// 100 days under President Trump //
––>> FEBRUARY, every entry
40. (Tue, 28 Feb 2017) – RISING TO THE OCCASION
Tomorrow there will be a lot of talk about the p-word. After delivering what Politico called a speech “remarkable for how unremarkable it was” the word pivot seems inevitable to consider when deciphering Donald Trump’s remarks before both chambers of Congress tonight.
Some commentators called the scripted, subdued performance Donald Trump’s most presidential address yet, others even saw in it the making of a president: Van Jones, the outspoken Trump critic, found the bit in which the President spoke to Carryn Owens, the widow of slain US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, to be Trump’s deciding moment: “He became President of the United States in that moment, period.”
From the outset, the speech seemed like any other Trump speech from the campaign. It had all the important issues in it: the wall, illegal immigration, jobs for American workers, factories in China, the military. Two things were notably missing: Apart from a sly dig (“we are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media”) the press was ignored, and the term fake news didn’t even feature once. Also absent from the speech was the word Mexico. Trump only referred to the wall along “our Southern border”.
So, has the unlikeliest of presidents found his voice with this address and made a serious push towards being more presidential in the traditional sense? I wouldn’t exactly bet on it. His line “our children will grow up in a nation of miracles” was exemplary for the kind of president of miracles that he has showcased to be: if needs be, his tone is adjusted, less gloomy, less aggressive, more forthcoming. But that’s all.
The polarizing bits he left out, namely his vendetta with the press and Mexico’s apparent obligation to pay for his wall. And BOOM, all of a sudden he seemed presidential. Well, let’s face it: all he did was read from a teleprompter without any major incidents. The message, if at all intended, was simple: see, I can rise to the occasion.
Maybe he can, which counts for something. But even after that speech it is still hard to fathom what his real strategy is. Not just that he offered a lot without any details on how to achieve or pay for his promises, but in the end he remained the usual paradoxical president: earlier today he called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi “incompetent”, during the speech he asked to work “past the differences of party”; he used a girl with Rare Disease as testimony to further his agenda after having mocked a disabled reporter on the campaign trail; he blamed his generals for the death of Navy SEAL Owens (“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do”), then he bathed in applause for remembering him during the speech; he declared that “the time for trivial fights is behind us” when all he does is pick petty fights –– be it with the media, politicians, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He has done it before. Changing his tone, appearing more appropriate to what his role as president asks of him. How long did it last? One tweet or one press conference, in most cases.
Trump does pivot. Usually by 360 degrees.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Bob Seger, “Still the same”
39. (Mon, 27 Feb 2017) – THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL
In line with keeping promises made during the campaign, the White House announced today that Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will look to increase defence and security spending by $54 billion. At the same time, non-defense programmes are expected to see cuts by roughly the same amount.
The budget blueprint, which was sent to government agencies on Monday, would increase defence spending to $603 billion and decrease non-defense discretionary spending to $462 billion, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said.
“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump said at a bipartisan gathering of US governors at the White House. His promises for substantial increases in defence, law enforcement, and infrastructure spending signifies an expected shift away from the Obama administration, which acted as a champion of the arts and the environment.
Trump had promised during the campaign to strengthen the military and increase the defence budget. “We have to win. We have to start winning wars again,” Trump said at the White House address.
The budget proposal should come as no surprise, it is what he promised his supporters up and down the country before the election in November. And yet, if Trump says, it is time to win again, then just who will he be fighting?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Hot Chocolate, “Everyone’s a winner”
38. (Sun, 26 Feb 2017) – SO LAST SEASON
The recent so-called golden age of TV has taught us many things: about advertising and sexism, about cancer and crystal meth, about dragons and public shaming, about D.C. rib joints and revenge, and much more. And as these shows went on for a number of seasons, even the best scripts could not paint over the fact that there was always one character that had outstayed his or her welcome. At some point, that person had to go –– too annoying, too evil, or in a few cases not evil enough.
If you are not evil enough for modern television, you certainly are a character that lacks much-needed scheming skills. Without the ability to play two parties off each other you are a nobody. That sudden death will only be a couple of episodes away.
In politics, the dark art of persuasion and deception, now more than ever, is essential for your survival. If you don’t give things the right spin, your career can be over and done within the matter of an afternoon. If TV taught us another thing, it is the fact that the passive character gets the boot more often. Rarely is your destiny safe when put in the hands of someone else. That’s why in politics leaks were invented. Giving away information can be a direct or indirect exchange for wealth, publicity, or simply put the right spin on an issue that benefits you as the leaker.
No one in modern politics is without agenda. So if too much spin from the opposition gets you in a tumble you will have to do something, or else your political days are numbered.
For White House press secretary Sean Spicer, the plot development has not been looking all too promising: he has been ridiculed on SNL several times, he was responsible for telling “alternative facts”, and apparently Donald Trump even made him get a makeover.
So now, it seems, Spicer is trying to back out of a corner he has been put into for a number of weeks: the cue ball of the powerful. If the brutal politics on the Hill is nothing but resembling the in-fighting of House Targaryen, it should be time for Spicer to make his way out of the dragons’ den very soon before he gets roasted once more.
And there it was, the plot twist: “Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing,” Politico reported today. According to the article increased security measures were implemented, including random phone checks for White House staffers.
“The push to snuff out leaks to the press comes after a week in which President Donald Trump strongly criticised the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorised sharing of information by individuals in his administration,” the article continues.
How well Spicer’s proactive crackdown on leaks is working is highlighted by the next sentence from that Politico story: “Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.”
According to multiple sources. The fine irony in this will not have been lost to his boss, who happens to be the showrunner, too. The question for the unfortunate-acting Sean Spicer is now: is Donald Trump going the whole four seasons with him by his side?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Music, “The truth is no words”
37. (Sat, 25 Feb 2017) – WHAT ELSE?
What else were we supposed to do? That is a very good question, and it would deserve a very good answer. That question, however, seems just a little thin for explaining why White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked FBI Director James Comey to publicly dispute media reports that members of Donald Trump’s campaign team had been in touch with Russian intelligence agents.
In a little update after yesterday’s developments, press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the contact between the White House and FBI, and argued that Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey’s help in denying what he claimed were “inaccurate reports”:
“I really am intrigued by I don’t know what else we were supposed to do. We were provided information. And this notion that I see on CNN about we pushed back or we applied pressure. Pressure, by definition, is applying force. So if we had said, ‘If you don’t do this, if you don’t do that,’ that’s pressure. And I get that. That would have been wrong. ‘We order you to do this. We require you to do that. We’re urging’ — we literally responded when presented with information and said, ‘Could you let the media know that, what you’re informing us of?’
And the answer was, well, we don’t want to get in the middle of starting a practice of doing this. So our answer is, well, why did you come to us with this information if not to elicit a response?
I don’t know what else you do except for say, gosh, could you clear the record up? That is a very different scenario than trying to exert influence on a situation. We literally responded to what they came to us with and said, okay, what are you going to do about it?”
