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Trump Decides To Wing It -- What Could Go Wrong With That?

[ Posted Thursday, June 7th, 2018 – 17:04 PDT ]

President Trump is the ultimate off-the-cuff guy. He has no problem just winging it, on just about any subject under the sun. This week alone, Trump falsely accused Canadians of burning down the White House (they didn't, the British did, over 200 years ago) and reportedly flirted with the idea of just pardoning himself to get rid of all the pesky investigations. He's also decided there will be no formal process for any presidential pardons, other than "a celebrity asks me for one for somebody." Hey, it worked for both Sly Stallone and Kim Kardashian, so why not others? Today, two stories appeared which aren't exactly surprising, but still raised a few eyebrows. The first is that Trump has apparently decided that he doesn't really need a whole lot of briefing for his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, and that all he really needs is the right "attitude." What could possibly go wrong with that plan? We'll see, next Tuesday, one assumes. But the second report was much more detailed, about a briefing supposedly on disaster preparedness that Trump just got from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, because hurricane season has just begun. Someone present recorded the meeting and leaked the recording to the Washington Post and CNN. So far, only excerpts have been released, but it is sincerely to be hoped that a full transcript will eventually become available, so we can all bask in the splendor of a president unchained.

Please try to keep in mind while reading these excerpts that this meeting was supposed to be FEMA briefing the president and members of the cabinet on hurricane preparedness. Also, that most of these comments were made behind closed doors -- not for the benefit of the cameras. Which only goes to prove that Trump in private sounds a whole lot like Trump in public. Here's how the Post summed up Trump's comments during the meeting:

But President Trump had a lot else on his mind, turning the closed-door discussion into soliloquies on his prowess in negotiating airplane deals, his popularity, the effectiveness of his political endorsements, the Republican Party's fortunes, the vagaries of Defense Department purchasing guidelines, his dislike of magnetized launch equipment on aircraft carriers, his unending love of coal and his breezy optimism about his planned Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In other words, a lot of hot air was blowing real fast, but very little of it had anything to do with hurricanes. At one point, Trump attempted to address actual hurricanes, but he's seemingly still unaware that his administration is getting a whole lot of bad press after the news broke that more than twice as many people died in Puerto Rico as died from Hurricane Katrina.

Trump did not mention Puerto Rico's victims but thanked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) for helping and noted that the power company was "in bankruptcy prior to the hurricane." He said the recovery was a "tough job." He also mentioned Puerto Rico in passing once with the cameras rolling.

"There has never been a season like the last 12 or 13 months," he said of the hurricane season. "I've never seen anything like it."

Having spent minimal time on the actual subject of the meeting, Trump now felt free to go on several freewheeling rants about this, that, and the other thing. Most of this is Trump attempting to brag about his accomplishments, whether real or fictional.

When Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan began speaking, Trump within 10 seconds moved the conversation to negotiating airplane prices. He said the government was getting ripped off on ships and planes because the "ordering process for the military is so bad. It's not a competitive bid."

"We saved $1.6 billion on Air Force One," he said. "Can you believe it? I got involved in the negotiations. The press refuses to report that, but that's okay.... People were really surprised."

Military officials have not been able to explain where Trump got such a figure. A Defense Department official told Bloomberg News this year that the department had no information to back up that claim.

Again, they're supposed to be talking about hurricanes, which was assumably what Shanahan talked about for 10 whole seconds before Trump felt the need to pat himself on the back at length for a negotiation that appears to only have happened in his own mind. He then turned his thoughts towards state-level politics in California (a state which is not notable for having a high risk of hurricanes, it bears mentioning).

A few minutes later, he analyzed election results in California, noting that he endorsed the Republican gubernatorial candidate, who made it onto the November ballot. Trump is highly unpopular in California, according to public and White House polls, with under a 40 percent approval rating. He attacked Gavin Newsom, the Democrat, saying he had "done nothing."

"I endorsed him," he said of Republican John Cox. "He really has been a very good candidate. I watched him last night.... We won every seat that I endorsed. The ones we didn't give, they didn't do too well, as you probably know."

Read the whole article to find more of these off-the-cuff moments, but they all have a common theme: the wonderfulness of President Trump. He did magnanimously also take the time to reflect some praise to his cabinet members, as well:

"I understand a big story is being done in a major newspaper talking about what a great Cabinet this is," he said, without specifying the outlet. "What a great Cabinet this has turned out to be."

"Our level of popularity is great," he added.

