It has only been about a month since President Trump started his term. However, it feels like much longer than that. While it is true that Trump is doing “so many things” as President, most of the “things” are embroiled in controversy or tied up in court. Many of the “things” are just words which generate news because of their nature. This week at least has been a somewhat calmer week in White House news. However, there is still plenty to discuss, as it seems there always will be in a Trump administration. Please enjoy this week’s The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.
- One big reason why Trump’s administration seems slightly less chaotic this week is that Kellyanne Conway has effectively been benched. After weeks of media drama set off by lies, obfuscation, and plain misinformation, it became clear to Trump’s team that Conway did not have her finger on the pulse of what was actually going on inside the administration. This was most apparent when she claimed Gen. Flynn was still in the president’s good graces hours before he was actually forced to resign. So, her appearances on shows stopped this week and the world is better for it, and so is the Trump administration. Of course, in true KAC style, she insists she has a full schedule and is busy working inside the White House. That may be true, but take away the spin and you get less KAC on your TV screen. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.
- Following the rejection of the National Security Advisor job by Harward last week, President Trump got smart and figured out that any respectable military leader would want to install his own people, so he offered the job to General H.R. McMaster, who predictably wanted to install his own people. This time Trump obliged. Hopefully, this means Bannon’s seat on the NSC could be in jeopardy. Either way, maybe we will see reinstallment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Director of Intelligence onto the council. By all accounts, Gen. McMaster is an excellent choice and, like most well-respected military leaders, isn’t a softie when it comes to Russia or any other enemy of the state. We all know Trump sorely needs balance in this area.
- This week, Trump’s administration reversed Obama’s action on transgender bathrooms, saying that this is an issue that should be decided by the states. Any good conservative would likely agree with this stance and this is a move that the base can get behind. At the same time, Trump’s administration contradicted itself this week when it claimed marijuana legislation should be federalized. With Trump’s history of hasty, not-well-thought-out executive orders, it is hard to trust that he has taken the time to study and discern any of the sensitive issues affected by this action. It is my hope that this will not become just another “sign first, think later” form of legislation, and that he takes the time to really think about the issues which affect people’s lives.
- At the very beginning of this past week, the news leaked that FBI Director James Comey was seen in the Capitol building and that this was because a secret closed-door meeting had taken place between Comey and the Senate Intelligence Committee. While the senators on the committee were tight-lipped about what had taken place, reports stated that the meeting was about Russia. Senator Marco Rubio came out the next day with a statement saying he was now more confident than ever that the committee he serves on would conduct a thorough bipartisan investigation of Putin’s influence (on the election, one would assume). Chances are, there is more information still coming out about Russia vs. Trump vs. election. This controversy is far from finished and that should make the Trump administration very worried if they are guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever. The truth will come out.
- CPAC underwent a hostile takeover this week when Trump’s brand of populism pushed traditional conservatism to the side and made itself the top story. Steve Bannon of all people was given a platform to discuss (albeit gracefully) his “America First” nationalist worldview, which was widely panned by pundits as being based on falsehoods. Then, Trump swooped in with the brawn and delivered his follow-up to Bannon’s nationalist speech with a campaign-style speech discussing all the ways he is going to make “America First” happen. There was also a little snafu where Russian flags were handed out and actually waved around by gullible CPAC goers during Trump’s speech. This was not a good look for the conservative movement. It was a painful week for constitutionalists, who didn’t see much about the Constitution or conservatism being discussed at an event that is supposed to feature exactly that.
- This week, Trump decided to throw a campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida. Since an election is not near and since he doesn’t have much of a record of success yet, it can be assumed that these rallies were designed to keep his base excited and probably quench his own thirst for crowd adoration. His fans saw it as an attempt to reach out to the people. The rally was exactly like his other campaign rallies, except he got himself in trouble with the fake Sweden attack comments and there was also some controversy over Melania opening her remarks with a reading of the Lord’s Prayer. From some on the right, this was a welcome move for them after eight years of an Obama presidency that was seen as hostile to Christianity. However, some Christians were put off by this display, and said it did not feel genuine. One pastor, whose comments on Facebook went viral, said the crowd reaction to the prayer was basically weird and creepy and gave him a bad feeling. However you want to view it, the Trumps aren’t exactly known for their devoutness and reverence or even a Christian demeanor, so this seems like an unnatural juxtaposition against reality. Mark it down as odd, at least.
