This Week in Trump

And what a week it has been.

Let us consider the following week of statements and actions by the 45th President of the United States.

Monday:

  • Promoted conspiracy theories about Google and the 2016 election that will only serve to denigrate public confidence in the elections process with his supporters.

Tuesday:

  • Announced on Twitter than he was postponing a planned state visit to Denmark, because PM Frederiksen had told him that Greenland was not for sale. He would later call her “nasty” for considering his absurd offer, well, “absurd.”
  • Continued his unrelenting attacks on Representative Tlaib, stating that she “hates Israel and all Jewish people.”
  • Stated that American Jews who vote for Democrats have “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” (and thus promoting a long-standing anti-Semitic trope about Jews and their political loyalties).

Wednesday:

  • Approvingly quoted an internet radio host who likened Trump to the “King of Israel” and the “second coming of God” both of which are allusions to Christ and are also deeply insulting to many Jews.

Friday:

  • Questioned whether Federal Reserve Chair Jerome was an “enemy” of the United States (note: Trump appointed Powell to his present position as Fed Chair).
  • In the same tweet wondered aloud if Chinese President Xi was also an “enemy” (which makes more sense than calling Powell an enemy, but still not a productive public statement by any means–and one that is not accurate in any event).
  • Ordered US companies to stop doing business in China (spoiler: he does not have the power). He doubled-down on this notion later in the day.
  • Sent the DJIA plunging after declaring additional tariffs on China.
  • Confirmed, via tweet late in the day, that he is back to planning increased tariffs just in time to muck up Christmas shopping season.

I feel that without a doubt I have missed something (indeed, several somethings).

As a side note: scrolling through his Twitter feed for a full week underscores not only how much time he spends on Twitter, but the degree to which he is not only narcissistic, but also the degree to which he relies on Fox News (especially commentators) and other pro-Trump media outlets for affirmation. None of that is a surprise, but when consumed all at once is telling.

So, why does all of this matter? Well, it matters because Trump is not a just some celebrity businessman or a reality show star. He is President of the United States. His words and actions matter.

His trade war matters. It is affecting the DJIA. It is affecting the global economy. It will likely affect Christmas shopping season and, therefore, lead the US closer to recession.

His damage to relations with US allies (such as Denmark specifically, and the G7 in general) matters. It has implications for the health of the global economy and for national security. It erodes long-term confidence in the US with our allies. It will make it harder for them to trust future presidents, even if they behave more in line with expected US behavior.

The way he is making support for Israel partisan, rather than bipartisan, will make an already difficult situation in the Middle East even more complicated and difficult to address.

Further, it should concern us when our head of state/head of government makes messianic jokes. Even jokes about being the Chosen One, or accepting and amplifying flattery about being like the second coming is not normal behavior. If I used that kind of language about myself in my professional life, my colleagues would think that something was profoundly wrong with me.

And note this isn’t new. In his RNC acceptance speech in July of 2016, he stated “only I can fix the system.”

To that point, James Fallows wrote a piece (published, I would note, on Thursday, so before the day-long Twitter tirade on Friday):

Obviously I have no standing to say what medical pattern we are seeing, and where exactly it might lead. But just from life I know this:

-If an airline learned that a pilot was talking publicly about being “the Chosen One” or “the King of Israel” (or Scotland or whatever), the airline would be looking carefully into whether this person should be in the cockpit.

-If a hospital had a senior surgeon behaving as Trump now does, other doctors and nurses would be talking with administrators and lawyers before giving that surgeon the scalpel again.

-If a public company knew that a CEO was making costly strategic decisions on personal impulse or from personal vanity or slight, and was doing so more and more frequently, the board would be starting to act. (See: Uber, management history of.)

-If a university, museum, or other public institution had a leader who routinely insulted large parts of its constituency—racial or religious minorities, immigrants or international allies, women—the board would be starting to act.

-If the U.S. Navy knew that one of its commanders was routinely lying about important operational details, plus lashing out under criticism, plus talking in “Chosen One” terms, the Navy would not want that person in charge of, say, a nuclear-missile submarine. (See: The Queeg saga in The Caine Mutiny, which would make ideal late-summer reading or viewing for members of the White House staff.)

Yet now such a  person is in charge not of one nuclear-missile submarine but all of them—and the bombers and ICBMs, and diplomatic military agreements, and the countless other ramifications of executive power.

If Donald Trump were in virtually any other position of responsibility, action would already be under way to remove him from that role. 

Source: James Fallows, If Trump Were an Airline Pilot.

He’s not wrong.

This is also a week in which we learned that the administration would not provide flu vaccinations to immigrant detainees, as well as stating that detentions would be longer (up to indefinite).

The list above is not normal. And even if one rationalizes away a specific incident, the weight of the whole list is such that rationalizations about jokes or brashness should be crushed. This is not how we should expect presidents to behave.

Indeed, tell me where, outside of a character in a movie or TV show, where any of us would tolerate or expect this behavior?