But CNN reports that one cabinet member in particular got short shrift in Trump's praise. Trump went around the room and gushed about what a great job everyone was doing, reading down a list of those present, one assumes. But when it came time to address Jeff Sessions, Trump had only 11 words to say, five of which were Sessions's name or job title. The other six: "thank you," and "thank you very much." This brings new meaning to the term "damning with faint praise."

As usual, the Washington Post did not identify its source, but it would be pretty easy to imagine some disgruntled FEMA employee leaking a recording of the meeting to the press because he or she was so disgusted at the lack of focus during what was supposed to be a briefing on hurricane preparedness -- a large-scale life-or-death matter, in other words -- which devolved into nothing short of a Trump rally. Again, we've all heard Trump do this sort of thing in public, changing the subject from what was asked of him to pivot to patting himself on the back for unrelated (and at times, purely fictional) perceived victories -- but this was supposed to be a wonky, closed-door meeting about saving lives during natural disasters.

President Donald Trump is flying off to Singapore in a few days, to have meetings with Kim Jong Un on North Korea's nuclear weapons. Due to the intense security, we will probably never get a recording or transcript of what is said between the two men. Trump thinks all he needs is the correct "attitude" for the talks to be a success, and therefore he hasn't been interested in getting briefed on the actual facts or issues that assumably will be discussed.

Throughout Trump's presidency, he has never had this level of personal involvement with any issue. He's not the one personally negotiating trade deals or tariffs with other nations, to put this another way. He hasn't taken the lead during any congressional negotiations, or anywhere else. The only personal touch Trump has so far exhibited is on breaking deals, not making them (such as pulling out of the Paris accords on global warming, or the Iran nuclear deal). So this is the first time we'll be able to see Trump attempting to reach a deal with another world leader in person.

I pity the translators, personally. Because if Trump behaves anything like he just did in his FEMA briefing, they're going to have a tough time of it.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

27 Comments on “Trump Decides To Wing It -- What Could Go Wrong With That?”

  1. [1] 
    TheStig wrote:

    I was just thinking almost exactly the title of the latest column when I decided to check in and see what's up at CW.com. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. [2] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I pity the translators, personally.

    Oh! So do I. Translators sometimes have to "study up" ahead of time so that they'll know in advance the proper translations for things that they'll be likely to discuss. This one will be extra tough.

    Does Trump's translator, for instance, translate the entire phrase "bad hombre" into Korean, or leave the 'hombre' part untouched so that its ironic and racist component is conveyed? Does 'Rocket Man' translate into 'Missile Man' or 'astronaut' or 'penis'?

    Does Trump's translator really need to spend time learning the complicated names of North Korean nuclear systems, or could he or she just skip that part and insert Star Trek references instead, figuring that Trump wouldn't know a thermonuclear trigger from a Jeffries tube anyway?

  3. [3] 
    Paula wrote:

    Tonight we learn the criminal-in-chief is trying to kill the ACA again by not defending it in court, using some argument lawyers are all over twitter explaining is nonsense. Don't know how it will shake out but this-I-know -- threatening people's healthcare AGAIN, as we head into the real election season, was an exceptionally stupid thing to do. Repub leaders are not going to be happy as once again their lives will be filled with protests, their offices inundated with calls and emails and faxes and Dems will beat them over the heads with it.

    Separately we learn the DOJ got phone and email records of a reporter in order to identify someone who's been leaking information. This is not a good thing.

    We're now entering a race between a genuine fascist takeover and a "peaceful" response to this wannabe dictator via Dem success in the midterms. And if fascism wins it will be because Republicans betrayed their country. They have the power, today, to stop this insanity. It would take courage and it would take a recognition that our country literally is in peril. Those who have any shred of patriotism need to rise to this occasion. God help us.

  4. [4] 
    John M wrote:

    We also learned that Trump will be leaving the G7 meeting this weekend early, because according to the President of France, Macron and the Canadian Prime Minister are just fine with turning it into a G6 meeting by issuing a joint statement AGAINST the USA and its policies, while Trump, meanwhile, makes nice with North Korea and China. How's that for turning alliances on their head!

  5. [5] 
    TheStig wrote:

    This column didn't go where I expected from the headline, not that matters in the least, it's a critique of Trump's management style rather than a prognosis of what may or may not occur in Singapore.

    As I see it, Trump is nothing more or less than a salesman, and he's taking his sales pitch on the road. He is not selling any particular product, he is selling the Trump Brand, and the targeted audience is the 40% of Americans who can't enough of it in the form of tweets, YouTube videos, Fox and Fiends, am radio news and resulting E-mail chatter than lands in your inbox from news outlets you have never heard of before.

