While atrocities played out in Syria, Donald Trump visited homegrown tragedies and travesties upon America. The week began with his nomination of Exxon chief Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, continued with wild dissembling about Russia’s hacks on his behalf and ended with him calling his own supporters “vicious and nasty.” It was all completely “unpresidented,” as Trump might say — in fact, as he did say about China’s seizure of a U.S. Naval Underwater Drone.
Here are just five of the low points in Trump world last week.
1. He up and canceled his big Dec. 15 announcement about how he’ll divest from his businesses.
Shortly after Trump was elected, amid dawning concern that as president he would be riddled with unprecedented conflicts of interests due to his business holdings around the world, he tweeted an important announcement. On Dec. 15, he would hold a press conference detailing exactly how he would handle this gravely concerning matter. This would be four days before the Electoral College meets to vote, and some had suggested Trump needed to be abundantly clear about his plans before then.
With just a few days to go before that much-awaited press conference, the mercurial president-elect canceled it, tweeting simply that his eldest sons would run the Trump Organization while he runs the country. Also, he said they would not “do any deals” while he is president, and neither will he.
Most business and government ethics types agreed that they have no idea what that means.
Trump gave no new date for the press conference, though there was vague intimation about it being shortly after the new year. But don’t count on it. Trump had plenty of luck dodging, weaving and evading all of the demands to see his tax returns during the campaign and even now. It was a winning strategy for him then, and in all likelihood, he’s banking on it still.
2. He appointed a cabinet member with white supremacist ties and sympathies the same week Dylann Roof was convicted of one of the most atrocious hate crimes in recent American history.
The march of idiots, billionaires, oil men and extremists into the Trump cabinet continued apace this week. For secretary of the interior, now that Sarah Palin is no longer in contention due to criticizing Trump’s absurdly trumped-up Carrier deal, Trump named Montana freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke. The former Navy SEAL and early Trump backer has an obsession with homeland security and part of his vision for that seems to entail keeping America as white as possible. He has accepted money from hideous white supremacist Earl Holt, of the Council of Conservative Citizens, whose demented racist screeds found their way onto the manifesto of convicted killer Dylann Roof.
Zinke also backs legislation to make English the official language of the United States and has aligned himself with anti-immigrant groups identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
So, maybe hold off on breaking out the bubbly that Sarah Palin did not land that cabinet position.
3. He accused his own supporters of being "nasty, mean and vicious" as if that had nothing to do with anything he's ever said.
The Trumpster appeared to have entered a dissociative state during his thank-you rally to rile up his base in Florida on Friday. The rowdy crowd was there to celebrate, and wanted to revisit Trump’s greatest hits, tunes like “lock her up” and “build the wall.” Trump said he didn't like those songs anymore and pretended this kind of rhetoric was not of his own making.
Chiding them like a drunk uncle, Trump said their behavior was a little deplorable during the campaign. "You people were vicious, violent, screaming, 'Where's the wall? We want the wall.' Screaming, 'Prison, Lock her up.' I mean you were going crazy. You were nasty and mean and vicious." It was a textbook example of projection. Has Trump not seen the video of his Republican National Convention speech? There was foam coming out of his mouth (and blood coming out of his whatever).
The man who called protesters at his rallies paid inciters, and promised to pay the legal bills of supporters who might, say, beat the crap out of protesters, just could not believe how vicious everyone was being.
But that was then, this is now, he might say, or maybe he’ll just deny any of it happened despite all the video evidence the “dishonest media” has at its disposal. He creepily counseled the rowdy chanters, “Now, you're laid back, you're cool, you're mellow, right? You're basking in the glory of victory."
Too late. All the violent hateful emotion is out of the (wind) bag.
4. He dumbed down the Department of Energy by appointing the dumbest guy possible.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry is famous for being kind of dim-witted, and Trump has already told us he loves the poorly educated, so much so, apparently, that he is stocking his cabinet with them. With the appointment of Perry to head the Department of Energy, Trump achieved a pretty stunning act of dumbing down. Under Obama, the department was headed by physicists, including one Nobel Prize laureate. Under Trump, you’ve got Perry, who barely scraped his way out of Texas A&M with a bachelors in chemistry. So mentally or at least memory-challenged is Perry that he could not even remember the name of the department he will now be heading when he proposed doing away with it in 2011.
It’s a mind boggler, all right, except when you consider that Perry was an early supporter of Trump. And there are even more troubling things about Perry’s appointment, like the fact that he is on the board of the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, deepening the ties between this administration and that Earth-ruining project.
In general, the moves the Trump team has been making when it comes to the nation’s energy policy (and environment) are among the most terrifying signals of what we are in for with the new administration. At every turn, Trump has signaled his commitment to fossil fuels and determination to gut any progress made on clean energy and mitigating climate change. The Trump team even attempted to ferret climate scientists (and people who just believe in science) out of the Department of Energy by sending out a questionnaire about their activities. The Energy Department refused to name names, to its great credit.
According to The New York Times, Perry’s primary responsibility as energy secretary “is to protect and manage the nation’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.”
That does not make us feel any better at all.
5. Got into ridiculous fight with Vanity Fair magazine, which he apparently lost.
The problem with Donald Trump is that he doesn’t win anymore. Maybe he got tired of winning. He said that might happen. As the people of Aleppo were being slaughtered, mass killer Dylann Roof was being convicted, and the CIA and FBI came to an agreement about Putin's interference in our election, Trump had more important things on his mind. He was not going to take that terrible review that Vanity Fair gave Trump Grill lying down.
So he bravely tweeted that Vanity Fair is a bad magazine, and Graydon Carter is a failure as an editor. Both, he predicted would soon be gone.
That’ll fix ‘em.
This made Vanity Fair very sad. So sad that it turned Trump’s attack into a subscription pitch and within just 24 hours sold the highest number of subscriptions ever sold in a single day at Condé Nast.