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An Ill-Fitted President in an Ill-Fitting Suit

On his first day of a state visit to the United Kingdom President Donald Trump committed his usual number of offenses against longstanding diplomatic protocol, continuing his “twitter” war against the mayor of the host city, offering opinions on British political affairs that are none of America’s business and he doesn’t seem to know much about, and taking the occasion to hurl insults and threats from abroad at perceived enemies back home. The worst of it, as far as we’re concerned, was the outfit he wore to a fancy dinner with the Queen of England.
He was wearing a white tie and tales, which is appropriate dress for state dinners with royalty and those other very rare occasions in life when a black tie and tuxedo is insufficiently highfalutin, but surely such a rich man as Trump claims to be could have found a more adept tailor. The suit made him look far fatter than he and his doctor swear he is, even more so than his golf gear, with the coat cut higher and showing conspicuously more white cummerbund than any of the more elegant-looking other male guests, and along with Trump’s behavior on the trip it put us in mind of Burgess Meredith’s portrayal of the “Penguin” on the old “Batman” television series.
To be fair we must admit that only Fred Astaire ever looked great in such a get-up, and that we are by no means fashion icons ourselves, but we couldn’t resist joining all the jibes that many of the commenters at various internet news sites were making. Our observation might seem one of those ad hominem attacks we routinely accuse Trump of making, but on his first day in London he making fun of the mayor’s diminutive height, and his fans seem to that sort of plain-spoken bluntness and cheap shots.
Also, it seemed yet another dispiriting example of how Trump just isn’t very good at this state visit and international diplomacy stuff.
All the past presidents of our by now very long recollection were obviously striving for a certain dignity and decorum and paying exquisitely careful attention to all the infinitesimal details of international diplomacy while abroad, but Trump seems to pride himself on demolishing even the most time-tested traditions. He shoved the prime minister of Montenegro aside to get to the front of a photo at a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, sided with brutal Russian dictator Vladimir Putin over the consensus of his intelligence agencies at a meeting in Helsinki, lavished unnecessary praise on the even more brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un during negotiations in Singapore, and went out of his way to insult the democratically-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a G-7 summit north of the border.
Trump was on his best behavior during the dinner with the Queen and the rest of the royal family. He wisely refrained from reiterating his opinion that the recent biracial American member of the clan is “nasty,” which he now denies saying even there’s audio evidence that he did, and he seemed quite sincere in such over-the-top flattery of the Queen that she was probably embarrassed about it. Trump clearly loves pomp and circumstance, a tendency he has said he learned from his Scottish-born mother, who seems to have had a greater affection for the royals than your average Scot, and although he’s willing to wage petty and pointless feuds with all of the democratically-officials in the UK and the rest of the western world he clearly appreciates the red carpet treatment he routinely gets from the world’s hereditary monarchies and dictatorships.
The rest of Trump’s brief stay in England will include mass protests by a public that has about an 18 percent approval of him, including a blimp that portrays Trump as an obese and diapered baby holding a “twitter” machine, as well as outgoing and up-and-coming politicians who won’t be so polite as the royal family, and we expect that as usual he’ll want to punch back ten times harder. He’s got stops in France and other European locations where he’s also widely unpopular with both the public and their democratically-elected leaders, and we expect it will all play better with the fans back home than with our erstwhile crucial trading and military partners.
Trump fans love his bold willingness to disdain the longstanding traditions they believe has constrained America’s power, even though the past decades of business as usual have actually made America the economic and military and cultural leader of the free world in the post-World War II era, but we think there’s still something to be said for dignity and decorum and friendly relationships with the democratically-elected world leaders rather than its most brutal dictators. There’s also something to be said for hiring a tailor who won’t make you look so fat.