    North Korea is just a backdrop and Singapore is just an exotic venue for filming what amounts to a glitzy commercial. Presidents look presidential when they go overseas...it's the jet, the SUV/motorcycle caravans, the handshakes, the salutes, the dinners.

    If you are expecting diplomacy to happen, you are likely to be disappointed. Especially if you are a NATO ally who up until Nov of '16 had a pretty good idea of what America stood for. China is likely to be extremely wary as well, as will S. Korea, which will try and smile for the camera. Russia is probably pleased, since Trump and Putin seemed to be joined at the hip, if not any way you would want to describe to your grandma.

    In the words of Lily Tomlin (more or less) - it's going to get a lot worse before it gets worse. Trump and roller coasters share this property.

  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Before he goes on the road, or at the very least before he gets off AF 1, Trump needs to do two things:

    1) Get rid of those reverse raccoon eyes! Q-tips, ask Melania.

    2) Get a better brand of bronzer. Trump's augmented skin tone makes him look he's suffering from liver failure...except underneath his eyes. Ask Melania.

  7. [7] 
    Paula wrote:

    Looks like Blotus showed up at the G7 to offer his deliverable to Putin and that's about it. He doesn't bother to prepare to do real diplomacy, but he knows what he DOES want to accomplish. Putin's puppet.

  8. [8] 
    Paula wrote:

    A new report just released about income inequality around the world, including U.S.

    https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/06/income-inequality-around-the-world-its-a-choice-not-a-destiny/

    Income inequality has grown in Europe, but not nearly as dramatically as in the US. In both places, the rich started out with roughly a 10 percent share of national income, but by 2016 that had increased to only 12 percent in Europe while it skyrocketed to 20 percent in the US. Likewise, the middle class in Europe started out with a 24 percent share of income and now have 22 percent. The American middle class can only dream of such largesse. They started out with a lower share of income than their European comrades and have since plummeted to about 13 percent. Obviously, growing inequality isn’t inevitable: it’s the result of very deliberate policy choices.

  9. [9] 
    Paula wrote:

    And another indictment drops against Manafort, adding Konstantin Kilimnik as a defendent and charges both with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. All of Manafort's previous charges remain.

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    9

    And another indictment drops against Manafort, adding Konstantin Kilimnik as a defendent and charges both with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. All of Manafort's previous charges remain.

    And plenty more waiting for unsealing. What we understand that I believe escapes the Trump minions and their ilk is that Benedict Donald could issue pardons to all his partners in crime, and it still won't erase the charges against the others. Each of those issued pardons will still be subject to questioning in the prosecution of the cases and subject to indictment with additional crimes they commit in the exercise thereto... think "contempt of court" for refusing to testify and/or "perjury" for lying under oath... lather, rinse, and repeat.

    It will never end for any of them regardless... unless BLOTUS is willing to pardon the Russians for their crimes against the United States that are undisputed even by his own administration... which in and of itself would constitute obstruction of justice. So it never ends regardless.

    As I have stated many times, Mueller is ready for anything. Let there be no doubt whatsoever that Bobby Three Sticks knows exactly what he's doing. :)

  11. [11] 
    Paula wrote:

    As I have stated many times, Mueller is ready for anything. Let there be no doubt whatsoever that Bobby Three Sticks knows exactly what he's doing. :)

    I think so too - I hope so.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Impaulasible [8]

    "Growing inequality isn't inevitable . ."

    Sorry, dead wrong, growing inequality IS inevitable in the modern hi-tech world.

    Dems/Libs love to bemoan "inequality" endlessly, but they only want to talk about inequality of income.

    They completely ignore the simple fact of life that people are born highly unequal in the things that cause inequality of income. We're terribly unequal in talent, unequal in skills, unequal in ambition, unequal in strength and agility. Those are the inequalities that produce inequality of income, and they grow more important daily in the high-tech world of reality.

    When everybody subsisted by farming, there was still inequality. Now tha we specialize however, all those other inequalities serve to magnify and accentuate inequality of income, because income is the result of productivity.

    I'm aware that your emphasis on INequality of income is designed to bring to pass income Equality by transferring the fruits of the labors of the more productive to the less productive, but that never totally cures inequality of income because the more productive are just tooooo "greedy", right?

    Interesting how the reluctance to share your income with the less productive is described as "greed", but the desire to eat the fruits of the labor of others is NOT called "greed", right? Why don't you explain that for us!

