There hasn't been much going on this week. Well, other than the fate of more than 20 million people and one-sixth of the United States economy. And there are a few bothersome little events possibly happening over in the Middle East. But other than that this week has been dull, dull, dull. At least our fearless leader, Donald Trump, must think so since he's been working night and day to fix the major global crisis of a story that briefly appeared on CNN's website and was then retracted. Thank God the president of the United States is on it. If we all stick together through this challenging and critical time, we may just get through it.
OK, I'm being sarcastic. This has been a tumultuous and busy week in Washington, but it wasn't fake news that had the majority of the country on pins and needles. It was the prospect of millions of people losing health care and services, with many individuals desperately in need of and possibly unable to survive without them. As it turns out, they were given a brief reprieve when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to muster 50 votes to ram the bill through the Senate. Now all eyes will turn to the individual home states where freaked-out constituents will be stalking these Republican officials. There will be parades and town halls and barbecues across the nation and these GOP politicians will get an earful.
One might have thought the president would be deeply involved with the Senate vote, since he's allegedly the greatest negotiator the world has ever known. There have been reports of some phone calls by the president to recalcitrant senators and a few offhand comments by him endorsing the bill, but Trump simply has not been a factor in the debate.
After McConnell announced he was delaying the vote until after the July 4 break, Trump had all the Republican senators at the White House for a photo op and brief meeting in which he made it clear he didn't really give a damn about the health care bill one way or the other. He said, "This will be great if we get it done. And if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like. And that's OK, and I understand that very well."
He has said from the beginning that he thought it would be better politically to just sabotage Obamacare and blame the Democrats, so this isn't a surprise. Still, since Senate leadership continues to work to get the thing passed, it's not exactly confidence building. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, summed up the situation as a problem related to Trump's lack of political experience and the fact that he has yet to learn how to work with Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., put things a little bit more bluntly on MSNBC on Tuesday, saying, “If you count on the president to have your back, you need to watch it." The Washington Post reported that most senators consider the White House operation to be a paper tiger and simply don't take the president seriously.
Trump wasn't just uninterested or too busy with important matters to offer the negotiation his full attention. On Monday night the White House put out a statement saying that it had intelligence that the Syrian government was preparing to launch another gas attack. Journalists following this up with the State Department, the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command found that no officials at any of those agencies knew anything about this. That suggests either that the White House was making things up or there was a total lack of communication among the various responsible parties. According to The Daily Beast, the president himself was completely out of the loop:
According to a knowledgeable senior administration official, [Secretary of State] Tillerson warned his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov: the U.S. sees that Russia and Syria may be prepping for another chemical weapons attack; and that there will be consequences if Assad follows through with it. All this occurred this week as President Donald Trump displayed what two White House officials characterized as relative indifference and passivity towards the subject, instead opting to focus his public and private energies towards fuming at his domestic enemies in the Democratic Party and the “fake news.”
“The president cares more about CNN and the Russia story than [Syria] at the moment,” one official observed. . . .
White House officials speaking to The Daily Beast painted a picture of a president who, for the time being, is far more obsessed by negative press attention and media feuds at home than any coming atrocities abroad.
The official was in The Daily Beast account was referring to the story about three journalists who resigned from CNN after the network retracted a story about Trump crony Anthony Scaramucci's being investigated for his ties to Russia. Judging by Trump's hysterical tweeting on the subject, he can think of nothing else. He evidently believes this somehow proves the Russia story is fake news.
According to The Daily Beast, presidential advisers Steve Bannon and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner were consulted before the White House made the Syria announcement, which means they are acting in a presidential capacity on a major foreign policy issue while Trump tracks his bad press. Considering what other countries think about our president that might almost seem reassuring.
A Pew Research Center survey released this week shows that President Trump and his policies are overwhelmingly unpopular around the world. Pew polled people in 37 different countries on six continents, and on average only 22 percent of those surveyed said theyhave confidence that he will do the right thing in international affairs. (Trump got higher marks than former President Barack Obama in just two countries, Russia and Israel.)
America's allies in Europe and North America are particularly repelled by him, which is deeply disturbing. And they don't just disapprove of his policies, such as the supposed border wall or his travel ban or his withdrawal from the Paris accords. They disapprove of his personal character even more stridently. Most people around the world describe him as arrogant, intolerant and dangerous. Many do see him as "strong," but they are probably assuming that his arrogant, intolerant, dangerous rhetoric signifies strength and confidence, when it is actually just the bleating of a deeply insecure and shallow man.
It appears the planet is about to find out whether the world's only superpower can continue to function with a president who can do nothing but watch TV and battle with the news media over his coverage. Considering Donald Trump's monumental limitations, of course, that might turn out to be a blessing.