Trump and his Cynical Critics

How remarkable it is that what’s best for America so often coincides with what’s best for President Donald Trump’s businesses. To cite just the latest example, by sheer coincidence an exhaustive search for the perfect place to host the upcoming G-7 summit wound up at a Florida golf course that just happens to be owned by Trump.
By all accounts the Trump National Doral outside of Miami is a ritzy joint with plenty of room for a large gathering of foreign officials, even if business have been down precipitously over the last couple of years, but in this cynical age some will inevitably suspect that the golf resort was chosen to enrich Trump. Perish the thought, according to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who assured reporters on Thursday that “We used a lot of the same criteria used by past administrations,” even if no previous administration ever chose a Trump property for a summit. Mulvaney also assured the reporters that Trump won’t make any money from the arrangement, and although he didn’t explain why not only a partisan hater would doubt his word.
Trump has received bipartisan criticism for withdrawing American troops from Syria, which has allowed Turkey to seize large swaths of land from our erstwhile Kurdish allies, but only the presidents most mean spirited opponents would think the decision was at all affected by Trump’s personal bottom line. Back in the ’16 presidential campaign Trump admitted to a friendly talk radio show that “I guess I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two,” but surely that never entered Trump’s mind.
All that fuss about Trump withholding military aid from our Ukrainian allies unless they launched some investigations into corruption was entirely in the best interest of American national security, we’re sure, even if the investigations Trump requested happen to target a potential election opponent and could possibly confirm some fanciful conspiracy theories about why he lost the popular vote last time around.
The trade war Trump has also brought bipartisan criticism, with farmers and manufacturers and consumers taking a big hit for what looks to turn out to be a pretty much status quo trade deal, but it would be downright mean to think that the sweetheart deals First Daughter and senior White House advisor Ivanka Trump got from the Chinese at the outset of negotiations had anything to do with it. Surely it’s sheer coincidence, too,  that Air Force cargo planes were diverted to a civilian airport which happens to be located next to a Trump-owned golf resort where business has also been down lately.
Past presidents have divested themselves of their business holdings and placed their fortunes in a blind trust to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and released tax returns and other financial documents to reassure the public, but Trump figures he doesn’t need such old-fashioned formalities. He’s led such a selfless and blameless life according to the strictest ethical standards, after all, and when he tells you he always puts America first he can look you right in the eye and say “that I can tell you, believe me, OK?”
The die-hard fans trust him, and surely only the most cynical and suspicious  sorts would dare to doubt him.

— Bud Norman

A Bumpy Landing in Scotland

The administration of President Donald Trump creates scandals at such a rapid rate even the most avid news readers can’t follow them all, which seems to work to its benefit, and Trump remains confident in his famous boast that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a supporter.
Over the weekend the Politico web site came up with a story that might well give even the most die-hard Trump fans cause for concern. According to Politico a C-17 military transport was on a supply flight from Alaska to Kuwait in April, and instead of refueling at one of the several usual military bases available on the trip it landed at a commercial airport located conveniently near Trump’s golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, where the seven crew members spent their per diems on rooms for the night.
Trump’s talk radio and Fox News apologists will want to dismiss the story as “fake news,” but they’ll probably choose to ignore it. Politico is more reliably accurate than the president, the United Kingdom’s left-wing but reliable Guardian newspaper has corroborated reporting about the airport, and the House Oversight Committee says it has further proof and is demanding more information. So far the Pentagon is not denying the story, while the Air Force has acknowledged it’s launched an investigation, and given Trump’s well documented habit of funneling money from the taxpayers to his businesses it’s not at all out of the question..
So far the Pentagon is insisting it was no big deal, but the apologists will have a hard time making that argument. The Turnberry resort has been losing money since Trump bought it, and that crucially nearby airport has been losing so much money that the Scottish government has recently threatened to close it, so a seven member crew’s niggardly military per diems will be welcome at the resort and the $11 million that the Oversight Committee says the civilian airport has billed the military will certainly be much more appreciated. The fuel is less expensive at any of those military bases where the planes usually stop, as are the nearby lodgings, so it sure seems that somebody in the military or its civilian leadership decided that a civilian airport near Trump’s golf resort needed the money more than America’s national security.
The sums involved are chump change compared to the billions Trump is taking from the military budget to build the big, beautiful border wall he promised his cheering rally crowds the Mexicans would pay, but he’s got a remotely plausible national security rationale that the rally crowds will love. Using defense funds to prop up another of Trump’s failing businesses will be harder to explain.
Given how Trump boasts of his love for the military, and how it was “depleted” when he took office but has since been “un-depleted,” he should be taking the lead in demanding an explanation. So far he hasn’t, and the next time he’s answering questions in front of that noisy helicopter he flies in to his golf outings we hope someone from the “fake news” will ask why not.

— Bud Norman