An Unscheduled Hospital Visit

President Donald Trump spent a couple of hours in Walter Reed Hospital on Saturday, and there’s much speculation about why. Trump has “tweeted” it was just “phase one” of his annual checkup, but there are reasons to doubt that.
For one thing, Trump’s last annual checkup was only nine months ago, and he doesn’t strike us as the sort who wants to undergo another one any sooner than he has to. For another thing, checkups are rarely done in phases. For yet another thing, the hospital visit was not on the president’s published daily schedule and seems to have arranged hastily. Also, there’s a medical unit at the White House that has previously sufficed for presidential checkups.
The biggest reason for the skepticism, though, is that what Trump says so often turns out to be a big fat lie. Speaking of big and fat, his previous checkup results clearly overstated his height and understated his weight, and Trump was so pleased by he nominated one of the doctors to be director of the Veterans Administration, although the nomination was withdrawn when the Republicans in Congress after allegations of staff harassment and script-writing surfaced and everyone noticed the doctor had no administrative experience.
During the election Trump broke with longstanding tradition by refusing to release his medical records, and instead offered a four-paragraph letter from his weird-looking gastroenterologist testifying that the candidate’s “strength and stamina are extraordinary” and “his laboratory tests results are astonishingly excellent,” and oddly enough that “Mr. Trump has had a medical examination showed only positive results.” The letter concluded that Trump would be “the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency,” and judging by that hyperbolic prose style and the things that no licensed physician would ever say it was clear that Trump dictated it, which the doctor later acknowledged.
Trump feels obliged to always present an image of alpha male invincibility, bragging about his artificially deflated golf scores and even his penis size, as well as constantly denigrating the energy levels and physical attractiveness of his foes, so he’d surely be loathe to admit to even the most minor sort of ailment that might bring a mere human being to a hospital for a couple of hours. Given that at 73-years-of-age Trump is the oldest president ever, with a well known penchant for fast food and an aversion to any exercise that doesn’t involve a golf cart, as well as well-established record of telling big fat lies, the skepticism about Trump’s brief time in the hospital is inevitable.
We’re not prone to conspiracy theories about a politician’s health, such as the ones Trump fans peddled back when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton fainted on a hot New York City sidewalk and then died and was replaced by a body double, but it’s easy to believe that Trump had some minor ailment that more normal people would admit to. We truly hope that’s the most benign explanation for Trump’s impromptus motorcade visit to Walter Reed, and that whatever tests Trump had there yielded only those hoped-for negative results, and that he soldiers on through his likely impeachment.
Even so, we’d be more reassured about the health of our septuagenarian president if he weren’t so big and fat and such a big fat liar.

— Bud Norman

An Oddly Special Relationship

By now we should be inured to President Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior, as so many Americans seem to be, but we still frequently find ourselves cringing. The latest cringe was induced Tuesday when Trump ran a finger across French President Emmanuel Macron’s blue-suited shoulder and explained to the assembled media that he was wiping off some dandruff.
Trump’s die-hard fans no doubt found it hilarious, more high-browed apologists such as the “Dilbert” cartoonists will no doubt explain he was brilliantly establishing his alpha male dominance in the Franco-American relationship, but we’re sure the rest of the world found it rude and boorish. So far the rest of Trump’s first official state visit from a foreign head of state has proved just as undiplomatic and un-presidential.
Seldom-seen First Lady Melania Trump is getting rave reviews from establishment media for the apparently swell official state dinner she arranged, as well as her elegantly dignified comportment in front of the cameras, but Trump had to settle for the praise of the hard-core fans while the late night comics had great fun with the footage. Trump was filmed grabbing Macron’s hand on the White House porch and pulling him along like a reluctant pet, growled that a reporter’s perfectly reasonable query if Trump will pardon his legally beleaguered personal attorney was a “stupid question,” and touched Macron more often and more familiarly than a head of state should touch another head of state.
Macron arguably started it with that discomfiting kiss on the cheek thing that the French do, and he was also unusually touchy and huggy, even by French standards, but that only made it an embarrassing spectacle for both heads of state. So far as we can tell, the negotiations on weighty matters that the state visit is ostensibly about went no better.
Macron had come to the White House with the stated intention of talking Trump out of withdrawing from the nuclear arms agreement with Iran that President Barack Obama and France and five other European powers had negotiated, and it seems he intended to flatter Trump into acquiescence. Flattery is usually an effective technique with Trump, but it’s unusually hard to talk Trump out of his opposition to that Iran deal. He constantly railed against it as “the worst deal ever made” during his improbably successful presidential campaign, and returned to his campaign rhetoric as he sat next to Macron in front of world’s television cameras and microphones. The public posturing by Trump and Macron is sure to complicate their private discussions.
We’ve always shared Trump’s opinion that the Iran deal was awful, but at this point Macron can make a compelling case that for now we’re stuck with it for lack of a better alternative. By usually reliable press accounts several of Trump’s remaining foreign policy advisers have come to the same conclusion, as did several of his many recently defenestrated foreign policy advisers, and so have the heads of state those six other European powers that in on the deal. Macron has told his own people and the rest of the world that “There is no plan B,” it seems unlikely that Trump will be able to articulate a persuasive one during the private negotiations, and if either head of state caves they’ll have a lot of explaining to do with their hard-core fans.
Although we don’t follow French politics so closely as the American variety, we’re guessing Macron has more to lose. He’s an obviously ambitious fellow, some even say slightly Napoleonic, and clearly pines for pan-European and even global prominence, and if he manages to seduce Trump into the global elite’s consensus with his Gallic charm it will greatly enhance that project. If he fails, though, he’ll be left with his country’s late night comedians yukking it up about their head of state’s embarrassing and literal kissing-up to an American president, even by French standards. Trump is not at all popular in France, nor anywhere else in Europe or most of the rest of the world, and he’s especially unpopular in the world’s halls of power, so Macron’s literal and figurative outreaches to Trump could end very badly.
Which is all the more reason for Trump to stick to the campaign rhetoric that won over those hard-core fans. The fact that those faggy Frenchies and snooty Euro-snobs and wily Orientals and the rest of those “shit-hole countries” largely abhor Trump is all the more reason to love him, as far as they’re concerned, and he’s still right that the hated Obama’s Iran deal was truly awful. Even without a persuasively articulated “Plan B,” Trump could win a news cycle with the hard core fans, who would readily forgive all his faintly homo-erotic fulsome praise and physical embraces for Macron as a brilliant negotiating tactic. After that there’s no telling what will come, but it will probably be something else.
Meanwhile Trump is hoping his alpha maleness will strong arm the rest of the world into his “America First” trade agenda, and Germany’s more seasoned and formidable Chancellor Angela Merkel is the next scheduled official state visitor. There’s also a chance that Trump will be meeting somewhere and someday with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un about his country’s more imminently scary nuclear ambitions. In both cases, we’ll hold out some faint hope Trump will forego the campaign trail insult comic shtick, and articulate some persuasive plan instead.

— Bud Norman