been taunting Russia with promises to launch missiles at Syria. His sounding board on whether to indulge in such rhetoric is John Bolton, whose judgment on obnoxiousness is best compared to Caligula’s judgment on kink.

And then there’s all that tweeting. Aside from how ridiculous so many of his tweets are, don’t you find yourself wondering “Doesn’t this guy have anything better to do with his time?”

Actually, it’s sort of like…blogging. (Gulp!)

The Michael Wolff Book

The Curmudgeon has just finished Michael Woolf’s behind-the-scenes look at the Trump administration (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House) and all he can say is that if you choose to believe even 25 percent of this book you’ll realize that it’s all far, far, far worse than you ever imagined. If you haven’t already read it, try to find a copy (The Curmudgeon got his from the Free Library of Philadelphia).

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