So, all the White House wanted was some big boy help to get someone else to clean up their mess? Oh, quelle surpirse then that the FBI wasn’t much into the idea of flexing its muscle on behalf of the Trump campaign’s shady dealings with the Russians.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Beatles, “With a little help from my friends”
36. (Fri, 24 Feb 2017) – ACCESS DENIED
The story broke late last night: “FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories” ran the CNN headline. In it, there is talk of how “the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign”, and then the deciding line: “… multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.”
Twelve hours later, Donald Trump got on the podium at CPAC to deliver his speech as the newly elected President of the United States. What should’ve been remarks on his vision for Conservatism in 2017, got off to a different start. Trump, once again, attacked the free press for reporting on what is going on inside the White House:
“And I want you all to know we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake. Phony. Fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the ‘enemy of the people’, and they are. They are the ‘enemy of the people’. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. And I said, give me a break because I know the people. I know who they talked to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they say, oh, nine people, they have nine sources. They make up sources.”
Trump knows the business, in fact he knows it too well. During the campaign he and his staff went off the record on numerous occasions to give their agenda and their opinion on a number of topics a certain spin.
Now, in front of the conservative crowd at CPAC, he appeared as meek as a lamb, putting the blame for playing the game solely on the media: “They’re very dishonest people. In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people — the fake news. They dropped off the word ‘fake’. And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy. They take the word ‘fake’ out.”
We may agree that the outlets he named (The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN) are not contributing to fake news, quite the opposite. You might agree or disagree with their reporting, but they are holding Trump and his administration accountable. Anonymous sources can be a problem to an extent, yet these outlets should be tough on him, they should report everything that sounds fishy.
“I’m not against the media, I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them,” Trump said at CPAC. A couple of hours later, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and CNN were told they were not on the White House list for today’s off-camera briefing.
Coincidently, these outlets, among others, had been reporting extensively on the FBI/White House story.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Arcade Fire, “Rebellion (Lies)”
35. (Thu, 23 Feb 2017) – THICK AS THIEVES
It was a rare public appearance for Steve Bannon when he sat in on a discussion at CPAC with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to assert fellow Conservatives that, in fact, all was going well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you found the overt chumminess depicted by the two panellists was a bit much for your taste, the crowd seemed happy, and the host was certainly loving it: “You know, Steve you’re a really likeable guy. You should do this more often.”
Maybe he should. Then we could get a better gist of the guy the dub the actual President of the United States. Today, sitting next to the somewhat grovelling Priebus, we saw a man for 30 minutes that seemed assured in what he was saying, in how he was saying it, and why he was saying it.
“If you look at the opposition party and how they portray the campaign, how they portrayed the transition and now they’re portraying the administration, it’s always wrong,” he said. And by ‘the opposition’ he meant the media, of course.
Listening back to the conversation, you hardly come across a hate filled individual at work here. Bannon, in contrast to Trump’s public anti-media outbursts, showcased an unstressed character to his public perception, although he admitted to being more sultry than Priebus: “Yeah, you know, I can run a little hot on occasions.”
If it wasn’t a furious alt-right advocate that has a proven record of antisemitism, who then did we witness that CPAC? The concerned ideologue. The thinking conservative that cares for his country with deep conviction.
The double act with Priebus was to prove to sceptical Conservatives: we are getting along swimmingly, the White House is in good hands with us. And still, all the assertion cannot quite besmirch the fact that these two are from opposite ends.
Priebus is the technocrat, the GOP soldier, Washington’s political system has made him who he is. First party chairman, now chief of staff. Bannon, on the other hand, has made his money working in the industry before he helmed the flamethrowing, mainstream-kicking Breitbart News website. Then came the call from Trump to take care of his chaotic campaign.
While Priebus was eager to praise his new boss, Bannon explained where the real estate mogul was coming from: “The reason it worked is President Trump. I mean, Trump had those ideas, had that energy, had that vision that could galvanise a team around him … and we never had a doubt and Donald Trump never had a doubt that he was going to win.”
To the question what had been the most significant steps undertaken by President Trump, Bannon said: “I think one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history was his immediate withdraw from TPP. That got us out of a trade deal and let our sovereignty come back to ourselves, the people. The mainstream media don’t get this, but we’re already working in consultation with the Hill. People are starting to think through a whole raft of amazing and innovative, bilateral relationships — bilateral trading relationships with people that will reposition America in the world as a fair trading nation and start to bring high value-added, manufacturing jobs back to the United States of America.”
He also picked up on an old Leftist vision that the Right now seems to have appropriated into its own thinking: “These cabinet appointees were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Deconstruction is not a new word in political thinking. Bannon, however, has incorporated it into his own agenda for the Trump administration: The state’s rules and regulations, its trade deals, and tax burdens are merely contributing to lower economic growth and one’s individual freedom.
Of course, on stage at CPAC we only got a snippet of Bannon’s way of thinking but after those 40 minutes, the notion that it has been Bannon who pours all that dark matter into the President’s head so that he can deliver it through his unique rhetoric filter does ring a little less hollow now.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Libertines, “What became of the likely lads?”
34. (Wed, 22 Feb 2017) – REVOKING TRANSGENDER PROTECTION
If your political agenda follows a stone-cold opportunistic philosophy, then maybe the level of surprise is small when all of a sudden you take a step that will make life for trans kids more difficult.
It took the Trump administration a mere two-page letter to revoke an Obama landmark directive aimed at protecting the rights of transgender students, telling public schools today that the policy has caused a rash of lawsuits nationwide and needs to be reconsidered. Under the Obama guidance, transgender students were allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity
According to the new letter sent out by the Justice and Education departments, the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal law did not “undergo any formal public process” prior to its release last year and “has given rise to significant litigation.”
Rescinding those guidelines at this point somewhat comes as a surprise, as a federal judge had put them on hold, arguing that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference. The Obama administration back then threatened to withhold funding for schools, colleges, and universities that did not comply with the guidance, which was legally non-binding.
That, in turn, led to a number of lawsuits over the issue in almost two dozen states, effectively contesting Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs. At the forefront of the legal challenge were Conservatives like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: “Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change,” Paxton told Reuters.
This seems to be in line with Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s new Attorney General. Sessions said in a statement that “the Department of Justice has a duty to enforce the law. The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”
A report by the New York Times suggested that the Trump administration’s plan to dismantle the Obama guidance sparked a disagreement between Sessions and Betsy DeVos. At least the new Education Secretary was quick to stress that “we have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” DeVos said in a statement, that “this is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate.”
In the end, it may come down to the courts having their the final say over whether Title IX covers transgender students. And the President, what exactly does he have to say about the decision, which surely will not have been bypassed him today?
“Oh, I had a feeling that question was going to come up,” Trump said last April during a town hall event in Maryland on the issue that will now leave transgender students even more vulnerable to abuse and bullying. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate.”
