Friday, 14 September 2018

The week in Trumpland: Hurricane Donald rages on

A storm is forever raging in the mind of Donald Trump.
The president proved again this week that his own self-absorbed preoccupations and off-the-cuff attacks against his perceived enemies are the greatest threats to his chances of successfully sailing a robust economy into the midterm elections and preventing Democrats from retaking a house of Congress.


As the week began, Hurricane Florence’s “cone of uncertainty” became a little more certain. Forecast to make landfall as a Category 3 or 4 monster, the storm would hit by the end of the week, giving the Trump administration and local authorities ample time to prepare a plan of action.
Yet the president kicked off Monday with a storm of his own making, tweeting a false claim about the economy that was quickly disproved.
In fact, that feat had been accomplished 64 times in the past 70 years. In the White House press briefing later that day, White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Kevin Hassett explained that Trump had simply added an extra zero to his figures: “I can tell you what is true. What is true is that it is the highest in 10 years.”
Like Hassett, Trump’s supporters saw the error as a tempest in a teapot that didn’t diminish the fact that the economy was doing well. Tweet deleted, move on.
But Trump also spent his morning obsessed with another looming calamity, the forthcoming publication of Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House.”
Woodward, the journalist who helped bring down Richard Nixon, was rightly deemed a threat, and Trump and his aides worked overtime to discredit the book’s central thrust: that the president was in over his head. The problem for Trump was that Woodward’s conclusions appeared to be supported by an anonymous op-ed published the week before in the New York Times, attributed to a “senior official” in the administration. The writer said that a resistance movement, having concluded that the president was amoral and, to borrow Omarosa Manigault Newman’s book title, unhinged, had established itself in the executive branch. And while the White House worked overtime to convince Americans that Woodward’s book was, in Trump’s review a “work of fiction,” the pushback against the op-ed implicitly conceded that the author was a real person who might fit the description of a “senior official.”
Copies of “Fear” for sale at Costco on Tuesday in Arlington, Va. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
“If that individual is in meetings where national security is discussed, or other important topics, and they are attempting to undermine the executive branch, that would certainly be problematic,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at Monday’s briefing, explaining why the president had called on the attorney general to identify the author.
As the day wore on and Florence continue to creep closer to the East Coast, the president’s advisers tried to get him to concentrate on the coming deluge.
The president and first lady arrive in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to visit the memorial to those killed in the crash of Flight 93 on 9/11. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)


Like slow moving hurricanes, few events give U.S. presidents a better opportunity to rally the American public than the  anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. But Trump somehow managed to get the tone of the day all wrong, starting with an oddly worded, exuberant tweet.
The frame of mind conveyed by the exclamation point continued when Trump landed in Pennsylvania to visit the memorial to the passengers killed in the crash of Flight 93 after they broke into the cockpit to thwart the hijackers.

Back in Washington, Trump held an Oval Office photo-op with FEMA officials to demonstrate that he was taking Florence as seriously as a president should. When asked, however, how he would apply the lessons his administration had learned in Hurricane Maria to the latest storm, Trump raised eyebrows.
“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said. “I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”
Critics pounced, pointing out that it was ridiculous to claim victory for a disasterwhose official death toll was just shy of 3,000.
President Trump and Melania Trump at the site of the memorial in Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed on 9/11. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)


Our president is not, shall we say, given to modesty, and his first rule when criticized is to double down and fight back.
In fact, there’s nothing Trump seems to relish more than counterpunching those who have the temerity to question his brilliance. When JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon quipped Tuesday, “I think I could beat Trump, because I’m as tough as he is, [and] I’m smarter than he is,” it was just a matter of time before the president returned fire. 
President Trump speaks during a Congressional Medal of Honor Society reception at the White House on Wednesday. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)


With hurricanes on the brain, Trump continued to make his case that his administration excelled in Puerto Rico, calling into question the death toll with a conspiracy theory that stunned many of his supporters.
That assertion proved too much for many of the president’s supporters in Florida, some of whom are locked in tight midterm campaigns and are seeking the vote of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.
The authors of the study that calculated deaths in Puerto Rico related to the storm made it clear that their number, although an estimate arrived at by statistical modeling, was not fake news.
“We stand by the science underlying our study. It is rigorous. It’s state-of-the-art. We collected the data from the official sources. Everything can be validated,”  Carlos Santos-Burgoa, the lead investigator in the George Washington University study told the Washington Post. “We didn’t receive any pressure from anybody to go this way or that way. We wouldn’t do it. We are professionals of public health.”
As the sun rose, high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Florence hit Swansboro N.C., on Friday. (Photo: Tom Copeland/AP)


As Florence made landfall early Friday, the president saw fit to keep his tweeting largely focused on Florence. For any other president that might seem like a given, but not for Trump. Despite the cease-fire of hostilities, however, the news of the day could hardly have been worse for the president.
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in a Washington courtroom to two of the charges brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller: conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The kicker, however, was that Manafort had agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Depending on what information Manafort has and shares, that could lead Mueller to the inner circle of the Trump campaign, or to the president himself. 
“This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign,” Sanders said of the plea agreement. “It is totally unrelated.”
Maybe so, but the deal also states that Manafort has agreed to cooperate on “any and all matters as to what the Government deems the cooperation relevant.”
What we do know from Trump’s voluminous tweets on Mueller is that the Russia investigation is the storm that, above all others, occupies his waking thoughts. Manafort’s cooperation also means that Mueller’s work is not ending anytime soon. It may come to obscure the good news on the economy or the stories that may yet be written about an A-plus federal response to Hurricane Florence, and that, in and of itself, will be something to tweet about.


  1. meanwhile uncle samuel is still aiding and protecting the al qaeda/ISIS terrorists and trump is simply the latest figurehead of uncle samuel.
    try to deny this.

  2. After all the booga booga, Florence hit land as a (wait for it, Drum roll please maestro )
    category one.
    Joining in the national sport of 'Kicking the President' does the author no credit, merely identifies him - her as a follower of fashion. Nothing original, nothing insightful, no thought at all. Just a melange of the CNN sound-bites.
    Sad, sad little person.
    'F+' must do better!