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Wow, What a Press Conference

To his immense credit President Donald Trump frequently fields questions from the press, usually when he’s obliged to do so during a visit with a foreign head of state, or when the noise of the Marine One helicopter allows him to pretend not to hear the questions he’d rather not answer, but he rarely endures a solo press conference in front of the assembled television cameras and microphones. He gave one on Wednesday, however, and it was a nearly 90-minute-long doozy.
Despite the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality Trump’s rhetoric has to our sensitive ears, and the unpleasant effect his oleaginous appearance has on our sore eyes, we couldn’t stop watching and listening the press conference’s end. Trump was in true Trumpian form throughout, with the expected insult comic shtick about the “the failing New York Times” and the rest of the “fake news,” as well as the “low-lifes” and “big, fat con jobs” among his other critics, and the requisite amount of wildly exaggerated boasting. As usual, much of what he said was not only provably but quite obviously  untrue.
Trump talked up a major expansion of the American steel industry that isn’t happening. He claimed credit for the construction of that “big, beautiful” border wall he promised Mexico would pay for, even though the Mexican’s aren’t paying up, and he’s recently signed a spending resolution that will avert a pre-mid-term-election government shutdown but doesn’t include any money for any kind of wall, and it also  isn’t happening any time soon. He explained that all those international camera’s footage of the United Nations audience he’d addressed the day laughing at him was fake news, because of course they were appreciatively laughing with him when he opened his speech with the usual braggadocio. Once again he bragged about winning 52 percent of women’s votes in the presidential election, even though he only won 52 percent of the white women’s votes, and lost the overall women’s vote by a landslide, not to mention that Trump garnered only 48.2 percent of the overall popular vote and thus would would have lost all the men’s ballots to Democratic nominee “Crooked” Hillary Clinton by a landslide if that oft-repeated bast were actually true.
He also reiterated an earlier unsubstantiated claim that China is interfering in the mid-term elections to get Democrats elected because they’re so fearful of his trade war, and failed to answer a question about why he also claimed once again to be such good friends with China’s dictator.
Maybe it was because he had a rare open 90 minutes on his busy schedule, but our best guess is that Trump granted the rare press conference yesterday because he knew that today’s news will be mostly devoted to the testimony of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate’s judiciary committee, and the testimony before the same committee California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they both students at elite sexually-segregated prep schools in Maryland back in the early ’80s. The nationally-televised-on-several-channels testimony of what he said and she said will surely generate boffo ratings even by the Trump reality show’s standards — to put it in Trumpian terms, that much we can tell you, believe us, OK? — and by now we’ve noticed that Trump likes to get ahead of the next day’s stories.
By now this subplot of the Trump reality show is pretty darned complicated, though, and even for such a wily reality show star as Trump it’s a damned hard story to get in front of. By now another couple of women have come forward by name to accuse Kavanaugh of far-worse-than-boyish sexual behavior during late teens and early 20s, male and female classmates of Kavanaugh’s are telling the press that he wasn’t the choirboy he claimed during an unusual and ill-advised interview on Fox News, the Republicans on the legislative committee are reluctant to call Kavanaugh’s prep school friend Mark Judge, an alleged eyewitness to and participant in the sexual assault, who has since penned a roman a clef titled “Wasted: Tales of a a GenX Drunk,” which featured a drunken friend named “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” and the “fake news” has found some admittedly circumstantial but undeniably evidence in Kavanaugh’s prep school yearbook that the Supreme Court nominee was once upon a time a rather party-hearty kind of dude.
The two latest accusers are both being treated with more skepticism by most of the “fake news,” on the other hand, and the third comes courtesy of the same media-savvy lawyer who represents pornographic video performer and best-selling author Stormy Daniels, and it’s worth noting the “failing New York Times” declined an offer to report the third accuser’s accusations. Kavanaugh has an unchallenged record of sexual propriety since his early college days, and plenty of well-educated and well-respected former classmates who vouch for high moral character, and that’s also well worth taking into account.
Kavanaugh also has the whole-hearted backing of Trump, but it remains to be seen if that proves helpful. Trump has been accused of adult sexual misbehavior by more than a dozen women, and of course Trump was asked about that during the news conference, and he eventually conceded that as a result of his experience he tends to not believe women accusing men of sexual misbehavior. He misstated some key facts about a couple of his accusers, ignored the fact that another one of them has civil suit for slander still pending in the courts, didn’t bother to deny that his voice boasting about grabbing women by the pussy, and generally came across as the sexist pig that all the polls show even most white women regard him. Short of that Mark Judge fellow the Republicans won’t call testify, Trump is probably the least convincing character witness you’d want on your side if accused of sexual misbehavior.
Most people will judge today’s he said and she said testimony according to their political prejudices, but in the end we don’t think it will help the Republican party much with the upcoming mid-term women’s vote. We’ve seen polling that a slight majority of Republicans support Kavanaugh’s nomination even if the appalling allegations are proved true, and the Senate majority leader has pledged to “plow” Kavanaugh’s nomination through no matter what is revealed today, and we can’t blame any woman voter we know for resenting that.

