Tag Archives: Trump administration

Remember the ‘anonymous’ op-ed in the Times?

One of the fairly unusual aspects of following the Trump administration through its daily trials, tribulations and tumult is that we quickly lose track of the previous set of troubles.

Do you remember that op-ed published in The New York Times that talked about the fear, uncertainty and chaos that permeates Donald Trump’s administration? The president was so incensed he sought to find the author of the piece and then fire him/her on the spot.

Media pundits were all over it. They sought to connect the dots and come up with their own conclusion. All anyone seemed to know with any certainty is that it came from someone within the West Wing inner circle. Indeed, the write of the essay revealed he or she was part of “resistance movement” within the administration that took it upon itself to protect the president from his more dangerous impulses.

What in the world happened to that dire concern over the identity of the writer? What happened to Donald Trump’s dedication to finding out who did it? What happened to the story?

It’s just that with this president and this administration, our attention is taxed to the hilt, stretched beyond its limits to stay focused on any single subject for more than a week — tops!

If it is next week, another crisis is sure to overtake us.

Haley exits in non-Trumpian style

I have to hand it to United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Her resignation, which she announced today in the Oval Office sitting next to the president of the United States, was done without the usual rhetorical public flogging that has accompanied so many of previous Cabinet officials’ departures.

Donald Trump, for instance, notified former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of his firing via Twitter. That came after several days of public speculation about what his future held.

Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt endured weeks of publicity regarding his use of public money; former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price endured much the same kind of (mis)treatment; Veterans Secretary David Shulkin was hung out to dry before he got shown the door.

And, of course, we have staff-level jobs that changed hands in messy, turbulent manners. Chief of staff Reince Priebus, national security advisers Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster, communications director Anthony Scaramucci, press secretary Sean Spicer … all left amid chaos and confusion.

Haley’s departure was vastly different. It came as a legitimate surprise to the media and to many Trump administration officials.

It goes to show, I suppose, that it actually is possible for the president to keep a secret, given that he knew of her plans to depart several days in advance. It also is possible for him to announce a key administration departure with a semblance of class.

Will it continue? Do not bet the farm on it.

This POTUS is totally untrustworthy … period!

White House chief of staff John Kelly sought to tamp down concerns among his colleagues by telling them there are no more staff changes on the horizon.

How does this man know this? I am going to presume — at my own risk, of course — that Donald J. Trump has told him so.

Kelly then relayed what might be assurances from the president that everyone in the White House can settle down now. Relax. Go about doing their jobs. No worries about their futures or their bosses’ futures.

Except for this: How does anyone trust a single word, let alone sentence, that flies out of Donald Trump’s mouth?

Trump has demonstrated a penchant for unpredictability. Doesn’t he brag about it, along with his sexual prowess and how smart he is? Doesn’t he say that unpredictability enhances his effectiveness as president of the United States?

So, with all that established, does it make any sense at all to take a single thing this guy says? How does one take his utterances at face value? How does one trust someone who lies with absolutely no concern over its consequences?

It might be that Kelly is trying to put as positive a face as he can on the chaos that has erupted yet again inside the West Wing. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing came without warning to Tillerson — or anyone else, for that matter. Trump told Tillerson the way he told the rest of the world: via Twitter. Classy, yes? Umm. No!

So now we hear from the White House chief of staff that there are no more firings upcoming.

Let’s all wait until, oh, the sun comes up in the morning.

Tomorrow’s a new day. A new set of crises awaits a stir-crazy nation. That’s how the president likes to operate. Or so he says.

Follow the logic if you can

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick “Oops” Perry has made a curious leap between fossil fuel development and consumption and sexual abuse.

I’m trying to connect the dots. I am having a difficult time of it.

Perry said fossil fuel consumption can prevent sexual abuse because the “lights are on.” The Energy boss made his remarks at a forum sponsored by NBC News and Axios.

According to The Texas Tribune, Perry said: “It’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, ‘one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people.’”

Oh, boy.

Is he pushing fossil fuels as an energy source or is he speaking about the brutality of sexual abuse suffered by villagers?

I’m going to assume — given the secretary’s former position as the governor of Texas, which produces a goodly amount of oil and natural gas — that he is pitching fossil fuel consumption.

Or is he?

Here seems to be where the Trump administration that Perry serves is missing the boat. This big world of ours is full of alternative energy sources that also can keep the lights on. Wind, solar, hydropower … they all are renewable, clean and safe. I’ll also throw nuclear power into that mix, too, even though nuke plants — which are safer than they used to be — aren’t yet totally safe from cataclysmic accidents.

Perry went on, according to the Tribune: “But also from the standpoint of sexual assault, when the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts,” Perry continued.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s foremost environmental interest groups, has called on Perry to quit in light of his remarks. I won’t go that far.

Perry offers confusion

I do question the logic the energy secretary is employing in connecting fossil fuels with sexual predation.

He lost me.

Hoping for a lengthy stay for Tillerson

I’m allowed to eat a bit of crow, aren’t I?

I was one of those who was skeptical about Rex Tillerson’s appointment as secretary of state in the Trump administration. In recent days and weeks, though, I’ve become a believer in the former ExxonMobil mogul’s ability to do the job and to speak for the United States of America.

There’s reporting that Tillerson might not be long for Donald Trump’s administration. He might not stay on the job for a year. He might bail early.

I hope he stays on. I hope he can find a way to work with that clown wagon known as the Trump administration.

My fear is that the clock has begun ticking on Secretary Tillerson’s tenure.

The president might have started the moment he heard Tillerson tell Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that “the president speaks for himself.” The context of that response, though, is most telling.

Wallace asked Tillerson about the Charlottesville riot and the nation’s mood in the wake of the violence that erupted. Tillerson said the world understands the State Department’s commitment to human rights.

Wallace then asked about whether the president concurs. That’s when Tillerson responded with the “speaks for himself” comment.

To my ears, it sounded as though the secretary was putting some distance between the department he runs and the man to whom Tillerson reports — the president.

As the Washington Post reported: “And some who have recently seen Tillerson say the former ExxonMobil chief executive — unaccustomed to taking orders from a superior, let alone one as capricious as Trump — also seems to be ready to end his State Department tenure. He has grumbled privately to (White House chief of staff John) Kelly about Trump’s recent controversies, said two people familiar with their relationship.”

Damn!

Tillerson exhibited some much-needed sanity, maturity and intelligence in that moment. The nation needs more of it.

You go, Professor Painter!

Richard Painter is emerging as one of my favorite pundits seen regularly when questions arise about the Trump administration.

Painter served as ethics lawyer/watchdog for President George W. Bush. Thus, he — more than likely — is a loyal Republican. He also is no fan of Donald John Trump Sr., which likely is why I appreciate his commentary so much.

Painter now teaches law at the University of Minnesota.

He recently commented on a statement from Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who suggested that the administration might administer lie-detector tests to aides in the hunt to determine who’s leaking information to the media.

Painter’s response via Twitter? “Kellyanne wants lie detectors in the White House? Try one on the press secretary podium. The place will light up like a disco!”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has pledged never to lie from the White House press podium. I would like very much to give her the benefit of the doubt.

However, maybe Sanders ought to follow Professor Painter’s suggestion: hook up to the polygraph machine — just to be sure.

Sessions needs to talk once more to Senate Judiciary panel

That’s it? The U.S. attorney general won’t have to testify any more to the Senate Judiciary Committee?

That’s the decision of Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who said he has no plans to call AG Jeff Sessions back to Capitol Hill to explain himself.

It seems to me that the attorney general has some serious ‘splainin to do.

He told Judiciary Committee members during his confirmation hearing that he didn’t have any meetings with Russian government officials. Then, later, he thought differently about it said, yep, he did talk to the Russian ambassador to the United States.

