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Trump “Tweeting” Away a Promising Day

Thursday should have been a much-needed favorable news cycle for President Donald Trump. There weren’t any new bombshell revelations about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia, the president had ample airtime to brag about the reasonable energy policies he’s enacted by reversing all of President Barack Obama’s unreasonable rules, there was still a slight chance of the Republicans passing some sort of health care bill, and there was a meeting scheduled with the South Korean head of state that at least included plenty of photo opportunities to show off his presidential gravitas.
Alas, the big story of the day turned out to be the president’s most recent “twitter” fight with a couple of relatively obscure morning cable television news hosts.
Even after all the endless commentary we’re still not sure what prompted Trump’s latest “twitter” outburst against Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of the MSNBC network’s “Morning Joe” program, but it was enough that he called Scarborough “Psycho Joe” and Brzezinski “low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” and gloated that they had sought his company at his Mar-a-Lago resort over the New Year’s weekend but she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” and “I said no!” Whatever they might have done to provoke such schoolyard taunts,in the absence of any bombshell revelations about Russia and despite the significance of energy policy and f health care policy and what happens on the Korean peninsula it was bound to dominate the news cycle.
We cut off our cable many years ago and tended to sleep past the morning shows long before that, so we’re only familiar with “Morning Joe” from the publicity that Trump has generated for the show, but we surmise from all the news that the program and the president haven’t been on friendly terms for some time now. The recently-engaged co-hosts probably have been unfair in at least some of the criticisms, as we surmise from the fact that they’re broadcast on the MSNBC network, but they’ve also probably been spot on in some of the criticisms, based on what we’ve seen of Trump, and in any case they don’t seem worth throwing away what should have been a favorable news cycle for the president.
Trump’s official spokespeople in the administration and the unofficial ones in the alternative media did their best to defend the “tweets,” but they had a hard time of it. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, filling in for the suspiciously-absent-of-late White House press secretary Sean Spicer, accurately but unconvincingly noted that many of Trump’s most stalwart supporters voted for him because of his habit of hurling schoolyard taunts against anyone who disagrees with him. The right wing talk radio hosts were recalling the sexual depredations of President Bill Clinton and even further back to the President John Kennedy, which is true enough but hardly excuses the current president’s more recent allegedly sexist “tweets.” The audience for the White House spokespeople and those right wing radio talkers probably bought it, but our guess is that among that the majority of the country it wound up another unfavorable news cycle for the president.
The House Majority leader and other prominent congressional Republicans declined to defend the “tweets,” including some women Senators whose votes are crucial to the passage of that Republican health care legislation, and even Trump’s most outspoken defender on Fox News admitted after running through all the past Democratic outages that the “twitter” blasts didn’t do anything to advance those many reasonable parts of his agenda. Trump’s most ardent defenders are still pleased that “at least he fights,” but given all the punches he’s taking from the early morning news and late night comedy shows and all the cable news in between it’s going to take some pretty darned clever nicknaming to overcome all of that.
Ignoring all the schoolyard taunts from the early morning and late night hosts and proceeding with sensible energy policies and averting national bankruptcy with a stingy but sensible health care reform and averting nuclear catastrophe on the Korean peninsula would be the best response, but that doesn’t seem Trump’s style. The same impulsive counter-punching that prompted those “tweets” won’t refute the bombshells yet to come about the Russia thing with Russia and Trump, will likely overshadow all those reasonable energy policies, it seems unlikely to prevent yet another one of the bankruptcies that have plagued Trump’s career, and we imagine that much of that meeting with the South Korean head of state will concern his recent insistence that the country pay more than was previously negotiated for a missile defense system that has as much to do with America’s security as South Korea’s, which is yet another frighteningly characteristic tendency of Trump. Also, the photographic evidence suggests that whatever her other faults the distaff  early morning cable co-host wasn’t bleeding from a facelift, and we’d have to say she’s objectively better-looking than the president, as if that makes any difference
Still, it could have been a much-needed favorable news cycle for Trump. We hope he’ll have one soon, as it would be a boon to us and the rest of America, but in any case we’ll keep our cable cut and try to sleep past the morning shows and hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

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Oklahoma Crude

There’s no telling what the White House’s internal polls are saying, but the travel itinerary says the president is schedule to appear today for yet another energy policy speech in Cushing, Oklahoma, and that says he’s getting very nervous about the recent rise in gasoline prices.