- A report surfaced this week on CNN that Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, asked the FBI to put down rumors about Trump’s campaign having had “constant contact with Russian operatives” as The New York Times had reported the previous week. Apparently, FBI officials had contacted Priebus to inform him the story was inaccurate, so he requested the FBI make that information public. The problem is the FBI is not supposed to involve itself in making public statements for the sake of politics. Even making public statements with the backing of the FBI only opens up the agency to calls from reporters seeking confirmation of the story, putting it in a position to involve itself in politics. Any communications between the FBI and the White House concerning an ongoing investigation are to happen only between top officials when it is necessary for the president to be able to do his job. This action is an inappropriate overreach for an administration who has a real problem with optics, conflicts of interest, and respect for boundaries.
- Trump’s tweets this week have generally been a continuation of attacks on the media and “fake news” and attacks on “leakers” from various government agencies such as the FBI. It truly looks pathetic when a person who has no regard for the truth holds a double standard for others who are generally far more truthful (although imperfect). Further, attacking leakers without defending his own version of events only makes the president look guilty as sin. The media has always gotten its sourcing anonymously, especially the best stories (remember Deep Throat/Watergate?). This line of reasoning by Trump just cannot be any weaker.
- Last weekend marked three weekends in a row that our dear leader left Washington to go golfing at Mar-a-Lago, costing taxpayers a whopping $10 million USD. The president has been at Mar-a-Lago for 11 out of his first 33 days in office. As a comparison, Obama cost taxpayers $97 million in trips for his entire 8 years in office. Trump is on pace to top that in the first year. As conservatives, many of us complained heavily about the frequency of Obama’s golfing and the cost of his vacations. It would make us very big hypocrites to not be screaming about this extravagant level of spending happening so far in Trump’s administration. That money does not even include the cost of Melania residing in NYC. And for a guy who very loudly criticized Obama for doing less, his current behavior is the height of hypocrisy. BAD.
- Last weekend at one of Trump’s campaign rallies, he was rambling on about ISIS and terror when he cited some kind of event that had happened in Sweden the night before, which any normal listener interpreted as being a terrorist attack. When Sweden understandably lashed out in defense of itself the next day, stating that no attack had occurred, Trump took to Twitter to explain that he was referring to a Fox News-aired documentary about Sweden refugee-induced crime, and that he had not been referring to a specific incident. In the meantime, Sweden had some fun making our president look like an international embarrassment by releasing entertaining videos mocking the incident. In a week where Trump has used the term “fake news” multiple times, it’s amusing that he has been the biggest purveyor of fake news there is. DISASTER.
- Sean Spicer banned CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the LA Times, and Buzzfeed from his most recent press conference this week in a move that alarmed media organizations across the board and only reinforced the public’s perception that Trump does not believe in the First Amendment’s protections for a free press. In response to this move, Time magazine and the Associated Press boycotted the presser in solidarity with the banned organizations and Bret Baier and Shepard Smith of Fox News also expressed their disapproval. This picking and choosing of press outlets which are favorable to the president’s image should concern every freedom-loving American and any American who claims to be a constitutionalist and originalist. Every American president has felt press coverage was unfair at one time or another, but they also swore to defend the Constitution. Anyone who understands the document knows freedom of the press is crucial to ensuring accountability for presidents and democracy for the rest of us, and was designed by our forefathers to do exactly that. If Trump really wanted to combat “fake” stories as he claims, he would use the truth as his weapon. Any other approach leads to an indictment of himself, because it means the truth is not on his side.
Thanks for reading another edition of The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. See you next week.