— Bud Norman

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When Silence Would Have Been Golden

President Donald Trump mostly spent his extended holiday vacation on the golf course or at fancy dinner parties, but he couldn’t keep from making some news. He had the usual number of insulting “tweets,” several insulting sound bites, and sat down for an impromptu interview with The New York Times that still worth noting after several days.
The interview is so full of eyebrow-raising quotes that one hardly knows where to begin, but we might has well start with the one that got the most attention from the media during a slow and little-watched news cycle. Asked an inevitable question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the last presidential election, Trump surprised many by saying that “It doesn’t bother me, because I hope he’s going to be fair. I think that he’s going to be fair. There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair.”
Which is surprising because Trump has frequently characterized the investigation as a “witch hunt,” and “witch hunts” are by definition unfair, while his most loyal allies in Congress and the conservative media have lately maintained that the investigators are biased and out to get the president. Perhaps it was a holiday spirit that had Trump so hopeful about Mueller’s fairness, perhaps he was taking the high road with confidence his surrogates would take the low, and he perhaps he believes that Mueller might as susceptible to flattery as himself, but in any case it provided fodder for speculation.
When asked about the possibility of re-re-opening an investigation former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices Trump replied that “I have absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department, but for purposes of hopefully thinking I will be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved in this particular matter.” Which is worrisome on a number of levels.
Aside from the fact that a President of the United States speaks such un-parseable English, there’s something chillingly Nixonian about Trump’s insistence that he can use federal law enforcement to persecute his political enemies, and something more chilling yet about his apparent confession that isn’t do so only in hopes of currying favor with the special counsel. Just in case a reader might reach a more generous interpretation, Trump also had some strange praise for former Attorney General Eric Holder that made his rather authoritarian views of presidential power explicitly clear.
“I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that — I will say this: Eric Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the IRS scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had — not made up problems like Russia collusion, these were real problems — when you look at the things they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that. I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.”
Aside from mangled syntax and the failure to recall the name of the “Fast and Furious” scandals or come up with any other of the many Obama scandals, Trump is saying that his predecessor committed serious crimes and was allowed to do so by an Attorney General who put personal loyalty ahead of loyalty to the rule of law, and that he wishes his own Attorney General were just as unethical. All of Trump’s allies in Congress and the conservative media used to loathe Holder for doing what Trump respects, and when they get back to work today it will be interesting to see if they recant their past criticisms. We’re sure they’ll come up with something to say, and fully expect that their ongoing attacks on Mueller’s character will continued despite Trump’s hopefulness for fair treatment.
There was plenty of Trump’s widely-ridiculed braggadocio, too, as he claimed Chinese President Xi Jiping treated him “better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China,” that he understands tax law “better than the greatest CPA” and the details of health care policy “better than most.” He also claimed to have vaulted candidate Luther Strange from fifth place to second after endorsing in his Alabama’s Republican primary for a Senate race, even though there were only three major candidates in the race, and the numbers he claimed in Strange’s surge were simply made-up. As usual he could not get through an interview with about bragging about his electoral college victory, which as usual he claims is much harder for a Republican to win than the popular vote, even the Republicans are three-and-two  in the past five electoral votes but only one-for-five in the popular vote.
Trump also used a barnyard epithet to describe the Democrats’ opposition to the tax bill, while unnecessarily insulting potential Democratic ally Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state that Trump claims to have single-handedly restored to economic greatness.
The weirdest part, though, was Trump’s prediction that the mainstream media — those “very bad people” and purveyors of “Fake News” who have been Trump’s favorite target since he launched his campaign — are going to carry him to an easy reelection victory in 2020. “Because without me, their ratings are going down the tube. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times but the failed New York Times. So basically they have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please don’t lose Donald Trump.'”
Which is to say that the American public only reads or watches the news to hear about Trump, and will lose interest in public affairs all together if he’s not around, and that’s pretty arrogant even by Trumpian standards. He also expects that the news outlets that have seen their readerships and viewerships rise with the constant criticisms of Trump will commence six months of unrelenting praise so that they can go back to luring readers and viewers once he’s safely re-installed in office, which strikes us as worrisomely crazy even by Trumpian standards.
Trump is probably lucky the interview was published when people had better things to do than read or watch the news, but today the holidays are over and the government is back to work and people will once again be paying attention. Our advice is that he avoid impromptu interviews for a while.

— Bud Norman