Advertisements

A Question of Temperament

The Los Angeles Times newspaper and Vanity Fair magazine have both published recent stories that raise credible doubt on President Donald Trump’s temperamental fitness for his job, and the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee has publicly raised the same concerns and insisted that most of his colleagues share them. Even with the stock market up and the unemployment rate down, all the opinion polls show that a majority of the public is also worried that there’s something not quite right about the president.
Of course Trump has counter-punched with “tweets” and defiant statements, as is his wont, but not in a way that will reassure any of those worriers. He’s griped to a pool of reporters that “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press can write anything it wants,” sent “tweets” threatening to revoke a national broadcasting network’s right to air stories he dislikes, and come up with a mocking nickname for that impudent Republican Senator who dare call him childish. He also “tweeted” complaints about Puerto Rico, where the death toll from a recent hurricane now stands at 45 and is climbing due to all the people who still don’t have clean water to drink, and that his generosity to the island’s American citizens won’t last forever. The hard-core fans will surely love it, as they hate the media and longstanding Republican office holders and those ungrateful Puerto Ricans as much as Trump does, but we expect the rest of the country and the rest of the world will see it differently.
Although we’ve long been critics of the media in general and the National Broadcasting Company in particular, all of those “fake news” stories Trump is railing against sound all too believable to us, and regardless of what errors they might contain we we don’t think that the First Amendment right of the press to write whatever they want is frankly disgusting. Until recently we unaware of the existence of Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, but what we’ve learned since his feud with Trump started suggests he’s mostly our kind of Republican, and Trump calling him “Liddle” Bob Corker doesn’t undercut the Senator’s claim that the White House has lately become an “adult day center.” Trump has also lately been feuding with his Secretary of State, challenging him to an Intelligence Quotient test if the “fake news” that he had called him a “moron” was true, and later told told reporters he “doesn’t like to undercut people,” but unless you’re a die-hard fan that’s not likely reassuring.
Puerto Ricans have made plenty of mistakes that have compounded their recent misfortune, but the federal government has also imposed plenty of mistakes on them as well over the years, and the complicated arrangement with the island and the 50 states obliges us help its still endangered Spanish speaking but fully-American citizens.
Even with the stock market up and the unemployment rate down we expect the national and international worries about Trump’s temperament will continue. There are also worries about the nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea, how all those ongoing feuds with Republicans and Democrats alike will lead to any useful legislation, as well as those nagging investigations into whole “Russia” thing, and it would challenge even the most presidential of temperaments, which really is worrisome unless you’re a die-hard supporter.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

