So not only is Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway out to lunch, so is Stephen Miller. It is the talk of a dictator not the President of the United States. Except now it is the talk of the President of the United States. Of course as Joe Scarborough said, maybe Stephen Miller is just an idiot.
Joe Scarlborough on the insanity of Donald Trump’s statements and war on the media.
To answer Jake Trapper’s question of who Trump is focused on, Trump is focused on Trump. From the very start of this campaign, it has been about him and only him. Trump isn’t a president for the people, he is in it for himself.
Donald Trump took questions from the media on Thursday afternoon. The hastily called press conference came as a surprise to reporters, who would typically had a briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during that time. (According to reports, Trump walked into the Oval Office earlier that morning and said, “Let’s do a press conference today.”)
The event was ostensibly meant to roll out his new labor secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta. (Previous pick Andy Puzder bowed out Wednesday after it became clear to Republican Senate leaders they did not have enough votes to confirm him.) But the event had little to do with Acosta, and quickly devolved into one of the most remarkably incoherent spectacles in recent memory.
Here are some of the most noteworthy moments.
That time he batted back reports of chaos in the West Wing
“I turn on TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos – chaos – yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
That time he confirmed the veracity of the leaks that lead to Michael Flynn’s resignation
“The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”
That time he couldn’t say Flynn lied
“The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly, and then he said he didn’t remember … that just wasn’t acceptable to me.”
That time he characterized the rollout of his travel ban as “smooth”
“We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban; we had a bad court.”
That time he called the country of Russia fake news
“Russia is fake news. Russia – this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration because they’re there, because we have our new people going in place, right now.”
That time he denied knowledge of whether anyone from his team colluded with the Russian government during the campaign
“Nobody that I know of. How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years.”
That time he bragged about not being a bad person
“And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word ‘tone’? The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such – I do get good ratings, you have to admit that – the tone is such hatred.”
That time he promised America and Russia would have a nuclear holocaust “like no other”
“We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you, one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They’re a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we.”
That time he mused about attacking the Russian vessel lurking off the coast of Connecticut
“The greatest thing I could do [politically] is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water.”
That time he conceded his oft-repeated line about having the “biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan” is a lie
Reporter: “You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan – 304, 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 in 2008.”
Trump: “Well, I’m talking about Republicans.”
Reporter: “President Obama 333, George H.W. Bush 426 when he won. So why should Americans trust…”
Trump: “I was given that information, I was just given it. We had a very big margin.”
Reporter: “I guess the question is: Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive as being fake, when you’re providing information that is not accurate?”
Trump: “Well, I was given that information. I was, actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”
Reporter: “You’re the president.”
There is more. He is delusional and the President of the United States.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank prints full-page ad in today’s Baltimore Sun to clarify POTUS comments; doesn’t mention Trump by name.
The ad, which states the company is “publicly opposing the travel ban,” appeared to be in response to comments Plank made earlier this month on CNBC, calling Trump “an asset to the country” and a “pro-business president.”
“To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country. People can really grab that opportunity. He wants to build things. He wants to make bold decisions and be really decisive,” Plank said in the interview.
The comments sparked a boycott by some against Under Armour, including criticism from celebrities such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission. That first press conference when Sean Spicer was sent out to lie and fulminate to the press about the inauguration crowd reminded me of some Soviet apparatchik having his loyalty tested to see if he could repeat in public what he knew to be false. It was comical, but also faintly chilling.
What do I mean by denial of empirical reality? Take one of the most recent. On Wednesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal related the news that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the long-vacant Supreme Court seat, had told him that the president’s unprecedented, personal attacks on federal judges were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” Within half an hour, this was confirmed by Gorsuch’s White House–appointed spokesman, who was present for the conversation. CNN also reported that Senator Ben Sasse had heard Gorsuch say exactly the same thing, with feeling, as did former senator Kelly Ayotte.
The president nonetheless insisted twice yesterday that Blumenthal had misrepresented his conversation with Gorsuch — first in an early morning tweet and then, once again, yesterday afternoon, in front of the television cameras. To add to the insanity, he also tweeted that in a morning interview, Chris Cuomo had never challenged Blumenthal on his lies about his service in Vietnam — when the tape clearly shows it was the first thing Cuomo brought up.