A change of heart he is yet to explain.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Badly Drawn Boy, “Pissing in the wind”
33. (Tue, 21 Feb 2017) – MINCING WORDS
Today was the day that Milo Yiannopoulos fell on its own sword: like him, someone didn’t mince words. That certain someone was the public, the internet, and a handsome number of his critics. On Monday, the American Conservative Union rescinded its invitation to speak at one of their events scheduled for later on during this week after a backlash over comments Yiannopoulos made that appeared to condone statutory rape and sexual relationships between boys and men.
Something that he strongly denied in a Facebook post after being disinvited and having lost a book deal with the publisher Simon & Schuster, and once again today in a press conference where he announced his resignation as a Breitbart News editor.
Yiannopoulos vowed not to let the haters get the better of him, instead he promised to “be back with details of my new publisher, my new media venture and my new tour.”
“This week, for political gain, the media and the Republican establishment accused a child abuse victim of enabling child abuse,” he stated. “It’s sick. But they have not killed me. They have only made me stronger.”
If that kind of vengeful rhetoric sounds familiar, it is because Donald Trump supporter Yiannopoulos might have taken notice what the President has said about getting a bloody nose from someone. During a speech in 2007, Donald Trump explained his first rule of business: “It’s called ‘Get Even.’ Get even (…) When you’re in business, you get even with people that screw you. And you screw them 15 times harder. And the reason is, the reason is, the reason is, not only, not only, because of the person that you’re after, but other people watch what’s happening. Other people see you or see you or see and they see how you react.”
To be clear, Yiannopoulos will have to deal with the aftermath of those uncovered tapes on his terms. It has nothing to do with Trump. Nothing whatsoever.
The two men share something in common, though. It is a certain mentality that enabled these two personalities to carve out a certain niche in conservatism.
Both are not particularly conservative, which seems surprising first of all. As a politician, Trump is a populist on an authoritarian trajectory, but foremost he is an opportunist. Someone who says what and when he needs to say it to achieve his objectives.
Milo Yiannopoulos, on the other hand, just last weekend, the day before these tapes surfaced in fact, rejected the term as being used for himself. He agreed, however, to be a Trump supporter. Yiannopoulos is a peacock for attention, someone who knows how to play the media, and use socio-economic codes to manipulate his audience.
Each in his own way, but both men have been able to forge their way into the Conservative mainstream –– not by being great thinkers that contributed original thoughts to a Republican discourse, but simply for representing outrageous views that managed to get under every Liberal’s skin.
For a lot of Republicans, knowing now to piss off Democrats was enough to get them a seat at the table.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Dire Straits, “Brothers in arms”
32. (Mon, 20 Feb 2017) – ABOARD THE OFF-COURSE SHIP
How could he let it rest? After all, Donald Trump created that mess himself with that botched line during Saturday’s rally about an apparent incident in Sweden at the end of last week. No source, no evidence, no nothing. Just him claiming things. And yet, President Trump clung onto his favourite tool when it comes to papering over the cracks: “Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large-scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!” Trump tweeted today.
Well, that’s that settled then. Well. Maybe. Maybe not. Little evidence provided, again. But is that what Twitter is for? Ex-act-ly. And the President had bigger fish to fry than the Swedish anyway. After talks over the weekend, the presented Michael Flynn’s successor. The name reads well on a business card: Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor.
Flynn’s forced resignation, we remember, left the National Security Council in disarray and somewhat leaderless, especially that Trump initial first choice as Flynn replacement, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the offer on Thursday. Another candidate who was supposed to be in the running, Gen. David Petraeus, took himself out of consideration over concerns that he wouldn’t have full authority to hire his own staff.
If McMaster insisted on that feat is not known. We do know, though, that he is the thinking man’s general: McMaster “is considered one of the Army’s top intellectuals,” Politico writes. He is the author of a best-selling book about failed military leadership during the Vietnam War and later went on to help pioneer counterinsurgency operations in Iraq.
Even the GOP seemed content with Trump’s choice. One of his leading critics, Senator John McCain, said in a statement: “I give President Trump great credit for this decision, as well as his national security cabinet choices,” the Senate Armed Services Chairman wrote after the announcement. “I have had the honor of knowing [McMaster] for many years, and he is a man of genuine intellect, character, and ability. He knows how to succeed.”
“He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience,” Trump said of his new national security adviser. “I watched and read a lot over the last two days. He is highly respected by everyone in the military, and we’re very honored to have him.”
So plenty of praise for the new national security advisor. And yet, there are issues where Trump and McMaster are likely to lock horns: As of today, McMaster was director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. This task there was to come up with a long-term strategy for the Army and focus specifically on how the U.S. can counter Russian tactics, including a heavy reliance on cyber attacks.
If the President (taking a more lenient approach) and the General will see eye-to-eye when it comes to squaring off to Russia, remains unknown.
Judging by the way they seem to be informed by Team Trump, the Russians might know before McMaster does.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Paul Weller, “Brand new start”
31. (Sun, 19 Feb 2017) – NOT TIED DOWN
While the Swedes are still snickering over an alleged incident in their country, and the President is enjoying a casual round of golf at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach maybe it’s a good time to hit the pause button for a minute and leave the madness for a day …
… and ask a simple question instead: has anyone else noticed how Trump without that dangling tie just looks like a long-retired pool boy from Florida on a night out?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: %20SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Mind games””>R.E.M., “Nightswimming”
30. (Sat, 18 Feb 2017) – SWEDE DREAMS
The cable news President is living in a bubble himself. Evidently, this is pure speculation. But what is one to do if he is surrounded by security and brown-nosers 24/7?
Uuuh, Mr President, can I this for you, can I that for you? Do you need anything?, and so forth.
You keep in touch with the world outside by talking to less-guarded, by, ahm, reading and watching the news, or you meet 9000 of your friends.
Which Donald Trump did today. While he spent his weekend in Florida, he extended an invitation to join him at an airport hangar in Melbourne, FL for a campaign rally, and around 9000 people turned up. All that noisy talk of him holding a rally so soon after being sworn in because he is a megalomaniac already back on the trail eyeing 2020 is a bit premature. It took President Obama 20 days after inauguration to hold his first rally; Trump let 29 days pass. In Obama’s incident, however, it was to pressure Congress to pass his stimulus bill. Trump, on the other hand, had no legislation to sell as he hasn’t sent any proposals to Congress yet.
Seemingly, he was just there to revel in applause and adulation. The rally possessed all of his trademarks: there were big crowds, a sweet playlist, media put-downs, that “I inherited a big mess” line, and an overall grim outlook on what is happening in the US and the rest of the world. Trump’s reference without reference to “what’s happening last night in Sweden” during the rally raised the question as to how the tie-less open shirt might have pumped too much blood in his head.
“We’ve got to keep our country safe,” he said. “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.”
You may look at Sweden as much as you like, but nothing of any major significance seemed to have happened there last night. The official Twitter of the Embassy of Sweden in the US has responded to those asking about what happened Friday night by saying: “Unclear to us what President Trump was referring to. Have asked US officials for explanation.”
Is the President caught in a bubble? Did he fall for fake news? We don’t know.
The standards he demands from the press don’t apply to him. Yesterday I tried to make sense of this tweets saying the “fake news media” were “the enemy of the American people”. Again, it is a game, both sides play it happily. Trump feeds off it, he needs and wants media attention. Without the press, he’d be nothing. But, cleverly, he also has a higher motive for proclaiming them the enemy, which became evident from that rally today where he repeated the fake news media accusation in front of his supporters: the media somewhat falls for it and talks about itself a lot, which turns off voters who view this self-adulation as narcissistic.
In the long run, it all plays into Trump’s hand.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Mind games”
29. (Fri, 17 Feb 2017) – OUTRIGHT ENEMIES
Clearly, it took something for everyone to cool down a bit after Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday. The press was still, and rightly so, clenching its fist, while the President went for a full swing in overtime:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 17. Februar 2017
(the “original”, later deleted tweet included fewer outlets)
So far: a war of words, which is fine. Up to a point. Twitter is the thought train everyone can jump onto and rev up the engine by adding his or her 140-character charcoal to the fire.
It is a game both sides like to partake in: Trump, ever the bragger, doesn’t hold back; the press, defending itself, and more importantly its role in democracy, holds him accountable for his actions. Both side, arguably, are taking the bait every time from the other side, though. It goes in circles, it’s twitter.
The question, however, is now if that ludicrous rhetoric of the media being the enemy of the people sets Trump up for something bigger. It might be a rhetorical question. Of course on the one hand, there is a word of words, but the underlying issue here at stake is Trump undermining and discrediting someone who he should use as a guide to his administration. They watch what the President does. They do that for the people –– as in on their behalf. And the President, especially a new one and novice politician, can watch what they have say to potentially adjust his actions.
But not with Trump. He is scenting unfair treatment, only furthering his own selective perception of himself. After the end of the campaign, where he was sparring with the other candidates, the GOP, and Hillary Clinton, it very much seems that he is missing an opponent. So the press becomes the punchball.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Rolling Stones, “Street Fighting Man”
28. (Thu, 16 Feb 2017) – “LEAKS ARE REAL, NEWS ARE FAKE”
In what must have been one of the more bizarre press conferences Donald Trump has given so far obviously lay a deeper truth. It was supposed to be a straight-forward affair. After Trump’s original choice for labour secretary, Andrew Puzder, pulled out of the nomination amid rumours his confirmation would fail to pass the Senate vote, less than 24 hours later the President presented a replacement candidate. The unveiling of Alexander Acosta (the only Latino in his cabinet should he be confirmed in the end) was to take place at the White House, followed by an impromptu press conference held by the President himself.
Right after some warm words for Acosta, Trump wasted no time with his latest, and frankly, extraordinary anti-media tirade, and launched his somewhat weak defence of the disarray the White House has found itself in since Trump has taken office in January. The simple question of a possible entanglement between his campaign and the Russians left Trump gasping for meaningful words.
“I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does,” Trump tried to assure the media at present. “And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
Concerning the information coming out of the White House and different national security agencies, Trump offered that Orwellian take: “Well, the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them. I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”
Trump, throughout the press conference, tried to convey the feeling he was very much in control, telling reporters to “be quiet”, to “sit down”, and making jokes on their behalf. He even did the press the favour to anticipate the headlines: “But I’m having a good time. Tomorrow, they will say, Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I’m not ranting and raving. I’m telling you you’re dishonest people, but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.”
And yet, despite the obvious grievances and anger at display, Trump did not strike a convincing figure in this game of intrigue between himself, the intelligence community, Russia, and the media. Venting his frustration in form of this very public therapy session leaves the conclusion that Trump’s attempt at demonstrating who’s in charge is only papering over the cracks his messy start to the Presidency has created.
True power still exerts itself in silence.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Ballad of the mighty I”
27. (Wed, 15 Feb 2017) – ONE, TWO, ONE, TWO
It wasn’t exactly a meeting of the minds. But as far as the relationship between the US and Israel goes, Donald Trump’s exchange with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must have felt like a breath of fresh air. During Barack Obama’s eight-year tenure things famously got frustrating for both sides on a number of occasions.
So the similarities both men share –– age, certain policies, and personal attitude –– seemed to resonate in a genuine mutual affection for another when they met today in Washington. And yet, when the two leaders talked politics, they still showed a significantly different outlook for the region.
For all the talk about Iran, which Trump and Netanyahu have easily singled-out as their common enemy, the question of settlement is not as clear-cut. Maybe Netanyahu liked what he saw in Trump the candidate, but Trump the President is somewhat different.
Apparently, he wants Netanyahu to have the final word on how to deal with the Palestinians but expects no further expansion when it comes to settlements. At the same time, Trump is seeking friendlier ties with Russia, which might not go down well in Tel Aviv. After all, Russia’s allies in the Middle East are not Israel’s allies in the Middle East. Israel is not going to bend over backwards in engaging with Russia when it comes to Syria just to please the US.
And then Trump performed a little diplomatic tap dance around the subject of the two-state solution. The President said he has no preference between one state and two states, as long as both sides agree.
“I’m looking at a two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” Trump said after the talks.” I could live with either one. I thought for a while the two state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly, if Bibi [Netanyahu] and if the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
What is seen as the bedrock for a diplomatic solution in the region –– reduced by Trump to a mere whatever. One, two, one, two.
How reassuring that meeting went for Netanyahu, who didn’t really have a natural fit in President Obama, showed a little episode during their joint press conference. An Israeli reporter asked a simple question regarding a “sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States” since the election in November. Trump, true to his natural style, boasted about the electoral college instead of answering the question:
Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had — 316 electoral college votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.
I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on. There’s a lot of bad things that have been taking place over a long period of time.
I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very divided nation, very divided. And hopefully, I’ll be able to do something about that. And I, you know, it was something that was very important to me.
As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends; a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening.
And you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love.
Okay? Thank you.
Bizarrely, it was down to Netanyahu to convince the press –– and himself –– that the US are on Israel’s side when Trump side-stepped the issue entirely: “I’ve known President Trump for many years and to allude to him or his people … other people who I’ve known for a long time -– can I reveal Jared (Kushner), how long I’ve known you? -– there is no greater supporter of Israel or the Jewish State than President Donald Trump,” he said and added, “I think we can put that to rest.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: John Lennon, “Give peace a chance”
26. (Tue, 14 Feb 2017) – MOTHER RUSSIA
It seemed that this story wouldn’t simply evaporate just like facts have before our eyes during the past few weeks. And of course the ‘Flynn resigns’-case was not solved after the national security advisor packing it in yesterday.