A Corker of a Feud

Reality shows usually derive their drama from petty disputes between the main characters, and President Donald Trump’s current action-packed series is no exception to the rule. Trump’s latest spat with Tennessee’s Republican Sen. Bob Corker, though, is likely to spill over into the real reality.
If you’ve been following the show since it debuted with the main character descending from the Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy, you might recall Corker as the mild-mannered and impeccably mainstream Senator who was one of the first Grand Old Party establishment types to endorse Trump’s candidacy after Trump had all but wrapped up the Republican nomination. Corker even so went so far as to describe Trump to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as “courteous, kind, and respectful,” and “not at all what people think,” and his name was floated as a possible pick for Vice President or Secretary of State, but since then the relationship has gone sour.
As chairman of the Senate’s foreign relations committee Corker shepherded a Russian sanctions bill that was clearly intended to curtail Trump’s ability to negotiate with that country. Following Trump’s widely criticized response to the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia, Corker was one of several congressional Republicans who joined in the criticism, going so far as to say “The President has not been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” During the recent episodes when Trump was feuding with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over his efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict with North Korea, Corker that Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were among the were among the few administration officials “that help keep the country from chaos.”
On Sunday Trump did his usual illiterate counter-punching with a series of three “tweets” firing back at Corker, all with the usual vehemence. “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election reelection in Tennessee. I said’NO’ and he dropped (said he could not win without…” one read, which was continued in the next “tweet” with “… my endorsement.) I said ‘NO THANKS!’ He wanted to be Secretary of State, I said “NO THANKS!” He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran deal!” The third “tweet” added “Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run!”
The part about Corker being largely responsible for the Iran deal is entirely untrue, as Corker was an outspoken critic and a key reason President Barack Obama didn’t dare submit it to the Senate for ratification as a treaty and thus had to sign it as a presidential agreement, which is why Trump should be grateful he can now undo it by executive action. Corker contends that Trump had called him to offer his endorsement as an inducement to run again, that he withdrew his name for consideration for Secretary of State before Trump reached a decision, and that he’s not seeking for re-election for reasons other than cowardice. Given both what we’ve learned about both men over their long public lives, we’re inclined to believe Corker on each count.
In any case Corker isn’t running for reelection and is all the more unintimidated by Trump’s “tweets.” He responded with a phone call to The New York Times to categorically deny all of Trump’s “tweeted” claims, and to say that the president is treating his office “like a reality show” and that his handling of the North Korean crisis puts the country “on the path to World War III.” Corker even went to his own “Twitter” feed to opine that “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
The spat has received plenty of media attention, of course, and most of the commentary has been about how it will affect Trump’s ability to get his legislative agenda passed. Republicans can only afford to lose three votes from their slim majority in the Senate, which includes “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio and the ugly Rand Paul and the unheroic John McCain, among several other members that Trump has gone out of his way to insult, so the general conclusion has been that enmity of the gutless Corker will likely further complicate the art of the legislative deal for Trump. There’s a counter-theory on the talk radio shows that Trump’s feuds with his own party are a brilliant strategy, which involves burning down the Republican party and bring forth a Trump-ian Phoenix from the ashes in order to defeat the almost-as-hated Democrats, but it’s hard to see that playing out soon enough to get anything passed before the next mid-terms.
So long as the Republicans are blamed for their legislative failures and the Republican president is held blameless that will probably be fine with Trump, but we worry Americans in general and Republicans in particular might have bigger problems. Corker is a fellow mild-mannered and impeccably mainstream Republican, even if he isn’t so wised-up as ourselves that he once went on cable television to describe Trump as “kind, courteous, respectful,” and we think he might be right about the adult day care at the White House with the adult supervision occasionally gone missing.
We’re not the only ones who can’t shake that nagging worry, or even the only Republicans. Corker claims most of his colleagues share his concerns, and so far few congressional Republicans have taken a public stand with Trump in in feud, and a very stalwart Pennsylvania GOP congressman from Pennsylvania who’s also not seeking went on the MSNBC cable network to admit his own worries. The latest poll from the Associated Press has Trump at a new low approval rating of 32 percent, with only 27 percent of women favorably inclined, and more worrisome it showed a positive 67 percent among Republicans. That’s a landslide in a general election, but in the past few hyper-partisan decades presidents have usually scored around 90 percent in their own parties, with the political Mendoza line set at around 80 percent, and the defection of nearly a third of the Republican grass-roots and a significant number of its elected representatives should give pause to the other two-thirds of the party.
Stay tuned, though. According to another recent episode, this is just the calm before the storm. Also, there’s an intriguing subplot involving Trump’s first wife and his third wife and First Lady to keep you diverted until the next twist.

