February 5, 2017
It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Patriots versus Falcons. Should be a fun game. If you want to look at it purely politically, it’s a very blue state versus a very red state. But then, Tom Brady is friends with Trump. So either way it goes, it’ll be interesting to watch with more than enough pride and blame to go around.
Which brings us to the last few days. Here’s a series of bullets that explains the latter half of Trump’s week:
- All visas revoked. 100k.
- Feb 1 Iran put on notice from the press room
- Cabinet folks pushed through with no vote (breaking rules)
- Exxon (and others) don’t need to announce who it does biz with
- Russia sanctions were eased
- Trump started a fight with Australia over 1250 refugees
- Trump started a fight with Mexico, claiming it would send troops
- Reports that Trump is frustrated with how the ban was rolled out
- White supremacists no longer tracked as terrorists
- Berkeley protests, which included property damage
- Devos vote made it through cloture vote, starting 30 hour countdown
- The Bowling Green Massacre never happened, but was cited
- Signs that Trump’s cabinet picks are slowing
- DOWJ had a down week, but jobs report on Friday sent it up
- Sanctions against Iran (surprisingly, not an attack)
- Australia refugees moving forward, Trump annoyed
- Administration walking back from new Israeli settlements
- GOP walking back from Obamacare full repeal
- Wall seeing a revolt from GOP due to funds
- Earlier this week, Trump used prayer breakfast to talk Apprentice ratings
- Earlier this week, Fredrick Douglass referred to by Trump/Spicer as a living person
- Throughout the week, Iran was put “on notice” over and over and over
- Last night a judge (appointed by George W Bush) ordered a stay
- Trump called the judge a “so-called judge,” leading to new pushback
- DOJ tried to reverse the order, failed, now appealing
- Cabinet person <name> withdrew his name
Some high level thoughts.
- Supreme Court
- Thanks Rex
First, it’s somewhat bracing watching the president realize that the separation of powers is a real thing. He asked what the country is coming to when a judge can overrule his order. He genuinely believes, deep in his heart, that he has the powers of a dictator. And he truly does not understand the structure of the US government and the concept of “co-equal” branches of government.
Not that anyone is surprised, necessarily, but this is where the rubber meets the road. Trump isn’t just saying his side will prevail, he seems genuinely perplexed.
Second, Trump is only getting more unpopular as the days go on. His Gallup approval rating stayed at 43% all week, and yesterday it broke through to 44%. Whereas his disapproval started at 50%, spent most of the week above that, and yesterday came back to 50% again. These 44/50 (-6) numbers are pretty consistent with his polling averages as well.
Third, the white house had another bruising week. The outrage and the protests stuck around. Some outrages were self-inflicted, some were exaggerated, some were entirely justified. But no matter what the particular outrage, it was not a fun time to be in the white house.
I read an article earlier in the week that called one of the days (probably Monday?) relatively calm and professional, relative to how most Trump administration days go. But that was quickly forgotten as the rest of the week dawned. It’s as if the more Trump gets his way, and speaks loudly, the more trouble he gets in. That’s the natural side effect of having unpopular policies.
Fourth, legislation took a back seat this week. If you dig beneath the surface, you’re seeing more discontent across the political spectrum. You see repeal, the wall, and the ban all seeing more hurdles and roadblocks every day. Including from Republicans. But at a high level, that didn’t dominate the news cycle to the same degree.
More cabinet picks were voted on this week. None were a particularly big deal or particularly newsworthy. We expected everything to work out pretty much the way it did. But then there’s Betsy Devos.
I don’t know if Davos will be confirmed or not. What I do know is she’s at 50–50, meaning she can only afford to lose one more Republican vote if Democrats vote together. This is unprecedented. Either she squeaks by with incredibly unpopular ideas and ignites firestorms of opposition for her tenure, or she gets voted down. I don’t see a third option for her at this point.
<supreme court guy>
I haven’t seen much discussion about <supreme court guy>. Clearly he’ll be confirmed. Clearly there will be concern from Democrats. Some will vote against him. Many (or most?) won’t. But of course Democrats are right to be alarmed that the seat was simply stolen. It was Obama’s to fill. There’s no rational argument to the contrary. So that will lead to more opposition, but it’s not a particularly interesting drama. He’ll be confirmed. The rest are just details.
SNL put Melissa Mcarthy up as Sean Spicer last night. She did an amazing job. I hear the entire episode was deeply political and targeted the Trump administration. I’ve seen a lot of this sort of thing from people who make and create things for a living. You reach a point where you’re concerned enough that you decide your biggest inspiration can be found in fighting back against the Trump regime.
So what do you do if you’re pro-Trump? How do you discredit this movement? How do you wrest control back to your side and win some PR? Well, the Berkeley protests provided a clear case study. If you can get liberals burning things, that concerns average citizens. So you get liberals to burn things.
The woman’s march was extraordinary. It was big. It was peaceful. It was determined and joyous. The most salient points the anti-protesters could make were “the signs were mean.” There was no foothold. But masked figures wearing black and burning a car plays into the “law and order” trap. If protesters are violent, well, maybe we shouldn’t have protests. Maybe it’s justified to fire on them. Etc etc. And if it goes far enough, mainstream protesters don’t show up to vote anymore.
