What Have We Learned So Far?
For the record:
It's been 62 days since Donald Trump was declared victor in last year's presidential election;
Mr.Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th POTUS in a mere 11 days;
The 2018 mid-term elections are a mere 646 days away, and
The next presidential inauguration will take place in precisely 1,392 days.
From my perspective, the most important thing we've learned over the past 62 days is that November 13, 2018 (the date of the next mid-term election) and January 20, 2021 (hopefully, Donald Trump's last day in office) cannot get here fast enough. For the past 62 days have revealed enough about what we're likely in store for over the next 646 and 1,392 days to turn the sober-sided into lushes and the reasonably optimistic into hardcore prophets of doom. Over the past 62 days we have learned quite a bit; to wit that:
- Mr. Trump's Cabinet will be filled to overflowing with billionaires and multi-millionaires, many of whom are on record as either being in favor of abolishing the departments they are supposed to lead, or holding positions which are antithetical to the programs and people they are supposed to be protecting. Where Dwight Eisenhower's first Cabinet was derisively referred to as "8 millionaires and a plumber," Mr. Trump's - a majority of whom have never spent a single day in public service - might well be called "14 barons and a brain surgeon."
- Speaking of filling the various Cabinet posts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this morning that he expects the confirmation process to continue on schedule - despite the fact that most of President-elect Trump's nominees have not turned in their financial disclosure forms and have yet to be vetted by the Office of Government Ethics. Back in 2009, the same Mitch McConnell demanded that then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) not even schedule hearings on President Obama's Cabinet picks until such time as they had completed all their financial disclosure forms. Unlike the majority of Barack Obama's nominees, most of Donald Trump's have vast international holdings and potential corporate conflicts which must be thoroughly investigated.
- Senator McConnell has notified Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the new Minority Leader that "the American people will not simply not tolerate Democrats blocking President Trump's Supreme Court nominee." In making this assertion, Senator McConnell seems to be suffering from amnesia - or else relying on the collective amnesia of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters. (Those who pay attention to political news recognize that McConnell's remarks come after nearly 10 months of Senate Republican opposition to the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, the federal appeals court judge nominated by President Obama in March 2016. Senate Republicans have refused to hold a hearing or vote on Garland's nomination, arguing that the opening should be filled by the next president.)
- We have learned that our President-elect has wafted, wavered, wobbled and waffled on many of his campaign promises. From promising to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, he now says that "once that wall is up and standing," he will get Mexico to pay for it. Conservative members of Congress are far from sanguine with this new game plan, which will add anywhere between $12 and $38 billion to the national debt. From promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") "on day one," Mr. Trump now says he will "certainly keep various good aspects" of the plan. Meanwhile, his Congressional "allies" are quickly learning how fraught with legislative and political costs "repealing and replacing" is going to be. They are beginning to hear the loud and menacing footsteps of the nation's insurance companies, who do not want to see the program uprooted.
- The nation is becoming affrighted at the thought that our Chief Executive/Commander-in-Chief's idea of foreign policy is limited to 140-keystroke tweets. Mr. Trump's response to what likely will be his first international crisis - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's announcement that his country was about to launch its first ICBM - consisted of two taunting tweet's - one directed at China, the other to North Korea:
- During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump made a ton of outrageous claims: that he was smarter than any American general when it came to defeating and dismembering Isis; that he wanted NATO members to "pay their fair share" or else suffer the consequences; that he would encourage other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Japan to obtain nuclear weapons; offered full-throated support for BRIXIT (which when first asked about it, had not the slightest idea what it meant); and continually praised Vladimir Putin as a decisive leader . . . dictators tend to be precisely that. Now we learn that in a break with longstanding tradition, the President-elect is ordering all politically appointed U.S. Ambassadors all over the world to vacate their posts and return home no later than January 20 - Inauguration Day. As The Daily Kos' David Nir has noted, this is an incredibly dangerous - not to mention doltish - move: ". . . the consequences are plenty. For starters, it means that America won’t have diplomats in place in many countries by the time Trump is sworn in. That's a situation that would endure for months, since the Senate has to actually confirm each new ambassador, one by one. It's also liable to frighten our allies and embolden our not-so-allies, though if anything, that’s probably to Trump's liking." (It should be noted that at the same time Mr. Trump is ordering all these diplomats home, he, his wife and youngest son Barron, will be remaining in NYC because the incoming POTUS " . . . does not want to pull him out of school during the middle of the year." If only he showed the same concern and understanding for the many American diplomats who likewise have children attending school).
- We have learned anew something we always knew: that Donald Trump has skin as thin as filo dough. He has virtually no problem bad-mouthing those who have the temerity to criticize (or even critique) him, but then expects these same people to turn around and work with him. Just the other day, the President-elect referred to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as the Democrat's "head clown." Senator Schumer - who never would have climbed to the top of the "greasy pole" without a rhinoceros-thick skin, responded "this is not a time for calling names." One wonders whether Mr. Trump understands that should he wish to get anything done in Congress, he will need to get the assistance of many men and women he has disparaged, denigrated and called nasty names. Lots of luck! (Imagine Casey Stengel publicly referring to Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford as "drunks," Yogi Berra as "an uneducated idiot" and Billy Martin as "a psychopath," and then expecting them to play their hearts out for their manager!)
- We have learned that Mr. Trump relishes taking credit for "successes" which are not truly his (such as "forcing" Ford, Carrier, and Sprint to keep jobs in the U.S., while getting the House Republican Caucus to reverse itself on eliminating the Office of Congressional Ethics). If his words, threats and tweets are so all-fire powerful, perhaps he should also take credit for Macy's decision to close 68 stores and eliminate better than 10,000 jobs. After all, wasn't it Mr. Trump who urged the public to boycottthe 158-year old department store after they had the temerity to drop his signature line of clothing?
- Lastly, we have learned that Mr. Trump has no problem burying the 17 diverse agencies of America's massive intelligence community under a tidal wave of noxious verbal sewage. This does not bode well . . . at all . . . because the tens of thousands of spies, agents and assets employed by these 17 interlocking agencies are not only among the best on the planet; they put their lives on the line every day of the year in order to keep America as safe as possible. And while it is true that they are not always correct (witness Iraq and WMDs), where would we be without them? In refusing to accept their all but universal conclusion that Russian (read: Putin) unquestionably engaged in cyber hacking during the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump has put the entire intelligence community on notice that he trusts Putin more than the CIA, NSA, ISC, CGI, OIC, OIA, BIR, OTFI, NGIA, NRO et al. (Question to Mr. Trump: can you identify all these agencies and what role they play in the American intelligence community?) This has got to be dispiriting to the max for our spies.
Indeed, we have learned one hell of a lot during the past 62 days. And it is neither pretty nor particularly confidence building. For those who are worried, affrighted, dyspeptic or just plain scared to death about what is about to happen beginning on January 20, next week's essay may be a bit of a tonic. It is tentatively entitled
Lunacy: the New Normality . . . and What Together, We Can Hopefully Do About It
Until then, breathe deeply, take a walk, go to the gym, have a cuppa tea and a few biscuits, and remember this: although fertilizer smells awfully foul, it can, if used carefully and with knowledge, act as a first-class fuel to make wondrous things grow.
1,392 days and counting . . .
Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone