There’s that famous scene in JAWS when Roy Schneider, having come face to face with the great white, returns to Quint in the bow of the boat. For seconds, Schneider stands in stunned silence. Then he tells Quint: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Well, I’m gonna need a bigger thesaurus.
Because I’m running out of words to properly describe Donald Trump.
We’re ten days into the new Administration and the running adjectives are “childish,” “arrogant,” “incompetent,” and “embarrassing.”
The running noun is “lies.”
First there was the divisive Inaugural Address, where an inaccurate picture of American “carnage” became the stage for illusory promises to the “forgotten” that will not be kept because there are no policies planned or in place to do so. The next day, the President went to the CIA, stood in front of its Memorial Wall to un-named heroes who have died in our service, falsely blamed the media for divisions between him and the CIA (which in fact were based on his early refusal to accept findings regarding Russian hacking), and then spoke about . . .
The size of the crowd on the mall at his Inaugural.
Later that afternoon, because he is obsessed with size, Trump sent Sean Spicer, his Press Secretary, out to claim, contrary to unequivocal photographic evidence, that his Inaugural crowd had been the biggest in history and that anyone broadcasting evidence to the contrary was “shameful”.
Meanwhile, Trump watched TV in the White House and became enraged as the Woman’s March generated crowds in Washington and throughout the country and the world that truly were historic in size, giving notice in the process that (i) there will be no honeymoon for this Administration and (ii) Congress had better stand up and take notice or it would not be invited back come November 2018.
And then the new week started.
We tried to catch our breath but couldn’t.
On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway told Meet the Press that Spicer’s lies were just “alternative facts.”
On Monday, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and re-issued the gag rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood, all other NGOs, and foreign nations from receiving any federal monies for abortion services. This gag order went further than those issued by the two President Bushes and President Reagan because it also de-funded family planning.
That night, in a conversation with lawmakers at the White House, Trump repeated the lie that he had lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton only because three million illegal aliens had voted. On Wednesday, he announced that there would be a “major investigation” into that issue and that night again repeated the lie in an interview with ABC News. When pressed, Trump did what he always does when one of his lies is exposed. He claimed that “many people” believe this.
Which, even if true (it isn’t, once the sycophants are eliminated), would merely prove that he is not the only idiot or liar (or both) out there.
Meanwhile, and also on Wednesday, Trump issued instructions to various agencies to begin building the promised wall between the US and Mexico. Mexico’s President, Enrique Pena Nieto, then warned Trump that he might cancel the meeting he and Trump had planned for the next week, and on Thursday morning, Pena-Nieto did so.
Because Trump can’t admit he was ― as my kids say ― “dissed and dismissed”, he then announced that the cancellation had been mutual, indeed necessary in view of Mexico’s unwillingness to pay for the wall. Back at the ranch, Spicer said that the wall could be paid for with a 20% border tax on imports from Mexico.
That tax ― of course ― would fall on Americans.
Who would then be paying for the wall.
As we headed into Friday, one would think that nothing could top the week that had been.
But Trump, being Trump, had to out-do even himself.
So he did . . .
With the Executive Order banning refugees from anywhere for 120 days and banning anyone from seven nations ― Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya ― indefinitely.
Neither the new Secretary of Defense, the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, nor the new head of the CIA were asked to weigh in on this Order. Instead, it was written by the White House’s resident white-supremacist, Steve Bannon, and Bannon’s assistant and Senior Policy Adviser, Stephen Miller.
(Bannon is the guy who, mid-week, called the free press the “opposition party”, which Trump then later repeated, said that it should “keep its mourth shut”, and admitted he had been behind the earlier idea to ban the press from the actual White House. As one of my friends, Jack Levin, wrote on reading an earlier version of this post, “Why don’t they just tell the truth. Why don’t they say the words ‘President Bannon’?”)
The refugee order and seven-nation ban is both incredibly foolish and un-constitutional. It is foolish because it alienates our allies in the Middle East, who now must field claims that US policy is targeting all Muslims and not just terrorists, and whose adversaries ― including ISIS ― have now been handed a gold-plated recruiting tool. And it is unnecessary because refugees and anyone else coming to the US from the seven named nations are already subject to multi-layered review prior to the issuance of any visas. This program, initiated by Obama, has been working fine. There have been no terrorist attacks here by nationals coming in from any of those target states, or from any refugees. There have, of course, been attacks from those who came from other states (e.g., Saudi Arabia, which was home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists; the other four came from Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates), but none of those other nations were on Trump’s list.
The Order is also unconstitutional because it effectively utilizes a religious test. Trump claims this is not the case because the ban is on refugees and others from target nations, not a target religion. The targeted nations, however, are all majority-Muslim nations. More to the point, however, the Order also instructs the Department of Homeland Security, after the 120-day hiatus on refugee entries, to favor refugee applications from those in the targeted nations that belong to minority religions, i.e., Christians. This, of course, is a religious test, and it is unconstitutional. Christians are by no means the only religions persecuted by ISIS (ask the Shia Muslims) and to separate them out for favorable treatment violates the Establishment Clause.
The day Trump announced his Order, three federal judges issued stays against it. The case filed in Brooklyn featured as a lead plaintiff an Iraqi interpreter who had worked for ten years with the American military in Iraq and who, it appeared, had been targeted for assassination. He was blocked from entering the US at JFK airport on account of Trump’s Executive Order and was released only after a federal judge ordered his release. (Meanwhile, Trump’s Defense Secretary, General Mattis, is reportedly livid that he was not consulted more fully in the run-up to the Order, and is now trying to get the Order revised to exclude such individuals.)
The next day, thousands showed up at airports and in cities across the country to protest the Order. And yesterday, Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General (Jeff Sessions has not yet been confirmed), announced she would not let the Justice Department defend the Order because she was not convinced it was legal.
For this act of courage, Yates was fired.
The last time a Justice Department attorney was relieved of his job after refusing to take action to implement an illegal Presidential Order was in 1973, when Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus resigned, seriatim, from their positions as Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, respectively.
Their boss had to resign less than a year later.
Donald Trump . . .
Meet Richard Nixon.