It was a mere few hours before that when I watched a chat between Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican campaign strategist, and Judd Apatow, the Hollywood director and outspoken Trump critic. In it, Rollins pointed out that Trump, “with the possible exception of Bannon”, had no peer that he saw eye-to-eye with. Without a peer, Rollins feared, Trump had no one to talk to and make decisions with. “I feel like he runs the country,” Apatow pointed out, “like he ran ‘The Apprentice’, where the premise was: two teams, and then we would have his kids follow
“I feel like he runs the country,” Apatow pointed out, “like he ran ‘The Apprentice’, where the premise was: two teams, and then he would have his kids follow around the teams, he didn’t follow them, and then he would say, ‘Ivanka, how did Meat Loaf do?’ And now he’s going, ‘Ivanka, how did North Korea do’?”
Trump, they agreed, only trusts his family’s judgement when push comes to shove. Which, apparently, doesn’t mean that he likes to get parental advice from here and there on a number of subjects: While the stale scent of faux-romance on Valentine’s Day was still hanging in the air on Tuesday evening, the New York Times released a story that will have Washington talking for a number of days.
Less than 24 hours after Michael Flynn handed in his resignation after he became a liability having discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States, the paper reported tonight that a number of Donald Trump’s close associates, including members of his presidential campaign, were repeatedly in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the run-up to the election in November.
According to the story, four current and former intelligence American officials (all unnamed) told the New York Times they had “so far” seen no evidence in the intercepted phone communications that Trump campaign officials had cooperated with Russian intelligence in an efforts to skew the election in Trump’s favour: “American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said,” the paper writes in its article. “The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.”
The story carries a few uncertainties, but regardless, this begs the question just how deep the ties are between Russia and the newly-elected President Trump. After the Flynn resignation, the unresolved issues was still whether he acted on behalf of Team Trump or entirely detached from the administration’s consignment. Now, as the lies and deceit about Mother Russia’s involvement in this election become more and more apparent, the Trump administration is plunging into deeper turmoil.
They will, of course, shake it off. Just like they always do. Let another smoke grenade go off somewhere else to distract and pretend like nothing had ever happened. Case in point: Paul Manafort. He was one as of the people named to be in contact with the Russians in that Times article. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year. His ties to Easter Europe are far-reaching from the time when he worked as a political consultant in Ukraine.
“This is absurd,” Manafort told the New York Times. “I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
The world knowingly lets you do a lot of heavy lifting by the way when it comes to circumventing the truth. Manafort then bathed his hands in innocence by adding, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.'”
Just as the people from Team Trump would not have worn badges saying, ‘I’m trying to talk to you to steer the election in a certain direction.’
So far, it is only noisy winds that are blowing down the corridors of the powerful in Washington. Soon, though, we might have to be weathering a storm.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Buffalo Springfield, “For what it’s worth”
25. (Mon, 13 Feb 2017) – MAN DOWN
It was supposed to be the day of pictures in Washington. At first, the snapshots from Mar-a-Lago surfaced in the morning: During the state visit from Japan’s PM Shinzō Abe, who Trump hosted in his Palm Beach private golf club, the paying members were witness to the President turning the place into a place into an outdoor adventure park for global politics.
According to a CNN account, Trump and Abe, surprised by a ballistic missile launch in North Korea, sat on the estate’s terrace surrounded by club members as the two nation’s security apparatuses gathered around the dinner table to figure out a joint response. In full display for all guests to witness Trump handling his first breaking national security incident.
Not long after these images were passed around on social media, another baffling picture emerged on the scene: A member of Trump’s resort in Florida posted a Facebook photo with a person he claimed was responsible for carrying the black bag that contains the nuclear launch codes for the President. (the man later deleted the FB post)
If this embarrassing incident for the Pentagon wasn’t enough, there was more to come. But before the big bang in the evening, Washington got another glimpse of Trump at work. This time he welcomed the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House. Trudeau provided the attending photographers with another opportunity to capture Trump performing one of his trademark grabbing handshakes.
It almost looked like this day of the pictures in Washington had reached its climax with this exchange. Were it not for a story that had been brewing for quite some time. News broke around midnight that Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn had handed in his resignation. A picture of the text circled around the web in no time.
“I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn wrote in his resignation letter, according to CNN.
Pence had vouched for Flynn on TV, denying that sanctions were discussed by Trump’s national security advisor and the ambassador. When a report surfaced showing the opposite, the VP was put in an uncomfortable position. Trust, of course, is crucial in the intelligence community. However, it seems that Flynn eventually was leaked out of his job by current and former national security officials. The question is: Does anyone think they’ll stop right there? Apparently, the knives are out.
“I wish to thank President Trump for his personal loyalty,” Flynn also said in his resignation, as the rug had already been pulled from under his feet.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Stone Roses, “Bye Bye Badman”
24. (Sun, 12 Feb 2017) – STEVE MILLER BAND
If the current administration gives off the impression that these are chaotic, uncertain days, rest assured. It is only half as bad. In fact, it is all good. At least if we are to believe what Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old ultra-conservative firebrand and White House senior policy advisor, had to tell the nation.
When I say the nation, I am merely referring to Sunday morning’s political talk shows where Miller’s sweet-talking self was passed around today. Just to reiterate, Stephen Miller shot up the GOP ranks when he became communications director to the now-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, back when he was a Senator for Alabama. In January 2016 he was named senior policy advisor to Donald Trump. During the course of the campaign, he frequently spoke at rallies before Trump came onstage, and he also wrote a number of speeches with him, most famously the dark turn on American life at the RNC Convention in Cleveland in July.
Usually, Miller acts as a verbal flamethrower to Trump’s “big league”-rhetoric. As the warm-up act, he mows down the colourful, liberal consensus of the Left so that Trump can plant his muscle-flexing #MAGA seed afterwards.
On Sunday, however, Miller preferred to spit out the alarming signal fires lit by the media and kept aflame by the courts. “The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial,” Miller said with a straight face and dead eyes on “The Week” (ABC), “and will not be questioned.”
So while the President put his feet up on the Lord’s day, he thought he could get Miller to do the dirty work and sweep some facts under the rug. During that appearance, Miller also went on to repeat a number of widely debunked claims about alleged voter fraud during the 2016 election “to advance President Trump’s narrative covering up for his loss of the popular vote,” as Salon put it in an article: “These included dishonestly claiming that Democratic voters were bused into New Hampshire to swing that state to Clinton, dishonestly claiming that noncitizen voters helped account for Clinton’s popular vote margin of victory, and dishonestly claiming that the White House has already provided proof of widespread voter fraud.”
His boss waited till lunchtime to thank him for his performance: “Congratulations Stephen Miller – on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows,” Trump tweeted. “Great job!”
“I hope the president is talking about The Steve Miller Band and not that kid who embarrassed the White House this morning”, Joe Scarborough replied on Twitter.
Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, and a lot of lies –– what to make of it? The constant undermining of facts and spreading of falsehoods knows no day-off, and that one of the band’s biggest hits is still called “The Joker”.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Steve Miller Band, “The Joker”
23. (Sat, 11 Feb 2017) – TRUMP GRABS BACK
It is reassuring to know that Donald Trump doesn’t just grab gurlz but also boyz. Sure, true that you can’t grab most men by their pussies. With the ones you can, I am sure they won’t appreciate it either.
But more to the point, Donald Trump evidenced a wonderful sight of diplomatic vindication this weekend when he grabbed Japan’s Prime Minister –– by the hand. Plain old hand-grabbing. Very 20th century, when intercontinental deals were sealed with firm handshakes. In some Eastern European countries, mind you, a sassy peck on the cheek added a certain je ne sais quoi.
So, let’s check the anatomy: big D lets Shinzō Abe put his hand into the President’s, next thing he gives the Prime Minister a pat on the back of his hand. It’s the power equivalent of bringing a larger fountain pen when signing a bilateral trade agreement. Afterwards comes the crucial moment: Trump outright pulls the PM by his hand towards himself. Real close. Unbelievable. He doesn’t just grab pussy. He holds onto it what seems forever, just doesn’t let go, pats it again and again.
What we have to keep in mind: PM Abe is a mere 5’9. As compared to Trump’s elegant 6’3 frame those petit Japanese hands look real nice in the President’s bear claws. I would hold onto them forever, too.
In terms of diplomacy, this is of course just a fine showing of appreciation. Or as Donald Trump stated himself: “Played golf today with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and Ernie Els, and had a great time. Japan is very well represented!”
Gold, a sport where you need those hands in top shape. Where did they play that round of golf by the way, I hear you ask? There is this place called Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach that the President himself likes to refer to as “the Winter White House”.
What’s the Winter White House? Depends on how you want to look at it: a) It’s either a made-up name by Donald Trump, or b) a cheeky disguise for a gold resort with a secret membership list in Palm Beach that acts as a presidential residence when in fact it is a business, for which Trump, who owns the place, pockets the biggest share of the expenditure (cost of staff, food, accommodation, etc.) and boosts the value of the place by hosting a foreign leader there.
Seems like Trump doesn’t just grab pussies or delicate hands, but also the taxpayer by its money.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Gregory Abbott, “Shake you down”
22. (Fri, 10 Feb 2017) – WHIPPED
Must be Valentine’s Day round the corner because Donald Trump is planning on summoning his usual 50 Shades of White behind his desk to draft another travel ban. Tough love from the White House for the American people, it seems. The style of prose they used last time was pretty much on a par with the SM novel by E.L. James. Eventually, that one got put down by the courts like a struck deer on the roadside.
On Thursday, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel denied Trump’s request to resume enforcement of his travel ban executive order. That order prevented Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S. and halted visas from being issued to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Last Saturday Trump tweeted about “the so-called judge” that put a temporary stop to his travel ban, then yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow the reinstatement of his original executive order.
For not too long Trump was licking his wounds after that whipping from the judges. Then today he went into offensive mode, suggesting that a redraft of his contested executive order is on the horizon: “We’ll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country,” Trump said during a White House news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “You’ll be seeing that sometime in the next week. In addition, we will continue to go through the court process and, ultimately, I have no doubt that we’ll win that particular case.”
After his schedule departure to Florida, where Trump is spending the weekend with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the President said on board Air Force One to reporters that “we will win that battle. The unfortunate part is that it takes time statutorily, but we will win that battle. We also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand new order.”
“Filing a brand new order”, “something in the next week” –– aha, you don’t say. So there is a Valentine’s gift underway. Send us some flowers and tough love on Tuesday, wouldcha?
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Pulp, “This is hardcore”
21. (Thu, 9 Feb 2017) – LINE EXTENSION
The lion king will roar the loudest, we heard yesterday. Well, well, was I wrong. Of course, the last roar is reserved for mama bear. And so it came to be that Ivanka Trump, slightly let down by the department chain Nordstrom for discontinuing to stock her clothing line, got an unusual plug for her attire today:
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff … I’m going to go get some myself today,” Kellyanne Conway told FOX News in an interview from the White House. “I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody.”
And that’s what it was: a free commercial. The senior White House advisor to the US President didn’t bother with the usual flim-flam. Just straight talk –– here, her gear, go and buy it. BOOM, goes the mic drop.
Actively encouraging Americans to buy from a company owned by a member of the first family is probably only a solid 4 on the totalitarian regime-scale. (when the average American won’t be able to afford it anyway, so rest assured)
The amusing bit in this non-saga? That the person who has vowed to continue looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails post-election, chairman of the House Oversight committee Representative Jason Chaffetz, has written a polite letter to the Office of Government Ethics complaining about Conway. Yet, when asked whether Trump appointing his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior advisor would constitute nepotism in the White House, Chaffetz said, “I have not looked at that at all. I can’t say one direction or another without looking at it.”
The best-known joke in Washington, D.C. these days goes like this:
“Wait, what? Can they even do that?” *rubs eyes*
“No. But it doesn’t matter –– they already did.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Suede, “She’s in fashion”
20. (Wed, 8 Feb 2017) – LINE EXTINCTION
The lion king will roar the loudest. Nothing unusual about it. There is only one thing to consider: How usual, how ordinary are the times we’re living in right now? Exactly. Therefore we shouldn’t be too surprised that the President of the United States sides with his precious offspring.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 8. Februar 2017
What’s the deal? Apparently not a good one: Nordstrom, the department store chain, decided to stop selling Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. The news itself goes back to last Thursday. Today, however, Trump took to twitter to condemn the move, which was based on selling performance, the retailer said in a statement.
Nordstrom has faced calls to rid its selection of Ivanka Trump attire for a while. “We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance,” a Nordstrom spokeswoman told Fortune magazine in an emailed statement. “In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”
Whatever the reason for Trump’s delayed twitter wrath was, his two-liner is an expected reaction for someone who bragged about wanting to date his own daughter. He complained on behalf of a market-based decision to vent about life’s unfairness. Gotta give him that.
Is it right? Hmn. Is it ethical to mix family and business via Twitter? Probably not. Moreover, it tells you something about the man’s posture –– the self-proclaimed billionaire who can’t hold it together publicly when his daughter makes less rather than more money for once.
The funny thing about his whole episode is this one in fact: instead of destroying the company’s value with his online might, Nordstrom’s stock prize, after initially dipping by less than 1 percent, surged unexpectedly and settled on up more than 4 percent at the end of the day.
It might be complex economics at play, but the sheer numbers here make it seem like a stock market’s protest rally against Trump’s short fuse.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: The Beatles, “Can’t buy me love”
19. (Tue, 7 Feb 2017) – POLICY OF TRUTH
A train rushed down the tracks. I stopped the car and waited. In Santa Barbara, right after the railway crossing gate on Olive Mill Road, you take two right turns to pull up on Channel Drive. The second estate on the right facing the beach is the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. This is where I am expected.