— Bud Norman

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Infrastructure Trumped By the Latest News

This is “infrastructure week” at the White House, with the public relations emphasis on President Donald Trump’s trillion dollar plans to make America’s roads and bridges and airports and all that great again, but you might have not have noticed. We’re only aware of it because a few of the pesky journalists who remain fixated on Trump’s latest “tweets” and the Russia thing with Trump and Russia mentioned “infrastructure week” in passing as an example of how Trump’s policy initiatives are being lost in the news.
Some attention was paid on Monday to Trump’s proposal to privatize air traffic control, the first of a series of plans that are expected to include a lot of privatizing, but another blast of presidential “tweets” got far more ink and air time. Trump continued to pursue his longstanding “twitter” feud with the mayor of the besieged city of London, sneering at his “pathetic excuse” of correctly noting that Trump had quoted him out of context, so that took up some space. The president’s lawyers have for the past few months been defending his travel ban in various courts by insisting that it isn’t a travel ban, the same line taken by the White House press secretary and other spokespeople, but Trump also defiantly “tweeted” that it is indeed a travel ban, and blasted that darned Justice Department he runs for saying otherwise, so that was another reason to not talk about privatizing air traffic control.
The week has thus far been eerily free of any bombshell stories about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia, but fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate on Thursday, and the story about Trump’s decision to not block the testimony by claiming executive privilege was another distraction. The networks will be preempting their afternoon soap operas and game shows to televise the Comey hearing, just like they used to do back in the Watergate days, and it’s going to take one heck of an infrastructure proposal to push that off the front pages.
That’s no reason not to talk about privatizing air traffic control, but none of the few stories we found about it included enough information for anyone to draw any conclusions about whether it’s a good idea or not. So far as we can tell they won’t be selling the control towers at your local airport to the highest bidder, but rather shift the power from the Federal Aviation Administration to a private but non-profit group run by a board comprised of airline and aviation and airport executives and the representatives of their employees’ unions, and shift the costs from taxpayers to airline passengers.
We rather like that last part, as we fly as infrequently as possible, but none of the stories make clear how those corporate folks will do a better job of keeping airplanes from flying into one another than the government folks have been doing. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association endorsed a nearly identical bill introduced last year by a Republican congressman, but seven other unions have protested that it won’t keep any more airplanes from running into one another, and of course what little press there’s been about it has been predictably skeptical. In any case, it’s far too dry and complicated to keep anyone from talking about the “tweets.”
It’s impossible to tell from Trump’s vaguely grandiloquent campaign rhetoric what the rest of the promised one trillion dollars or more infrastructures proposals will include, and except for the air traffic idea nothing has been spelled out during “infrastructure week,” but we expect it will include selling some government sectors to the highest bidder and handing out a whole lot of money to other private businesses. That’s not entirely a bad idea, by our old-fashioned Republican reckoning, as competitive enterprises are usually more effective than government bureaucrats that are going to get paid no matter what, but even such an old-fashioned Republican as Abraham Lincoln conceded there are certain chores that only government can do. Each of the trillion or more dollars that Trump has promised to spend will have to be separately considered accordingly, but it’s awfully dry and complicated, and what with all “tweeting” and Russia thing with Trump and Russia that’s going to be tough to cram into a 24-hour news cycle.
By our old-fashioned Republican reckoning infrastructure is best tended to at the state and county and city and neighborhood level, and federal money should be spent to infrastructure needs rather than as a part of some cockamamie planned-economy scheme, and we instinctively worry that a trillion dollars or more of anything is an invitation to graft. Something in our old-fashioned Republican souls doesn’t completely trust this Trump guy, either, and if Yellowstone National Park winds up under the Trump or Kushner brands we’ll be as angry about it as any of our newfangled Democratic friends.
There’s definitely some infrastructure that needs spending on, and at some point the private sector will wind up pouring the cement and laying the pipe and doing all the real work, and we’ll hold out hope that Trump will devise an effective deal that works down to the local level and is also graft-proof and labor-friendly enough to peel away a few Democratic votes, and won’t wind up adding another trillion or more of debt.
Even if he does, though, everyone will probably talking about his latest “tweet.”