What are we supposed to do with this? How are we to respond to a president who in the same week declared that the “murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 45 to 47 years,” when, of course, despite some recent, troubling spikes in cities, it’s nationally near a low not seen since the late 1960s, and half what it was in 1980. What are we supposed to do when a president says that two people were shot dead in Chicago during President Obama’s farewell address — when this is directly contradicted by the Chicago police? None of this, moreover, is ever corrected. No error is ever admitted. Any lie is usually doubled down by another lie — along with an ad hominem attack.
Here is what we are supposed to do: rebut every single lie. Insist moreover that each lie is retracted — and journalists in press conferences should back up their colleagues with repeated follow-ups if Spicer tries to duck the plain truth. Do not allow them to move on to another question. Interviews with the president himself should not leave a lie alone; the interviewer should press and press and press until the lie is conceded. The press must not be afraid of even calling the president a liar to his face if he persists. This requires no particular courage. I think, in contrast, of those dissidents whose critical insistence on simple truth in plain language kept reality alive in the Kafkaesque world of totalitarianism. As the Polish dissident Adam Michnik once said: “In the life of every honorable man comes a difficult moment … when the simple statement that this is black and that is white requires paying a high price.” The price Michnik paid was years in prison. American journalists cannot risk a little access or a nasty tweet for the same essential civic duty?
Then there is the obvious question of the president’s mental and psychological health. I know we’re not supposed to bring this up — but it is staring us brutally in the face. I keep asking myself this simple question: If you came across someone in your everyday life who repeatedly said fantastically and demonstrably untrue things, what would you think of him? If you showed up at a neighbor’s, say, and your host showed you his newly painted living room, which was a deep blue, and then insisted repeatedly — manically — that it was a lovely shade of scarlet, what would your reaction be? If he then dragged out a member of his family and insisted she repeat this obvious untruth in front of you, how would you respond? If the next time you dropped by, he was still raving about his gorgeous new red walls, what would you think? Here’s what I’d think: This man is off his rocker. He’s deranged; he’s bizarrely living in an alternative universe; he’s delusional. If he kept this up, at some point you’d excuse yourself and edge slowly out of the room and the house and never return. You’d warn your other neighbors. You’d keep your distance. If you saw him, you’d be polite but keep your distance.
I think this is a fundamental reason why so many of us have been so unsettled, anxious, and near panic these past few months. It is not so much this president’s agenda. That always changes from administration to administration. It is that when the linchpin of an entire country is literally delusional, clinically deceptive, and responds to any attempt to correct the record with rage and vengeance, everyone is always on edge.
Today President Trump told a U.S. military audience there gave been terrorist attacks that no one knows about because the media choose not to report them. It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality. Mr. Trump said this morning that any polls, that show disapproval of his immigration ban are fake.
He singled out a federal judge for ridicule after the judge suspended his ban and Mr. Trump said that the ruling now means that anyone can enter the country.
The President’s fictitious claims whether imaginary or fabricated are now worrying even his backers, particularly after he insisted that millions of people voted illegally giving Hillary Clinton her popular vote victory. There’s not one state election official—Democrat or Republican—who supports that claim.
I was thinking about this article in the New York Times which suggests that Donald Trump is alone and isolated in the White House. I have been really hard on Trump in the past, I don’t see anything in common with him but I hate to see anyone working like this.
Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
I wonder how healthy it is for the President of the United States to be without friends, allies or family in Washington. From what I remember or have read, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan had long time friends and political staff (who had become friends) come with them to Washington to help keep them grounded. Others became close because of shared interests like George W. Bush and Condi Rice’s love of sports.
For Trump, there seems to be no one. Those he does call friends often repudiate it or give the impression it is a very casual friendship. It just seems like a very lonely high stress existence. Not the best picture of the guy with the nuclear codes and who seems obsessed with conspiracy theories.
“If you got a job here in Beattyville, you’re lucky,” says Amber Hayes, a bubbly 25-year-old mom of two, who also voted for Trump. She works at the county courthouse, but is paid by the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP), a form of welfare.
Coal, oil and tobacco made Beattyville a boom town in the 1800s and much of the 1900s. Locals like to bring up the fact that Lee County — where Beattyville is located — was the No. 1 oil-producing county east of the Mississippi at one time.