My phone rang at 9 a.m.: I should come to room 209, the voice on the other end of the line said. “Martin is waiting for you.”
Martin Gore, the songwriter and sometime-singer in Depeche Mode, sat a long table in a suite at the Four Seasons to talk about the band’s new album. I was there to interview him for MUSIKEXPRESS. In the end, the musical details and production musings didn’t seem to bother him too much. He was adamant to talk politics. Gore grew up in the 70’s in an economically deprived Great Britain. In 1980 he founded Depeche Mode with two of his mates to escape the grey ennui of Essex.
While we sat there talking in the morning about how his youth shaped his political alertness, Washington D.C. was discussing an allegation made by Donald Trump on Monday. He accused the media of not reporting on a number of terrorist attacks: “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening,” he said. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he claimed, citing no evidence.
The White House released a list of 78 terror attacks around the world. Press secretary Sean Spicer later said the president was accusing the media of “under-reporting” rather than not reporting terrorist attacks. The list includes incidents like the truck massacre in Nice that killed dozens and received widespread attention.
Martin Gore, suffering from a mild cold, said the news were making him sick: “It is so depressing, every morning when I turn on my phone and look at the news –– more ridiculous stuff. Today they pushed through DeVos as education secretary. She doesn’t have a clue.”
Gore didn’t issue a call to arms, and I can’t see the millionaire sharpening his pitchfork in his cosy Santa Barbara home anytime soon to take the streets, but the musician seems genuinely agitated about what is going on.
So far, apart from the odd interview and Put-down at the Women’s March, and Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes there have not been an awful lot of impassionate reactions by the Hollywood clique.
The new Depeche Mode album is overtly political. It asks people to wake up, show their colours. It doesn’t, obviously, offer any radical views as to how one overthrows those in power, even if the lead single is called “Where’s the revolution”.
In an age where the US government lies, deceits, and regards facts as questionable, omitting the question mark in that song title can only mean that whatever we do about it, might need a !
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Depeche Mode, “Policy of truth”
18. (Mon, 6 Feb 2017) – SOFT SKILLS
It’s the juicy details that make these days bearable at all. When the New York Times wrote up a piece on Trump’s first two weeks in the White House, they packed it with these little anecdotal snowballs that you can pick up, roll around in the dirt for a bit, and then throw once they increased in size.
The line that sticks to the back of your mind like dogshit to your sole are these ones:
Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
The commander-in-chief drops the executive order pen at 6:30 p.m. –– well, well, how about that? But even better: like the triumphant wrestling champions after a tough match, he rests and puts on a bathrobe, then reaches for the remote, turns on the telly. (Probably watching himself, there is precious little else on at the moment. Trump, Trump, and The Bachelor. Which he is, too, we are informed. Melania and Barron in New York, Trump the lone D.C. wolf roaming the White House corridors like the little Danny in “The Shining” when he bumps into the twins –– curious at first, then confused and/or overwhelmed, and even fantasizing a little.
Instead of calming himself with his Twitter finger as Danny does in the Kubrick film, Trump seeks comfort by having Keith Schiller, his former bodyguard, by his side. Adorable details. So adorable that the chest-pumping Tarzans schmoozing up to Trump apparently can’t handle any of this. That’s why press secretary Sean Spicer descended from Mount Machismo and clarified: “That story was so riddled with inaccuracies and lies that they owe the President an apology for the way that thing was written,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One. “There were literally blatant factual errors, and it’s unacceptable to see that kind of reporting.”
To which is ask you kids: Just how does the press secretary actually know the President doesn’t own a bathrobe?
17. (Sun, 5 Feb 2017) – TOUCHDOWN
Super Bowl Sunday. Chickenwingsfingertips are not typing these lines. Vegan forever. Just kidding, I don’t care.
Before kickoff in Houston, Bill O’Reilly had no other than President Trump on his FOX News show. The pre-game interview is a loose tradition introduced by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama: the new US President talks to the channel showing the Super Bowl.
Oh boy, did they have a ball. O’Reilly fed a few lines, Trump happily went for it. Two men who know each other, meeting for a casual an afternoon chat. Only that they happen to be sitting in White House.
The bit that got most attention goes as follows:
Bill O’Reilly: Do you respect Putin?
Donald Trump: I do respect him. I respect a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean I get along with them. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. Will I get along with them? I have no idea.
O’Reilly: But he’s a killer. Putin’s a killer.
Trump: There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?
With that last question, which is of course totally okay to ask, Trump manages to insert a moral relativism into the conversation that sounds like a propaganda talking point from the other side – yes, we were bad but not as bad as the U.S. …
Is he defending Putin with that statement? Is he giving America a guilty conscience? All very unclear at this point.
One thing’s for sure, however: last night the Patriots won. And under Trump, the patriots certainly will, too.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Enigma, “Return to innocence”
16. (Sat, 4 Feb 2017) – “SO-CALLED”
Since the White House has become a test lab for authoritarian boundary-shifts, we have witnessed a number of incidents that beggars belief. Personal insults, made-up stuff, a de facto Muslim ban, and more made up stuff.
But behold, after the action-packed first two weeks – BAMM, BAMM, BAMM, one executive order after another – the slow and often rather boring process of judicial review starts to weigh in on several issues. Boring if you are not an attorney or law student that like to get lost in constitutional articles and their interpretation.
Thank God, there are a lot of people out there that are immaculate with the law as Trump is with his hair. And so it came to be that Friday night, or early evening on the West coast, a federal judge in Seattle, Washington ruled against Trump’s immigration order that banned visa holders from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
Of course, Trump reacted angrily to this humbling defeat. First White House issued a statement that, in its initial draft, called the ruling by James Robart, a judge at the Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, “outrageous” and that it would challenge “at the earliest possible time”. “The Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement released Friday. “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
“The Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,” press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement released Friday. “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”
I hear beautiful violins squeaking bittersweet melodies when I read the words of Spicer. Of course, “the homeland”, the place where everyone has equal opportunity – as long as you’re not black or Muslim.
And then Trump himself weighed in. In a serious of, you guessed it, tweets he let the guillotine of righteousness come crashing down on the separation of powers:
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 4. Februar 2017
His so-called interference here is a shining example of disregard for the judiciary branch of government. The “so-called judge”, an appointee of President George W. Bush by the way, didn’t reserve five-star suites for incoming terrorists, he merely upheld the rule of law.
Trump throw an online hissy fit anyway and spewed more miffed 140-character gold:
Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 4. Februar 2017
After Trump’s two action-action-action weeks, the courts are catching up on the filed paperwork. It is fair to say: to be continued.
In the meantime, it took an ordinary citizen, a so-called average Joe named Dean Falvy from Seattle, Washington to sum up what had been happening today when he tweeted: “The New Washington, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: ELO, “Calling America”
15. (Fri, 3 Feb 2017) – AMPLIFIED EMOTIONS
Listening in on the megaphone that is Twitter for Donald Trump, you pick up a pattern that has been emerging for a while: you prick the new President a lil, and he swings back atcha, full throttle if needs to be.