— Bud Norman

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On “Tweeting” and Terrorism

The good people of Great Britain suffered another horrific terror attack by radical Muslims over the weekend, the third in as many months, and the best thing America could do about it was to offer our sympathy and full support and try to discern whatever lessons might be learned. For at least a respectful moment or two, it was probably best advised to avoid any disrespectful “tweets” about it.
President Donald Trump did “tweet” to the British people his sympathy and promise of our country’s full support, with his apparent sincerity emphasized by many capital letters, but that came in the midst of a “Twitter” storm that wound up needlessly antagonizing many of them. He made some good points, too, but he didn’t make the complicated arguments very well in his allotted 140 characters. All in all, it was another argument for someone in the “deep state” to revoke the presidential “Twitter” account.
Which is a shame, because for all his faults Trump does seem to be one of the rare world leaders who somehow grasps some of the more obvious lessons to be learned from Britain’s heartbreaking situation. All of the recent attacks were clearly motivated by an Islamic ideology that has been a persistent if not always dominant force in the Muslim world for the past 1500 years so, and would not have occurred if Britain hadn’t unwisely decided to start allowing mass immigration from the Muslim world some 60 years ago, and there’s no compelling reason that America should repeat the mistake. Britain has also clearly erred by not insisting that its Muslim citizens and residents adhere to established western values and find some peaceable and productive role among it, and say what you will about Trump at least he also doesn’t fall for that multi-cultural and morally-relativist blather. Had Trump merely “tweeted” his sympathy and support, and otherwise stayed out of the way while the rest of the world absorbed the obvious lessons, he might have won a rare news cycle.
Instead, Trump “tweeted” some invitations to losing arguments. He renewed a long-standing “Twitter” feud with the Mayor of London, a fellow with the telling name of Sadiq Kahn, charging that “At 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!” London’s Mayor is usually one of those multi-cultural and morally-relativist blatherers, as far as we’re concerned, but in this case he’d called all the local constabulary’s literal big guns in response to the situation, and that was what he was actually telling his fellow Londoners to not be alarmed about. Most Londoners, if not most Americans, scored that a win for the multi-cultural and morally-relativist weenie. Trump hasn’t yet gotten around to getting an ambassador to the United Kingdom confirmed in the Republican-controlled congress, so even the Obama-holdover acting ambassador wound up siding with the Mayor, which is probably just as well for Anglo-American relations.
Trump’s reasonable resistance to mass Muslim immigration included an arguably unreasonable campaign promise to ban any Muslim whatsoever from entering the country, which for the coming months has his arguably reasonable restriction on travel from six certain countries all tied up in court, so of course he “tweeted” about that. None of the perpetrators of any of the recent British terror attacks would have been affected by Trump’s proposed travel restrictions, of course, and have no no bearing on the legal merits of the case, and Trump probably should have let his lawyers make the arguments.
Trump also injected the domestic gun rights debate into the issue, noting that the attacks were carried out with cars and knives, but we wish he hadn’t. We’re staunch advocates of gun rights, and in the context of our domestic politics we well understand the argument that killers won’t be deterred by the lack of handgun, and that their potential victims should be free to defend themselves by any means, but Trump simply handed the gun-grabbers the argument that the terrorists wouldn’t have been more lethal if they had access to the weapons that Britain’s extraordinarily restrictive laws seem to effectively ban. A well-armed citizenry might have limited the carnage of firearm-bearing terrorists, but an efficient police and a stiff-upper-lip citizenry that retaliated against the knife-weilding terrorists with nearby beer bottles also limited the carnage, so it’s an inopportune time to bring all that up.
There’s a British parliamentary election coming up that will also choose a new Prime Minister and cabinet, but we’re pleased Trump seems to have somehow not weighed directly in that. From our prospective from across the pond and another half-continent away, we’re rooting for the Tory incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May, who seems to have absorbed all the obvious lessons, and we expect that despite their awkward relationship Trump has the same preference. Trump is not very popular in Great Britain, though, and probably less so after his latest “tweet” storm, so we expect she appreciates the silence.
Trump’s supporters should hope for some more of it, too.

— Bud Norman