This week, we are pleased to be able to offer you a shorter presidential news roundup. Unfortunately, there are also fewer stories that fall into the “good” category. Here is this week’s edition of the Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
- Trump’s picks of Betsy Devos and Jeff Sessions as Education Secretary and Attorney General, respectively, were approved by the Senate this week with strong opposition from Democrats in marathon hearings. Since Devos was his most controversial pick, it appears as though all of his appointees will be approved. Whether this is good news for the country or not is debatable, but it’s great news for Trump and his administration.
- In a reversal from the first week of his presidency, Trump submitted to One China policy on a phone call with China’s president, Xi Jinping, on Thursday. A statement from the White House reported the contents of the call, stating that the discussion between the two leaders had been “very cordial.” Leading up to his presidency, Trump accepted a phone call from Taiwan’s president, which broke decades of precedent, as Taiwan’s independence is a sensitive subject for China, who doesn’t recognize the tiny island republic’s sovereignty. In the subsequent weeks, tensions with China have been escalating to the extent that reports have circulated of China beefing up its military operations in preparation for almost certain conflict with the outwardly anti-China president. It is great news for Americans that tensions are deescalating between China and the US. However, since China’s president refused to take a call from the US until Trump agreed to submit to One China policy, it shows that the Great Negotiator can, in fact, be out-negotiated.
- Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of last week, Neil Gorsuch, spoke out about Trump’s personal Twitter attack on Judge Robart, whom the president characterized as a “so-called” judge. Justice Gorsuch described this attack on Robart as “discouraging” and “demoralizing” – two words which are not positive in any scenario. The good news is that Trump selected a judge who understands the importance of the balance of powers and holds the belief that it is imperative to speak about it when given the platform, and that the judge is capable of thinking independently from whoever appointed him. The bad news is that this makes Trump look very bad (very, very bad – believe me) as if there was any latitude left in that department.
- On last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, Melissa McCarthy did a deadly impression of controversial White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The aftershocks of the skit reverberated across the interwebs for days and highlighted Spicer’s, shall we say, aggressive style at the podium and his antagonizing attitude toward the press corps. The fact that he was played by a female helped deal a devastating blow to the image of patriarchal strength that president Trump is said to want to convey from his administration. Although Spicer largely played off his feelings about the skit, it may be very difficult for him to get out from under the caricature of himself that McCarthy so artfully portrayed on Saturday. (See the skit here.)
- Last Friday, Federal Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, shut down the Trump administration’s executive order banning immigration from seven majority Muslim countries, which was put forth last week. Although the executive branch disagreed with the ruling (and that’s putting it mildly), the Department of Homeland Security acted in the normal American way and agreed to obey it. The Trump administration immediately appealed the ruling, which then went on to the 9th Circuit, which heard arguments from the DOJ and Washington State Attorney General over several days this week. Last evening, the 9th Circuit panel of three judges came to a unanimous decision upholding the ruling by Judge Robart. There have been arguments by many conservatives that the merits of this case do not warrant the decision made by the gaggle of judges and that these judges are guilty of legislating from the bench. However, it is really difficult to argue that four judges of varying persuasions appointed under different presidents are all guilty of judicial activism. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. Of course, Trump made his opinion about the rulings very clear on Twitter. However, it is unclear as to why he wouldn’t either adjust the order to be compatible with the Constitution or go through Congress to craft a bill that can get legitimate backing. Either way, these rulings serve a massive piece of humble pie to president Trump, who apparently didn’t realize he holds only one-third of the power in Washington.
- In addition to the Robart tweet that was discussed above, Trump also logged on to Twitter this week to attack the 9th Circuit court’s decision in ALL CAPS like a deranged person. To make sure there was nobody left who thinks he’s sane, he tweeted an attack on Nordstrom from both his personal account and the official POTUS account(!), because, get this – Nordstrom made a business decision to no longer carry his precious daughter’s clothing line, which they communicated very thoroughly with Ivanka herself using statistics and whatever other factual merchandising information goes into these decisions. Aside from the questionable taste and judgment exhibited here, there’s also the problem of ethics and laws and all that other non-important stuff.
- Kellyanne Conway was even more of a HOT MESS this week after her infamous invention of the Bowling Green Massacre was essentially confirmed not to be a simple misstatement. Turns out she made the same claim on two other news outlets in the days leading up to the Chris Matthews appearance that went viral. Because the internet raked her through the coals, she came crawling back to Jake Tapper’s show with her tail between her legs to apologize for her “mistake.” The problem is, Jake Tapper was having NONE of it and instead of letting her spin and deflect her way around the issue (like every other journalist does), he pinned her down about her lies and lack of credibility. CNN followed by putting out a statement reinforcing their previous policy of banning Conway from CNN due to her proven lack of credibility. If that wasn’t enough, Conway went on Fox & Friends shortly thereafter and proceeded to basically star in an Ivanka Trump brand infomercial while on America’s payroll. This action is obviously illegal and just adds to the multitude of ethical issues Trump and his administration already face in regards to his businesses and those of his staffers. There is no other way to slice this: Kellyanne Conway has GOT to go.
- In a public relations disaster, President Trump went on a friendly O’Reilly Show and proceeded to make himself look like the Russian puppet that many people believe he is. As most Fox interviewers do, O’Reilly attempted to steer Trump in a flattering direction. However, Trump, being the bull-in-a-china-shop that he is, went in the complete other direction and, once again, defended murderous dictator Vladimir Putin by attempting to pull the integrity of the United States of America, the country that elected him to the presidency, down to Russia’s level by stating that we are also killers and “not so innocent” ourselves. The exchange was absolutely astounding and although not totally out of character, it was unprecedented for a US president to throw his own nation under the bus, especially when considering the number of lives America has saved over the span of her history.
- In the last 24 hours, news dropped that US intelligence has discovered communications between Trump’s National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, and Russian diplomats specifically pertaining to sanctions imposed by Obama in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 general election. This communication occurred immediately after the former president announced new measures including the new sanctions along with the expulsion of Russian operatives from US-based compounds. The general, who has had a controversial and overt friendship with Russia, had previously denied any discussion of sanctions talk with the nation, attempting to sell the public on his phone calls being of a “Merry Christmas” nature. Not only did Flynn lie about what transpired, but the act of discussing these issues outside of service in an appropriate governmental role is illegal. Add to this the fact that Vice President Pence was also involved in the repeating of the lie, and you’ve got a big ugly mess here, folks. VP Pence will be able to wiggle out of this by asserting he was lied to by Flynn. However, Flynn is in a heap of trouble. What are the chances Trump throws out an anti-intelligence tweet over this news? Higher than were his chances of becoming president in the first place.
Congratulations! You’ve survived Week 3 of President Trump’s America. Go have a drink…or six.