This ought to be fleshed out a little bit.

What did he discuss? Did he talk to him about big things, such as, oh, whether the Russians were trying to influence the presidential election? Or how about whether the incoming Donald J. Trump administration would take back the sanctions that the Obama administration had leveled against the Russians for — that’s right — trying to influence the election.

Or … maybe it was just a casual conversation. “How’s the weather in Moscow in these days, Mr. Ambassador?”

Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the Judiciary panel members, wants Sessions to come back to The Hill to testify.

I think he should, too. Chairman Grassley surely cannot believe he’s heard all there is to hear from the attorney general.

Trump’s ‘fine-tuned machine’ needs help

I found myself somewhat amazed as I read a story in the Sunday New York Times about Donald J. Trump’s apparent inability to get his administration fully staffed.

The article talked about Trump’s insistence on loyalty. Those who say negative things about The Boss are fired; those who fall into that category are disregarded as potential new hires.

I totally understand the president’s desire to have loyal team members on board. The head of our government is entitled to insist that his lieutenants follow the policies set at the top.

Still, Trump crowed this past week about the “fine-tuned machine” that is his presidential administration. Except that he hasn’t hired a whole lot of assistant secretaries or deputy secretaries to assist his Cabinet picks.

But here is where the amazement kicks in.

Loyalty hasn’t been Trump’s No. 1 requirement in filling at least two Cabinet places.

Can you say “Ben Carson” and “Rick Perry”?

Carson is the housing secretary who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary. He and Trump clashed openly at times on the campaign trail and on debate stages across the country. I recall Dr. Carson saying some pretty harsh things about the president-to-be as his own campaign went down in flames.

But then there’s former Texas Gov. Perry, another former GOP foe. It was Gov. Perry who called Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” He’s now slated to become secretary of energy.

The Times reports, though, that Trump or his senior advisers are nixing appointments because of what individuals have said about the president. Meanwhile, all these posts remain vacant, their offices are dark and top-level administration officials are being denied the kind of help they need in carrying out Trump administration policies — whatever the hell they are.

I love this passage from the Times story: “It is not just Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who has no deputy secretary, much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the heads of the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. Only three of 15 nominees have been named for deputy secretary positions. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama’s administration.”

This is a “fine-tuned machine”? It needs a healthy dose of WD-40.

Dr. Carson’s HUD nomination: most puzzling of all Trump’s picks

Of all the people nominated by Donald J. Trump to join the new president’s administration, the one that continues to puzzle me the most is his pick for secretary of housing and urban development.

Ben Carson ran against Trump and 15 others for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2016. He ended up in the campaign-trail ditch right along with the rest of them.

Here are two elements that trouble me greatly.

Trump said some amazingly harsh things about Dr. Carson, a noted pediatric neurosurgeon who retired from his medical practice to become a politician. Carson returned the fire to the eventual GOP nominee. They went at each other with rhetorical brass knuckles.

Second — and this came from Carson’s own mouth — was that he declared himself unqualified to lead a Cabinet agency. His spokesmen said managing a massive federal bureaucracy didn’t fit into his skill set. After the election, Carson in effect took himself out of the Trump administration mix for the most straightforward reason possible: He admitted to being unable to do the job.

But then … ?

Trump picks him to run HUD! The nomination raised eyebrows all across the nation. Didn’t this fellow just say he couldn’t do the job? Didn’t the good doctor admit to being — essentially — unfit to become a Cabinet secretary?

Now he’s going to lead an agency that, among other things, tends to the needs of poor Americans who need government-subsidized public housing.

The brilliant doctor has no knowledge of how to oversee such a massive operation.

Dr. Carson is a brilliant man. I do not intend to disparage his intelligence. But holy cow, man! His learning curve is going to be steep, as in monstrously steep.

Is the doctor up to the task of learning how this agency works? I have to wonder.