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Nice Work If You Can Get It

Far be it from us to accuse anyone of being lazy, as we do enjoy our ample amount of leisure time, but President Donald Trump’s workday strikes us as a bit short for the job he holds.
Someone in the White House leaked the president’s daily schedule for the past three months to the Axios.com web site, and it reveals that more than 60 percent of it was spent on what the White House likes to call “executive time.” This presumably means time for the president to read the voluminous reports that cross his desk, but all theleaks from past and present administration officials  suggest he’s not much of a reader, and to phone advisors about the pressing issues of the day, but the leaks indicate he’s mostly talking to his Mar-a-Lago pals, and his own quotes in  the rest of the news suggest he’s not paying much attention to the advice of his administration’s national security and economic experts. Educated speculation is that he’s mostly spending the time watching Fox News, and his numerous “tweets” responding to what was just said on the network seems to back this up. Some harsher critics are speculating that much of it is spent on Trump’s elaborate comb-over and acquiring his yearlong orange hue, and there seems to be evidence for that as well.
On several of the leaked daily schedules Trump didn’t take a meeting until 10 or 11 a.m., and was off the job by 5 p.m. or so, which is admittedly pretty ambitious by our standards but less than what one should expect of a president. President Bill Clinton would typically start his workday at 9 a.m., and was famous for working late into the night, although he was also infamous for spending some of his “executive time” with interns. President George W. Bush would routinely wake up at 5:15 a.m., about the same we time usually finish throwing up, and would be in the Oval Office by 6:15 a.m., poring through what he needed to know for his first meeting of the day at 8:15 a.m., and he wouldn’t call it quits until 5:30 or to 6 p.m. and be back in bed by 9 p.m., which is about when we get started on our big ideas. The record shows that President Barack Obama was a relative slacker, usually getting into the office around 9 a.m., but he usually logged about six meetings along with hour-long intelligence and economic briefings in a workday, and was known to say up late reading all those voluminous reports.
Back when he was getting elected Trump loved to ridicule Obama’s laziness and penchant for golf, and vowed that he would eschew golf and spend all of his time in the Oval Office making great deals for America, but Trump has logged more time on Trump-owned golf courses in his first two years than Obama spent on various links in eight years, and has spent far less time in the Oval Office.
Trump doesn’t deny the veracity of the leaked schedules, but instead his administration offers a novel spin. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained that “President Trump has a different style of leadership than his predecessors and the results speak for themselves. While he spends much of his day in scheduled meetings, events and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has made him the most productive president in modern history.” She went on to cite the booming economy and low taxes, America’s position as the biggest producer of oil and natural gas, the remaking of the American judiciary, renegotiated trade deals, and that “it’s indisputable that our country has never been stronger than it is today under the leadership of President Trump.”
The economy has indeed continued along the same trajectory that belatedly started in the last years of that lazy Obama’s presidency, although that tax bill has the budget deficit back to the worst of the Obama years. America was the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producer before Trump took office, despite Obama’s best efforts, and the remaking of the judiciary can mostly be credited to that hated establishment Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who ruthlessly kept those seats open in the last years of Obama, and to the establishment Republican Federalist Society, which made all the picks. The recent revisions to the renamed North American Free Trade Americans yielded some gains for America’s dairy famers, but hardly amounts to the difference between the worst trade deal ever and the best one ever, and it’s yet to be ratified, and it remains to be seen if Trump can win his thus-far disastrous trade war with China. According to all the opinion polls, most Americans dispute that the country has never been stronger, and we’re inclined to agree.
We’ve always agreed with the old American maxim that the government which governs least governs the best, however, so we’ll not dare suggest that Trump become any more ambitious. We’d rather he didn’t spend so much time “tweeting” schoolyard taunts and obvious falsehoods against his critics, and suggest he’d do better to spend that time chilling out. Those energetic types always worry us, as they so often tend to do more harm than good, and we think that in the case of Trump less truly is more.

— Bud Norman

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The Snowden Saga Continues

The strange case of Edward Snowden, that unshaven young fellow who created such a fuss by revealing information about the National Security Agency’s ambitious data-mining operations, becomes more compelling by the day. More sober-minded observers have cautioned that his story shouldn’t distract the public’s attention from the more important matter of what he has revealed, and we readily concede the point, but still, it is hard to look away from an improbable adventure with more plot twists and exotic locales than a big-budget James Bond movie.
All of the news media seem to agree that Snowden has somehow slipped away from his recent refuge in Hong Kong to an undisclosed location in Moscow, where his presence provides Vladimir Putin with yet another opportunity for the Russian president to demonstrate contempt for his American counterpart, but the next stop seems to be anybody’s guess. The New York Times’ and the Associated Press’ sources say Snowden will be heading to Ecuador, the Russian news agencies have Snowden en route to Venezuela via Cuba, and Reuters, in a story headlined “Snowden stays out of sight after leaving Hong Kong,” cautiously reports only that the peripatetic leaker “kept people guessing about his whereabouts and plans.” Wherever Snowden might pop up next, we can only assume that a gorgeous femme fatale and a martini that has been shaken and not stirred will await him.
Much of the world’s audience will likely be rooting for him, too, judging by the reaction of most mainstream press outlets around the world. Germany’s Der Spiegel, the definitive voice of conventional continental wisdom, headlined its story about the NSA program revealed by Snowden “Obama’s Soft Totalitarianism: Europe Must Protect Itself from America,” and the president reportedly was lectured about the data-mining by several heads of state during a recent economic summit. The countries that have aided and abetted Snowden’s flight have obviously made their opinions known, as well, and although most of them prefer a harder form of totalitarianism than even Obama aspires to they can’t resist the opportunity to annoy the American government.
Even here in the United States, where Snowden has been charged with espionage and is officially regarded as a fugitive from justice, he seems to have a following. An internet petition demanding a pardon for Snowden has more than 110,000 signatures, and supporters seem to be coming from all directions. The libertarian right has championed his cause, and even many on the right who were comfortable with similar data-mining operations under the previous administration aren’t as enthusiastic about the information being accumulated by a government that is using the Internal Revenue Service to harass conservative groups and the Department of Justice to pursue investigative reporters as criminal conspirators. Despite the left’s past passion for Obama, who once decried such security measures as an assault for civil liberties, many are now embracing Snowden as their new hero.
There’s a similarly strange mix of people defending the program and vilifying Snowden for revealing it, of course. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has robustly defended the NSA’s efforts, embarrassing the president to the point that he’s gone on television to insist that “I’m not Dick Cheney,” while former critics of the Bush-era terrorism protocols such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now striking a more hawkish tone. Poor Pelosi tried out her new arguments in front of the “Netroots Nation,” a convention of liberal activists and internet writers, and wound up being roundly booed and harshly heckled for her troubles. We take time out to boo Pelosi every day, and would gladly heckle her if she were within earshot, and although we have very different reasons for doing so we’re glad to see her get it from the same audience that once adored her.
More plot twists are almost certain to follow, and it’s possible that one or more of them will reveal some nefarious rather than patriotic motive for Snowden’s choices, so we’re withholding judgment of the leading character until the final reel. In the meantime we’ll be mulling over the advantages and dangers of the NSA’s various programs, and enjoy watching the president being upstaged by a new action adventure hero.

— Bud Norman