None of this is rocket science. Right now, alt-right discussion forums are saying the same thing. All they have to do is wear black, go to a protest, destroy some property, get it on tape, and it’ll spread around the world in an instant. So that will happen, of course. Liberals just need to get out ahead of it with peaceful (though forceful) protests so the inevitable burning car images are outnumbered by the smiling mom faces of the woman’s march.
I left the best part to the end. Rex Tillerson showed up at the state department and those 100,000 visas were reinstated. I’m not saying Rex personally betrayed Trump. I’m not saying he agrees with the order. I don’t even know if he was involved directly in any way. But the timeline is pretty clear.
- State department gutted
- Ban goes into effect
- State department staffers write protest “wire” memo
- Rex gets confirmed
- Judge orders stay
- State department reinstates visas
That is a glimmer of hope. Not that Rex did, or is going to, disagree with Trump. But at bare minimum, his department was told they need to reinstate visas … and he did. He followed the rule of law. That’s a big deal these days.
I didn’t hear much about Trump’s botched raid. It was in Yemen, people died. Trump went to visit the remains of the fallen Seal. I’m used to Republican presidents having a lot of leeway in these scenarios. The military’s stance towards the GOP, even in the face of causalities or incompetence, seems to be “well at least the commander in chief isn’t a Democrat.”
But more details are coming out about this Yemen raid. Spicer tried to say Obama signed off on it and then the administration just had to wait for a full moon. But the reality seems to be far more complex. Trump decided over dinner that he was going to do it. But he didn’t loop anyone else in. Meaning he didn’t hear a range of concerns that he would have heard if he had cared to ask.
From what I’m hearing, everyone knew the raid was a bad idea. It was not properly vetted. No one knew it was going to happen ahead of time, and were caught flat footed when it did happen. It’s one thing to have a bad operation happen on your watch. Or to make a tough decision that didn’t work out. But the reporting makes it seem like Trump didn’t really consider this one much. He couldn’t be bothered to do it right. And when it failed, his administration blamed Obama.
The only thing he did right was see the remains of the soldier at Dover Air Force base. But between the photo op (good for ratings!) and paying his respects to a person who died on his order (admitting fault!) I think most people have a theory as to why he went. Did I just say this Commander in Chief cares more about looking good than sound policy and saving lives? I did. He’s proven it day after day. Maybe I’m wrong this time. Maybe we’re all wrong in our judgements of him and his heart. I don’t think so. And that’s chilling.
If I were on a Sunday Morning Talk show, they’d say I’m being unfair. They’d say I can’t know his heart. But there would be almost no evidence to refute my assertion that he cares about himself at all costs, to the detriment of people around him. He doesn’t give to charity. He’s not kind to others. He never seems to talk about higher ideas. In the words of his father, the world has killers and losers, and he’s a killer.
Some future predictions.
I don’t know if the stay will stick around or not. I don’t know if it gets bogged down in the courts or not. I don’t really know much. But I do know this. The ACLU has never raised this much money before, and is threatening to sue every illegal action this administration undertakes. A new president has never been this unpopular. I can’t recall a time where the congress and the president have been on a collision course like this. Not when they’re from the same dang party.
I don’t know if the stock market will go down. I don’t know if we’ll be at war. I don’t know where Russia will fit into the equation. I don’t know if Trump’s executive orders will continue to slow down, or if they’ll continue to ignite huge controversy. But I do know half of Americans think Trump is moving too fast. And no one could have missed the fact that the Trump administration put Iran on notice again and again. They issued sanctions for now, but does anyone doubt that Trump wants to go punish them militarily?
I don’t know how Obamacare will work out, or if the protests will continue, or if Trump’s approval goes up or down. I don’t know. No one really does. The other day someone called this era “exciting.” Maybe not with the positive connotation that we normally give it, but in a more literal sense. We’re in a state of excitement. Our heart rates are up. We’re nervous. We’re hopeful. We’re not quite sure what to make of it all. It’s a period of high tension.
And it sounds naive to say it, but I’m seeing signs that Trump doesn’t want to keep doubling down over and over and over again, because he keeps getting punished for it. Marshawn Lynch might have put it best a year or two ago.
Lynch: That’s when it just clicked in my mind that if you just run through somebody face, a lot of people aren’t going to be able to take that over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. They just not gonna want that.
Interviewer: Think there’s a deeper metaphor there?
Lynch: Run through a motherfucker’s face. Then you don’t have to worry about them no more.
Last month, and right up through until today, Trump and his team thought they were Lynch in this metaphor. But even if it’s just a tiny little voice in the back of their heads right now, a fairy whisper that’s easily ignored, and will probably be waved away for months, if not years, if not their entire life, you have to wonder…
Do they realize they might be the motherfucker in this metaphor?
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Trump’s first week had the entire White House had them on their heels. If they keep this trajectory up — propose unpopular thing, unify protests, express bewilderment, dial back some small percentage, make no difference — they might decide they just don’t want to deal with it anymore. They might just not want that.