That on its own is not a new observation. He has insulted and angered a lot of people since he announced to run for office. Yet, one thing that has become apparent after the first two weeks: Being President of the United States hasn’t reined him in (so far). There is no calm demeanour in his online footprint that might come with the habitual. His tweets are angry, defiant, often dividing.
The acerbic ones are almost all retaliatory in their nature. There are several examples, all from today. It begins with the petty. Arnold Schwarzenegger reacts in good humour to Trump belittling Arnie’s ratings on The Apprentice. Then Trump, obviously not occupied with other things, blasts him again, but this time you can sense his wounded pride:
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a really bad job as Governor of California and even worse on the Apprentice…but at least he tried hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Telling your opponent that “at least he tried hard” might just be the biggest insult there is. Again, it was probably all in good nature. But when it comes to bigger things, this short-fused temper is something to behold.
Iran carefully joins in with the international muscle-flexing, and what does Trump do? He puts them on notice like you would with an angry schoolkid:
Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Global power play, for sure. Old white men are good at that. Making sure how’s boss, with added chest-pumping. Classic. But when facts and your own agenda collide, which is the easiest thing on Twitter, then something like this is churned out:
A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Justifying his de-facto Muslim ban with an incident in France and giving it a fearmongering spin (at that point it wasn’t even sure who the person was, let alone if it had been “a new radical”) is old-fashioned autocratic gaslighting.
In the end, of course, it is not about whether Trump expresses these things on Twitter or elsewhere. The worry lies in him expressing a behaviour as if he was still fighting to be president. Even after his inauguration, it still seems that the administration’s every move is purely one thing: campaign.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, “Lost in emotion”
14. (Thu, 2 Feb 2017) – TALKIN’ LOUD AND CLEAR
It was a busy day today, all sorts of things were happening – Trump’s dumb call with the Australian PM, Kellyanne Conway makes up a “massacre” that wasn’t one, and I, for one, got side-eyed by the new German Secretary of State, Sigmar Gabriel, who visited Washington to talk with VP Mike Pence and his US equivalent Rex Tillerson, when I asked him a simple domestic policy question regarding the upcoming general election. In these circles, rarah ladida, asking about domestic policies at a foreign policy meeting –– total no-go, so wrong, unheard of, F for effort.
Anyway, Gabriel did have something to say to all my woke colleagues. He was speaking at a press briefing at the German embassy after his talks with the US administration. The rules of this informal talk ask for confidentiality. So if I ever want a free dinner in this town again, I better not spill the beans. Lunch will do, so I’ll say this: Gabriel, slightly miffed and tired from catching a fever from his sick daughter, seemed a little concerned about where the US is heading when it comes to Europe and the EU.
“I will tell my colleagues back home,” he said during that briefing, “fly over to the US and talk to these people here.” – Between the lines, he tried to say, establishing relations with the new administration is paramount. Talking to each other, in his view, would be a key to understanding what has been going on here.
It is early stages, but the pace of Trump and his elitist, Malfoy-esque footsoldiers suggests that there is something brewing beneath the surface. We can sit and wait, maybe it’s not half as bad. On the other hand, showing some resistance never did any harm.
The shape and form of this resistance could be key. After Trump’s inauguration two weeks ago, shop windows in downtown D.C. got smashed, cars were burning, rocks were hurled by a few hundred protesters. A day later thousands help up signs at the Women’s March. Which is more effective? Is it the action being taken, so smashed windows vs. feminist cardboard signs? Or is it the political platform on which political protest is established? Can words ever be bigger than action?
Yesterday a somewhat sidelined debate got underway. It was about acceptance of other voices in what seems to be unfolding as the great American drama. The seriousness of it got drowned out by the usual Trump media ballyhoo, and yet the repercussions could be immense: Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor and all-round agitator, had been invited to speak on the UC Berkeley campus on Wednesday night. The event got canceled after protests erupted against Yiannopoulos speaking on campus.
In the end, $100.000 worth of damage was caused by “150 masked agitators”, as the public school announced today. Which is an important point: Berkeley is a public school, it needs federal money. Protesting against a right-wing peacock in that fashion doesn’t help Berkeley, which is home to the freedom of speech movement by the way. But still, one wonders, can you let the undermining of democratic values in Breitbart-style just happen without showing any kind of resistance? (Trump, incidentally, mused on twitter if revoking federal funds could be an option in this case)
Two questions to take away from this: a) Is smashing windows the answer to Trump? Maybe. Is it an answer to society’s racial, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic problems that helped put Trump in power? Certainly not. b) Must we tolerate someone like Yiannopoulos? We should, to an extent. Must we swallow everything being shoved down our throats? Never.
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Kings of Convenience, “Peacetime Resistance”
13. (Wed, 1 Feb 2017) – JUDGE DREAD
Looking back upon the past two weeks, it seems fair to say that public trust in government right now has raised the expectation for impartiality and independence of the judiciary. If we can’t trust the work of the courts, then who is going to right the wrong?
Cue dramatic music for there’s a new man in town. Well, not really, but at least he is now on people’s agenda: Donald Trump finally picked his nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the vacant seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away eleven months ago.
President Obama had already picked a nominee in Merrick B. Garland soon after Scalia’s sudden death in February 2016. Senate Republicans, in an effort to snatch the seat for the right wing, chose to obstruct this choice until Trump came up with his candidate, a certain Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver (appointed by George W. Bush in 2008, by the way). He is a bona fide Conservative with a path seemingly destined for higher duties: he is the son of a Reagan Cabinet member, a graduate of Oxford and Harvard, and a clerk for two Supreme Court justices.
The father of two is said to be an originalist, which means he tries to interpret the Constitution consistently along the lines of those who drafted and adopted it. “This approach leads him,” the New York Times wrote, “to generally but not uniformly conservative results.”
Or in his own words: “Ours is the job of interpreting the Constitution, and that document isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams.”
Time and again during the campaign, Republican voters told me how important the constitution and therefore the next Supreme Court appointment were for them. People voted for Trump chiefly on the grounds of his promise to find a hard-line judge for Scalia’s seat.
So by replacing the ultra-conservative Antonin Scalia, it seems unlikely that Gorsuch will upset the balance of power on most issues at the Supreme Court. But he would still have to handle a number of hot topics of the Trump administration, like reproductive rights, such as abortions, as well as environmental issues.
Therefore, the pressing question that remains is whether Gorsuch will have enough spine to stand up against someone who put him on the Supreme Court in the first place should they, be it Trump or Senate, test the boundaries of the rule of law or the constitution.
If he is confirmed, however, Gorsuch will take the oath to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
–> SONG SUGGESTION for the day: Robbie Williams, “Love Supreme”
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