“Growing up in the ’70s? Yeah, this was the place to be,” says Chuck Caudhill, the general manager of the local paper, The Beattyville Enterprise. He calls the town the “gem of eastern Kentucky.”
Today, the town is a ghost of its former self. The vast majority of Beattyville residents get some form of government aid — 57% of households receive food stamps and 58% get disability payments from Social Security.
“I hope [Trump] don’t take the benefits away, but at the same time, I think that once more jobs come in a lot of people won’t need the benefits,” says Hayes, who currently receives about $500 a month from government assistance. She’s also on Obamacare.
The coal and oil jobs are almost all gone, but already there’s buzz Trump is reviving the industry.
Donna Coomer is the manager of a busy Valero gas station in the heart of Beattyville. She knows the names of most people who come in and makes small-town chatter with folks. Mere days after Trump’s inauguration, she heard coal trucks were rumbling again.
“Someone told me this morning that in eastern Kentucky the coal trucks are already out and about,” Coomer told CNNMoney, beaming. She voted for Obama but feels he was just a good talker who did little for Kentucky. Trump got her vote this time. She’s praying for the new president.
It will be hard for Trump to revive the coal jobs, even if he does scale back environmental regulations on the industry. Top coal executive Robert Murray recently told CNNMoney coal employment “can’t be brought back to where it was before the election of Barack Obama.”
After the energy jobs evaporated, Beattyville was kept alive by a private prison and a clothing factory, Lion Apparel, that made firefighter suits. Then those jobs went away during President Obama’s tenure.
All that’s left are a few grocery stores, gas stations and small businesses. And drugs.
This story can be found all over Saskatchewan but the difference is that we don’t blame the federal government for the decline of small town Saskatchewan. People have moved to larger centres where the economy is stronger because they know things have changed. Farms have gotten larger, the rail lines have been abandoned and the elevators are gone. Those who decided to stay either have to a way to figure out to make it work with jobs or business that people will drive for or have to move to larger towns that are able to support a local economy.
I found it interesting that over half of the town is on food stamps. Basically Kentucky is subsidizing these towns. It may seem cruel but the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services has often told people that they will not support you in places where there are no jobs and little hope of getting one.
Sadly, Trump is playing these people for fools. The decline in coal came from natural gas being cheaper. It’s not Obama that has hurt them, it’s the market and unless Trump is going to subsidize the price of coal, things aren’t going to get better. Even coal execs are saying, “these jobs aren’t coming back”. So instead of moving on, they stay and suffer.
There are some economists who feel that the North American value of home ownership traps people into staying in locations long after they should have gone elsewhere for jobs. It provides more stability for towns and governments but hurts those that have no work.
Global trade involves a complex web of cross-border journeys, seamless and often invisible to American consumers. As President Donald Trump seeks to rewrite Nafta and other trade accords in an effort to bring jobs back to America, he would do well to follow the meandering path of a single lowly capacitor, a pinkie tip-sized component that stores electrical energy.
Its journey illustrates how U.S. manufacturers rely on numerous border crossings and thousands of miles of travel to produce goods at the low cost and high quality that customers demand. Nafta, in particular, allows goods to travel back and forth to Mexico with minimal delay and at no cost.
Of course while the graphic is cool and the article makes sense to most of us, Trump hates it. He wants EVERYTHING to be made in the United States and doesn’t realize that it was automation and globalization that changed manufacturing forever, not NAFTA.
I don’t understand Trump voters. On one hand, they hate NAFTA and blame it for everything but then line up for deals at Walmart to buy goods that almost all made in China. Why? Because it is cheaper. It’s that behaviour that is killing manufacturing in the United States, not NAFTA.
President Trump loves to set the day’s narrative at dawn, but the deeper story of his White House is best told at night.
Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit. In a darkened, mostly empty West Wing, Mr. Trump’s provocative chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, finishes another 16-hour day planning new lines of attack.
Usually around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
It gets better
Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters — an important source of feedback and validation — and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. For a sense of what is happening outside, he watches cable, both at night and during the day — too much in the eyes of some aides — often offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon.
Until the past few days, Mr. Trump was telling his friends and advisers that he believed the opening stages of his presidency were going well. “Did you hear that, this guy thinks it’s been terrible!” Mr. Trump said mockingly to other aides when one dissenting view was voiced last week during a West Wing meeting.