— Bud Norman

Dinner With the President

President Barack Obama treated a group of Republican senators to dinner at a posh Washington restaurant on Wednesday, prompting much speculation among the chattering classes. Some speculated that the president’s invitation signals a shift away from partisan rhetoric and toward a more conciliatory relationship with Congress, others speculated how the Republicans might respond to such an unexpected tactic, and everyone seemed to be speculating about what was said at the high-powered repast.
Such speculation is no longer necessary, however, as we have a reliable source who by happenstance was seated within eavesdropping distance of the conversation. For the benefit of those readers who are oblivious to satire we will emphasize that our source is entirely fictional and his information completely made-up by us, but contemporary media standards being what they are we felt his account worth passing along nonetheless.
The president arrived nearly 15 minutes after all of his guests had been seated, apologetically explaining the difficulty of finding parking for his motorcade of 20 limousines, sports utility vehicles, and armed drones. A young man in a crisply starched white shirt and black bow tie arrived at the table moments later, identifying himself as “Justin” and stating that he would be the group’s waiter for the evening. After confirming that the president would be picking up the tab, each of the Republican senators ordered a Dalmore 62 single Highland malt Scotch whisky. Obama opted for what our source calls “some kind of Hawaiian girly drink with an umbrella.”
Sports talk dominated most of the early conversation, our source said, with each senator extolling the virtues of his state’s most prominent team. The president spoke at length about the time he scored 42 points against the Philadelphia 76ers to win the decisive sixth game of the 1980 National Basketball Association championship series, apparently confusing himself with Los Angeles Lakers guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and every Senator offered hearty congratulations for the feat. The waiter then brought another round of drinks and offered to take dinner orders, and the president seemed to make a point of repeatedly calling the young man “Jason” while the Republicans consistently addressed him as “Bud,” “Mac,” “you,” “kid,” or “boy.” Our source was unable to overhear every order, but he did note that Obama had the risotto sweetened with Maryland crab and a froth of crab stock cream for an appetizer and lobster thermidor as a main course, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire chose the veal chops with mustard-punched jus and marble-size poached apples alternating with crisp potato croquettes, and Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska requested a chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and fried okra.
Although Obama was seen wincing when Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee drenched his jon dory a la nage, grilled asparagus, and bordelaise reduction in ketchup, and then rolling his eyes when Sen. John McCain of Arizona inquired about an “early bird special,” our source describes the conversation as cordial even as it turned to political matters. As a third round of drinks arrived, Obama opened the discussion by grimly noting the severe pain and hardship that the recent “sequester” budget cuts had inflicted on his public approval ratings. The president mentioned that he had even been forced to eliminate White House tours for schoolchildren, and although he admitted that “it’s nice not to have the little snot-nosed bastards running around the place” he said the situation was nonetheless unacceptable because of its “bad optics.” The senators seemed sympathetic to the president’s plight, and unanimously recommended another round of drinks.
After the fresh libations arrived, Obama modestly sought the senators’ counsel by asking if he should next cut funding for the poor kids or the disabled kids. The Republicans conceded that it was a difficult choice, as they could not decide which group they hated more, and inquired if it would be possible to target the cuts more specifically to affect only children who are both poor and disabled. The president then asked if the senators would please raise income tax rates on the wealthy even further, leading to much laughter and calls for another round.
Fortified by the fifth girly drink, Obama asked with apparent curiosity why the Republicans loved rich people so much. The senators insisted that it wasn’t that they loved rich people, really, just that they hated the poor. Obama then asked if they would pretty pretty pretty please with sugar on top raise the taxes on the rich just an itsy-bitsy bit, and the Republicans responded that they appreciated the food and drinks but that they would sooner burn in hell than betray their fat cat buddies. There was much cackling and moustache-twirling during this exchange, our source tell us, and then cries of “one for the road, boy.”
As the sixth round was consumed the conversation returned to sports, with Obama recalling the time he swished a buzzer-beating jumper over the outstretched arms of Craig Ehlo to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and propel the Chicago Bulls into the second round of the NBA playoffs. One of the Republicans rudely suggested that the president was thinking of Michael Jordan, and Obama humbly admitted that it was so, remarking “Damn, that brother could play some ball.” There was a broad bi-partisan consensus that one more round wouldn’t do any harm, seeing how none of them had to drive, after which the president was heard telling the senators that he really loved them, man.
The bill reportedly came to $3,500, or $3,505 with tip, and all involved described the meeting as “productive.” No ideas about how to cut the nation’s $16 trillion debt were agreed upon, but the country can be assured that the parties are partying together.

— Bud Norman