And note: I have left off areas wherein one might just have policy differences with the administration (such as whether a payroll tax cut is a good idea or not or even whether Russia should be readmitted to the G8).

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    He doubled down on the #Iherebyorder insanity by pointing to the 1977 Emergency Powers Act (don’t remember exact name but you get the point). In other words, he is telegraphing that he will declare a National emergency to give himself authority over private corps. Yeah, it’s crazy but so was his similar declaration to redirect funding to his wall and the Courts seem to be allowing that so…

  2. Teve says:

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    Indeed, tell me where, outside of a character in a movie or TV show, where any of us would tolerate or expect this behavior?

    In a cult of personality. #Cult45.

    I suppose people imagine I’m being hyperbolic when I say it’s a cult. But that’s what it is.

  4. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: But, his personality is so vile…
    Cult leaders are usually far more personable and intense.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    We can only hope and pray that this happens soon.
    https://youtu.be/C0rgeQ0QD-o

  6. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher: His followers’ personalities are often rather vile, too. In him they see not only justification, but a kindred soul (insofar as he actually has one).

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    He’s all they’ve got. The times they are a changin’. And they don’t like it.

    I remember a couple years ago when people started talking about majority minority, thinking this is not going to end well. First off, declare victory after you’ve won, not before for Christ’s sake. And second, take another look at the numbers and do the math and see when voters will be majority minority. That’s a couple decades down the road. And for various reasons you’re familiar with, the black vote punches beneath its weight in terms of the EC, and the Latinx vote underperforms and doesn’t vote as a unified minority. It’s a wee bit premature to be thinking we’ve got all the troops.

    White people, especially men, especially rural folk with little education, already feel like they’re hanging on by their fingernails, so it’s really, really important to them that black or brown people not do well.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    White people, especially men, especially rural folk with little education, already feel like they’re hanging on by their fingernails, so it’s really, really important to them that black or brown people not do well.

    This is typical of much of this country’s history, particularly in the South…tell those whites lower on the economic scale that the reason they are suffering is because of all of the people who are darker than they are, when in reality, they are really suffering because of the people who look just like them but have much deeper pockets…

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: Well yes, but what advantage would said people with deeper pockets get from poor whites realizing THAT?

  10. dazedandconfused says:

    It has become clear to me that Trump relies on FOX for more than affirmation, he relies on them for information and advise.

  11. @dazedandconfused: This is the case, remarkably enough.

  12. mike shupp says:

    Also on Tuesday, 20 August, The White House Issues National Security Presidential Memorandum on Launch of Spacecraft Containing Space Nuclear Systems

    “Today, President Donald J. Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on the safe and effective utilization of space nuclear systems as America explores and uses the Moon to develop sustainable technologies and operations necessary for human missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system.”

    The full text of the directive is available at (among others) Doug Messier’s PARABOLIC ARC website http://www.parabolicarc.com/2019/08/21/presidential-memorandum-on-launch-of-spacecraft-containing-space-nuclear-systems/#more-70187

    Mostly, it’s dull reading. The excitement lies in the first sentence. For want of other informed commentary, I’ll repeat what I had to say there:

    “Basically, it says that nuclear propulsion for government and commercial-owned spacecraft will be allowed, with some constraints on operation — launching from Earth will continue to be a no-no.

    “This is potentially a Very Big Deal, since the US (and other nations) have limited themselves to RPGs for powering internal systems in spacecraft and otherwise shunned nuclear power since 1963 (the date of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that — among other things — killed off the Rover nuclear propulsion program). There hasn’t been a formal legal ban exactly on nuclear propulsion, but a lot of people sort of think there should be, because — y’know nuclear. God forbid that we ever allow anything using nuclear fission or fusion in our pristine green Solar System!

    “Trump’s saying to heck with that. Other hand, an informal ban on nuclear propulsion isn’t quite the same as a formal ban on deploying nuclear weapons in space (which is covered by another treaty). So Trump isn’t breaking any treaties that I can see, and no one with their head screwed on properly can object too strenuously to nuclear propulsion systems in space, so we can live with this.

    “Also, that the US can use nuclear power plants as rocket engines in the future doesn’t necessarily mean the US will immediately use nuclear powered rockets, so it’ll take some years before the new Trump directive is fully achieved. But people seem to have been thinking about this a while — it explains the rather strange conversational fragment between Vice President Pence and Administrator Bridenstine yesterday, in which Pence apparently had the odd thought occur that maybe nuclear power could be used in spaceships, Bridenstine agreed it could be dandy for manned Mars missions, Pence suggested that maybe NASA ought to look into nuclear power, and Bridenstine took it as an order. It seems clear now this was about as spontaneous as a TV commercial for erectile disfunction cures.”

    The point I make here is that interesting things are going on that may eventually have huge importance, even if normal political and economic observers choose to ignore them. I’m noting spaceships — there probably are people out there who could talk for hours about farm policy, or the plight of the US Postal Service, etc. We should all widen our eyes.