Obama is not popular in Oklahoma. He lost Oklahoma by the widest margin of any state in the last election, a proud distinction that rebuts every dumb Okie joke ever told, and in the most recent voting he lost 15 counties in the Democratic primary. As frequent visitors to the Sooner State, we can attest that there’s even a good deal of loathing toward the president there.

It is safe to assume that Obama feels no particular affection for Oklahomans, either. Aside from their annoying habit of not voting for him, Oklahomans tend to cling to their guns and religion, although not at all bitterly, and have a strange preference for relying on themselves rather than the government. Many of them also work in the oil fields, rather than in a non-profit advocacy group or government-subsidized solar panel factory, and one gets the impression that Obama would find that yet another example of how very gauche they are.

Which is apparently why Obama chose such a far-flung locale for his latest attempt to prove how very pro-oil he really is. After blocking construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which proved wildly unpopular, Obama will announce in Cushing that he’s going to expedite the review process for construction of the southern part of the project that runs through Oklahoma. The construction of that portion is already slated to start by June, Obama’s intervention won’t speed its progress at all, and it still won’t reach halfway to the source of oil due to Obama’s edicts, but the fact that he went to Cushing to announce his new policy should convince a few gullible voters that he’s serious.

A sharp political operative should be able to round up a small hall’s worth of star-struck Obama supporters even in rural Oklahoma, and the president will no doubt get a cheer when he boasts that domestic oil production has increased during his term, but few other Oklahomans will be swayed. Even ABC News is forced to admit that “energy experts say his policies have little to do with those developments,” and most Oklahomans already know that from their friends in the oil business.

Still, we hope the president enjoys his time in Oklahoma. He should try the chicken fried steak, punch the numbers for some western swing music on the juke box, take in a prairie sunset, and enjoy the simple pleasures of a fine state, because he probably won’t be back for another visit.

— Bud Norman

Pipeliner Blues

Politics is often puzzling, but the Obama administration’s decision to nix the Keystone XL pipeline leaves us feeling downright nonplussed.

Looking at it strictly as a matter of public policy, which may well be a waste of time, the project seems a good idea. Construction of the $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline from Canada to Texas was expected to require thousands of workers at a time when millions of workers are in need of a job, and would no doubt have created many more economic benefits over the coming years by increasing the nation’s supply of gasoline and thus limiting its price. The pipeline also would have facilitated the flow of oil from Canada, a nation we have some suspicions about because of its single payer health insurance system, dubious commitment to free speech, and a weird habit of punting on third downs, but one that isn’t prone to terrorism and the other dysfunctions of most oil-exporting countries. Despite its generally friendly disposition toward the United States, Canada will end up selling its oil to China if the pipeline isn’t built, giving an advantage to America’s main economic competitor.

On the other hand, the arguments against the project are not persuasive. The State Department cited concerns about the pipeline’s possible effect on the “uniquely sensitive terrain of the Sand Hills in Nebraska,” but the risk of environmental damage to that gloriously rough and empty region is likely overstated, and we see no reason they couldn’t have found an alternate route. Some environmentalist have more frankly objected to project on the grounds that it will result in gasoline, which they regard as the leading cause of an impending apocalypse, but they can offer no reason to believe that the use of gasoline in China is less harmful to the planet than its use here.

Looking at it as a political issue, which usually provides some explanation for a politician’s conduct, only leaves us more perplexed. Republicans in congress and on the presidential campaign trail have charged that Obama’s decision was politically motivated, but we can’t see how it will benefit him in the coming election. Stopping the pipeline pleased environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, who told Reuters that “The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory, but here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong,” but he and any like-minded voters will end up pulling the lever for Obama in any case. We also wonder how many like-minded voters there are, as the vast majority of Americans, including Obama’s supporters in the unions, love the planet but prefer their jobs, and are “green” enough to sign a petition or slap a “Save the Earth” bumper sticker on their sports utility vehicle but draw the line at paying $4 for a gallon of gasoline.

Most confusing of all, though, is that the Republicans who wanted the pipeline are responsible for it not being built, and that the president who is once again a hero to his environmentalist supporters for not building it should also get credit for wanting to build it. Administration officials told the National Journal that the 60-day deadline imposed by congress as part of that convoluted tax payroll cut extension last year forced the White House to say no, and that the company backing the project is welcome to start the whole review process all over again. The National Journal calls this “trying to thread a needle between two segments of the base split over the pipeline,” and we have no idea what to call it except maybe audacious.

Then again, we’re still trying to figure out why the conservatives who didn’t want the country to go another trillion dollars in debt were responsible for America’s credit rating downgrade. This politics stuff is darned puzzling.

— Bud Norman