The second week of Donald Trump’s presidency was as eventful as his first, but it packed a few big, tangible punches, sending shockwaves across the United States. As talk turns to action, here is this week’s good, bad, and just plain ugly.
- The moment every conservative in America had been waiting for, the Supreme Court nomination, was upon us this week and the president did not disappoint. Not only did he deliver with his choice of a Scalia-esque Neil Gorsuch, but he gave validation to the many Americans who voted for him based almost solely on the balance of the Court. If Trump manages even a mediocre presidency from here on out, there’s an argument to be made that he was worth voting for. However, since a majority of those in a recent Quinnipiac poll believe he will be a worse president than Obama, a mediocre presidency might be relegated to a twinkle in Trump’s eye. Time will tell.
- Trump’s foreign policy cabinet picks showed some intellectual independence this week when they either contradicted or butted heads with Trump on Russia and immigration in particular. Nikki Haley spoke out strongly against Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in her first showing at the UN and vowed to continue sanctions. It is unclear whether she was speaking in any way for the president, who has espoused opposite views for most of the last 2 years. However, his silence on her performance so far is encouraging. As well, some cabinet members (rumored to be Rex Tillerson, Mattis, and Kelly) were said to be perplexed and frustrated by the president’s decision to move unilaterally on the “Muslim ban” without consulting them. Nice to see that some of the cabinet members have minds of their own. That’s a GOOD thing for America.
- Donald Trump spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast for the first time as president and gave good cause for his removal from the “Good” category with several lines in the speech such as his attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Apprentice ratings and other subtly self-inflating lines. He also had some of his usual dark and depressing moments. There was also the rebuke of the Johnson Amendment (here’s an interesting take on that from one of my fellow writers), which created some controversy. However, there were a few moments when the president sounded oddly….humble(?!) and somewhat… God-fearing(?!). This break for him, whether his critics buy it or not, is a great boost for his Evangelical base, who have likely had some trouble relating to the big city, thrice-married, crotch-grabbing billionaire.
- Although it seems our president is a bit high on conflict, his rhetoric toward Iran this week served one positive purpose – to begin to alienate Russia. It is unclear whether Trump understands that angering Iran will also anger Putin, but if he is genuine in his distaste of Iran, he will see Putin’s true colors sooner rather than later. A cooling of their relationship would soothe the minds of the many.
- Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, refused this week to defend Trump’s “Muslim Ban” executive order and instructed her team to do the same. She released a well-written statement about her reasons for doing so, one of which was that she was not convinced of the lawfulness of the order and the other being that she did not feel the law was just. She dissented against this legislation publicly, knowing she would almost definitely be terminated. It was not a good look for the Trump administration, who was already embroiled in nationwide protests, letters of dissent, and lawsuits, all centered around the legality and implementation of the order.
- Trump has shown the nation this week that he does plan a creepy reliance on the experience-challenged and controversial Mike Bannon, who not only helped him expedite the “Muslim ban” EO without any insight from anyone who knows anything, but also managed to weasel his way onto the National Security Committee, unseating both the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This struck a fair bit of horror into the hearts of every national security expert, who all generally expressed perplexion at why in the world anyone would make such a decision. Many also expressed serious worry for the state of our national security, as Bannon has been known to espouse a “burn it all down” philosophy.
- America suffered her first servicemember death under a President Trump this week when a Navy SEAL was killed during a mission in Yemen against al Qaeda. Any life gone is a tragedy, but elite servicemen, in particular, deal an especially crushing blow to our hearts because of the skill and bravery that is lost. We pray that our leaders will use our fighters’ talents tenderly. It’s best to give presidents the benefit of the doubt in this area. However, there are reports that this mission may have been carried out using incomplete intelligence and insufficient planning, as 9 children were killed, as were other civilians. The aircraft that was carrying our men crash-landed, injuring several of them. Yemen, normally supportive of American efforts, condemned the attack. Not every raid goes as planned, but it would be very bad news if there was some negligence on behalf of Trump’s administration here.
- Trump last week decided to make voter fraud a thing, just like Kellyanne Conway tried to make the Bowling Green Massacre a thing this week. Jake Tapper excoriated this claim by Trump on his show by stating that if voter fraud was REALLY a thing, there would be a serious investigation underway. Miraculously, the next day, Trump announced he would launch a serious investigation into widespread voter fraud. That investigation did not materialize this week. Some pundits speculated it’s because it is very difficult to investigate an event that doesn’t exist.
- During a Black History Month event, Trump actually said this about the legendary Frederick Douglass: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” If you think that’s vapid, his “tribute” to Martin Luther King, Jr. was centered around the press kerfuffle regarding the statue in the Oval Office. In other words, Trump had nothing substantive to say about either figure, causing many Americans to ask the question, “Does he even know who they are?” And, well…does he?
- Taking a play from Obama’s playbook in a statement this week, Trump implored Israel to stop its expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Since one of Trump’s supporters’ selling points was his undying support for Israel, this would be a bit of a kick in the gut to them and to Netanyahu and would more closely resemble the Middle East policy that #NeverTrump had predicted from President Trump, which would be described as “straddling the fence.”
- The out-of-thin-air “Muslim Ban” was implemented this week (or I should say, very poorly implemented), leaving legal green card and visa holders in mid-air (literally) regarding their immigration status. Travelers left their lands believing they were on their way to America and landed to find out that they would instead be on their way OUT of America. Some were sent back to their homelands and some were stranded at airports all over the world hoping against hope that their case would be considered special, deserving of entry. Many, from the very young to the very old, were detained for long periods of time without family or other representation. This was terrible optics, created great anxiety amongst immigrants already living here, and was generally a really piss-poor way to treat people. Many of the blocked visas were student visas for people who were enrolled and had already been studying in our universities. Can you imagine being a college kid and not being able to make it back for your classes? Most of us are all for excellent vetting and the safety of our homeland. However, there are ways to accomplish this and there are ways NOT to accomplish this. File this under NOT.
- The Trump administration’s statement on the firing of Sally Yates was something out of North Korea’s DPRK. It was unpresidential, unprofessional, unbecoming, and uncool. It’s clear whoever wrote it was enraged and did not have composure over themselves at that moment. BAD. (See for yourself here.)
- The amount of countries angry at the US moves to at least 10 this week as Trump provokes 7 more with his immigration ban (current rate will have the entire world angered by November) and then inexplicably loses his marbles on Australia’s well-respected Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. As Australia is one of our greatest friends and allies, many Americans were offended and confounded by this treatment. It’s never a good idea to alienate the allies who will go to battle for you. #captainobvious
- Trump lit up Twitter again this week with random tweets that were mostly non-factual, threatening, mocking, or self-congratulatory. In other words, Trump was his usual flamboyant self on Twitter. Find a good synopsis and fact-check of his tweets here.
- Kellyanne Conway invented a terrorist attack this week in an interview with Chris Matthews which she titled “The Bowling Green Massacre.” Nobody was injured or killed in this attack. Nobody observed this attack. There was not even an attacker in the attack. It was one of those terrorist attacks that flies under the radar….or crashes into the ocean where it can’t be found, even on SONAR.
- Trump’s team declared a safe space from CNN this week, complaining that the network is too biased against them. This stemmed possibly from the accosting of Jim Acosta by Trump himself during a press conference last week, during which he called CNN “fake news.” There is a perception that Trump is fighting a war on the press (aka the First Amendment). This action only strengthened that perception.
This week was not the week for less news. We will hang our hopes on next time.