But his opinion has begun to change with a relentless parade of bad headlines.
Mr. Trump got away from the White House this weekend for the first time since his inauguration, spending it in Palm Beach, Fla., at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, posting Twitter messages angrily — and in personal terms — about the federal judge who put a nationwide halt on the travel ban. Mr. Bannon and Reince Priebus, the two clashing power centers, traveled with him.
By then, the president, for whom chains of command and policy minutiae rarely meant much, was demanding that Mr. Priebus begin to implement a much more conventional White House protocol that had been taken for granted in previous administrations: From now on, Mr. Trump would be looped in on the drafting of executive orders much earlier in the process.
Another change will be a new set of checks on the previously unfettered power enjoyed by Mr. Bannon and the White House policy director, Stephen Miller, who oversees the implementation of the orders and who received the brunt of the internal and public criticism for the rollout of the travel ban.
Mr. Priebus has told Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon that the administration needs to rethink its policy and communications operation in the wake of embarrassing revelations that key details of the orders were withheld from agencies, White House staff and Republican congressional leaders like Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Also, Mr. Priebus has created a 10-point checklist for the release of any new initiatives that includes signoff from the communications department and the White House staff secretary, Robert Porter, according to several aides familiar with the process.
Wait for it.
Mr. Trump remains intensely focused on his brand, but the demands of the job means he spends less time monitoring the news media — although he recently upgraded the flat-screen TV in his private dining room so he can watch the news while eating lunch.
He often has to wait until the end of the workday before grinding through news clips with Mr. Spicer, marking the ones he does not like with a big arrow in black Sharpie — though he almost always makes time to monitor Mr. Spicer’s performance at the daily briefings, summoning him to offer praise or criticism, a West Wing aide said.
Visitors to the Oval Office say Mr. Trump is obsessed with the décor — it is both a totem of a victory that validates him as a serious person and an image-burnishing backdrop — so he has told his staff to schedule as many televised events in the room as possible.
To pass the time between meetings, Mr. Trump gives quick tours to visitors, highlighting little tweaks he has made after initially expecting he would have to pay for them himself.
Flanking his desk are portraits of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, a recently acquired personal hero often cited by Mr. Bannon. He will linger on the opulence of the newly hung golden drapes, once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt — for a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.
Trump is playing a role, that of President Trump with really no idea of what it means and his actions are having on people. That and from other reports you realize that Jared Kushner is more concerned with his brand and standing than the President he should be serving.
Mr. Trump understands that attacking the media is the reddest of meat for his base, which has been conditioned to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem.
For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.
The news media’s spectacular failure to get the election right has made it only easier for many conservatives to ignore anything that happens outside the right’s bubble and for the Trump White House to fabricate facts with little fear of alienating its base.
Unfortunately, that also means that the more the fact-based media tries to debunk the president’s falsehoods, the further it will entrench the battle lines.
During his first week in office, Mr. Trump reiterated the unfounded charge that millions of people had voted illegally. When challenged on the evident falsehood, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, seemed to argue that Mr. Trump’s belief that something was true qualified as evidence. The press secretary also declined to answer a straightforward question about the unemployment rate, suggesting that the number will henceforth be whatever the Trump administration wants it to be.
He can do this because members of the Trump administration feel confident that the alternative-reality media will provide air cover, even if they are caught fabricating facts or twisting words (like claiming that the “ban” on Muslim immigrants wasn’t really a “ban”). Indeed, they believe they have shifted the paradigm of media coverage, replacing the traditional media with their own.
In a stunning demonstration of the power and resiliency of our new post-factual political culture, Mr. Trump and his allies in the right media have already turned the term “fake news” against its critics, essentially draining it of any meaning. During the campaign, actual “fake news” — deliberate hoaxes — polluted political discourse and clogged social media timelines.
Some outlets opened the door, by helping spread conspiracy theories and indulging the paranoia of the fever swamps. For years, the widely read Drudge Report has linked to the bizarre conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who believes that both the attacks of Sept. 11 and the Sandy Hook shootings were government-inspired “false flag” operations.
For conservatives, this should have made it clear that something was badly amiss in their media ecosystem. But now any news deemed to be biased, annoying or negative can be labeled “fake news.”