Monday, January 9, 2017

Problems with Trump presidency already evident

During the campaign, many people said, and said it often, that Donald Trump was not fit to be president.   That opinion sometimes began with some specific thing he had done or said -- but it usually distilled down to the fact that he lacked the temperament, the experience, and the humility necessary to admit that you don't know everything and that you will listen to and learn from experts.

So, we're still a week and a few days from the inauguration, and here are some of the problems that are already evident:

1.  Trump refuses to abide by the rules and traditions of the presidency.   It began with his refusing to release his tax returns during the campaign.   It continues with his slithery plans and broken promises of when he will explain how he will avoid conflicts of interest.    It seems there is no way they can be avoided.   We don't even know what we don't know about who he owes money to (perhaps oligarchs in Russia connected with Putin).

2.  His cabinet appointees, apparently with transition team approval, are acting as if they have the same privilege as the president, not to reveal all of their business affairs in a vetting process.   Hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week for seven of them, most of whom have not completed the vetting.   Some have not even completely filled out the necessary paperwork filings.    Senate Republicans don't seem to care.

3.  Trump's overall attitude seems to be that he knows more than the experts.   That seems to be his internal rationalization for doing things his way, even when that violates all rules and traditions, to say nothing of common sense.   He thinks he knows more than our spy and counterintelligence agencies, whose report about hacking he refuses to accept.  During the campaign, he boasted that "I know more than the generals," referring to those in charge of the Middle East military operations.

He has shown public disdain for the CIA and the FBI and talks about restructuring the national security apparatus -- and he's not even in office yet, with zero prior experience with such matters.   Given two opinions about Russia's involvement in our electoral process, Trump chose -- publicly, on Twitter -- to say he believes Julian Assange of Wikileaks over the unanimous conclusion of several U.S. intelligence agencies.

4.  His statements about his briefing with the heads of the FBI, CIA, and NSA on Friday were at odds with what is actually in the joint report released Friday evening by those groups.   He tweeted out that it says that the Russians' hacking absolutely did not change the outcome of the election.   And he focused on the fact that no tampering with ballot counting was found.

That is a false reading:   the report says clearly and repeatedly that Russia's actions undoubtedly had a big effect on the electorate (especially the propaganda and fake news put out by Russian-paid internet trolls during the campaign).   But they make it very clear that their investigation "did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election."

Saying that "we did not make an assessment" of X, only says that we do not have the data to say one way or another;  it does not declare, as Trump does, that the hacking "absolutely did not change X."

What he fails to understand, or perhaps selectively talks about to his advantage, is that messing with the balloting is not the only way to influence an election.   The Russians did not try to change the way people voted;   they tried to change what people believed about Hillary Clinton to discourage them from going to the polls.   They obviously did the latter, with all their fake news put on the internet, picked up and amplified by the Trump campaign rhetoric and by the chants at his rallies.    The Russians played him -- or colluded with him, perhaps both.    I'll write more about the actual report findings in another post.

5.  From the beginning Trump has pooh-poohed the idea that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC and Clinton's campaign manager.   Now that it's been proven and he can't so confidently cast doubt on that fact, he says that it was the Democrats' "incompetence," and their own fault for getting hacked.   He seems completely blase about the Russian trying to influence our election so blatantly, brushing it aside with comments like:   "It would be good for us to work with the Russians."   Does he have any idea why relations with Russia are strained?   It's not just that we don't want to work with them.   It's their repeated violation of values and international laws that we hold inviolable.   He wants to just wipe the slate clean, ignore their military aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, their hostility to NATO, their threats to the Balkan statea -- as if none of it ever happened.

What is so shocking is that, when shown evidence that Russians did actually try to influence our election, our president-elect seems unconcerned with that fact.  He'd rather maintain his buddy-buddy pose with a strong-man dictator.   We need to know just how financially dependent Trump is on financiers in Russia with close ties to Putin.   How will that affect our foreign policy and our relationship with Russia?

6.  He has praised Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, as a stronger leader than our own President Barack Obama.   He completely ignores the tradition of partisan politics stopping at the water's edge.   He seems not to realize, or to care, what effect this has on our international relations.

7.   While we're on the subject of his public comments (aka Twitter), there's the problem of his continuing to blast out these brain farts (sorry, but only crude language can capture what they are) that can affect the stock prices of a corporation, or the popularity of an entertainer, or the reputation of public figures.   It was just reported days ago that he still answers his own telephone, without knowing who is calling him.    This is not presidential behavior.   It's not just that we want more decorum;  it is dangerous for the stability of our nation for its president to speak to the public without a filter.   Since he has none within himself, he should let an adviser advise him on what he puts out.   Instead, one of his advisers has said that he definitely will continue tweeting after he becomes president.   It's the way he likes to communicate directly with the people -- i.e., he bypasses journalists, who might fact-check him.

The fact is that Donald Trump is not as smart as he thinks, and he certainly is not as knowledgeable about everything a president touches or speaks about.   Kellyanne Conway is doing a valiant job (though it diminishes her every day) of trying to explain -- or at least modify -- what he means.   In trying to describe how difficult Kellyanne's job is, Rachel Maddow says she is "a puppet without a hand" -- because she often has to go public without actually knowing what Trump means, or how to defend him.

Trump needs someone to clean up after him;   but he now needs someone to caution him and help him frame what he says -- BEFORE HE SAYS IT.    That's the big problem.


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