  13. [13] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    It appears that Anthony Bourdain has joined his friend Kate Spade on a trip to Parts Unknown, where they will presumably stylishly sample pergatory's cuisine: Nothingburgers, generic vanilla shakes, and McDonald's salads.

  14. [14] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Ok, I know that's spelled p-u-r-g-a-t-o-r-y.

    My brother says that store-bought chicken nuggets ought to be on that menu.

  15. [15] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Interesting how the reluctance to share your income with the less productive is described as "greed", but the desire to eat the fruits of the labor of others is NOT called "greed", right? Why don't you explain that for us!

    That's simple: when you have more than income to sustain and entertain yourself and provide for your loved ones, and yet still desire more,t

    (and still balk at contributing to the common wealth from which you've derived common benefit), that's greed. When you refuse to pay fair wages for fair work, that's greed.
    When you favor tax breaks over services for children, the elderly, the infirm and disabled, that's greed.

    The poor, of course, can never match that definition.

  16. [16] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Interesting how the reluctance to share your income with the less productive is described as "greed", but the desire to eat the fruits of the labor of others is NOT called "greed", right? Why don't you explain that for us!

    That's simple: when you have more than income to sustain and entertain yourself and provide for your loved ones, and yet still desire more, that's greed.
    When you don't want to contribute to the common fund from which you've derived common benefit, the motive is greed.
    When you refuse to pay fair wages for fair work, that's greed.
    When you favor tax breaks over services for children, the elderly, the infirm and disabled, that's greed.

    The poor, of course, don't match any of those definitions.

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthy [16]

    "When you have more than income . . . and still want more, that's greed." No, actually that's just your arbitrary definition of one aspect of greed, and many would disagree.

    You neglected to explain why the desire to eat the fruits of the labors of others is NOT greed.

    Nobody "wants to contribute", but society sees to it that the productive contribute whether they want to or not. Remember, the "common fund" (streets, schools, etc, came from the more productive elements of society, NOt from the unproductive.

    Re "Paying unfair wages" - any worker who receives "unfair wages" has the obligation to offer his time and talents to other employers. If he's unable to find a higher bidder, then by definition, he's getting "fair wages".

  18. [18] 
    Kick wrote:

    Stucki
    12

    Dems/Libs love to bemoan "inequality" endlessly, but they only want to talk about inequality of income.

    I call bullshit on you, Stucki, as I have seen multiple Democrats on this blog bemoaning and discussing the obvious inequality of your intellect on multiple occasions.

    Your pulling a few words out of an entire article and taking them out of context in order to make a point about income inequality from cradle to grave doesn't change the fact that the article discusses growing incoming inequality in recent history brought on by policy changes that were in no uncertain terms NOT "inevitable" but were quite deliberate and due to policy.

    The Orange Blowhole/Pus Bucket campaigned on a platform that he would ease the tax burdens of the Middle Class in order to address the issue of income inequality... which no matter how many times you whine wasn't possible was absolutely and easily attainable, as outlined multiple times on this blog in comments directed to you ad nauseam, but the GOP chose otherwise by legislating policy that exacerbated the problem rather than remotely attempting to create policy that attempted to achieve the campaign rhetoric of multiple GOP talking heads, simply delivering the same tired trickle-down policy we've seen for decades that has indeed widened the "gap."

    Read the entire article and comment regarding the issue being discussed or STFU since your standard operational rhetoric in regards to the posted article is as tiresome and repetitive as it is irrelevant. :)

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    12

    When everybody subsisted by farming, there was still inequality.

    p.s., dumb ass: There was NEVER a time in history when everybody subsisted by farming.

  20. [20] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick

    You may be right about people "bemoaning the obvious inequality of my intelect", but nowhere did they ever attempt to tie that to the level of my income, which points out that you're dodging the question and/or too stupid to grasp the point of my post, which was, why do Dem/Lib idiots perpetually bemoan the existence of income inequality without ever tieing it to inequality of talent, inequality of skill, inequality of ambition, and yes, inequality of intellect??

    I pointed out that income inequality is the direct result of all those other inequalities, and that it only gets worse every year in the modern hi-tech world, and you instantly fall back on the tired nonsense argument that income inequality really results from the more productive being too greedy to share to the extent your warped bullshit-laden mind considers fair.

  21. [21] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    BTW, SFB, my {12} was not addressing any "article", it was clearly as stated, in response to Impaulasible's [8]. If you don't like that, you can shove it "where the sun don't shine".

  22. [22] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I pointed out that income inequality is the direct result of all those other inequalities, and that it only gets worse every year in the modern hi-tech world

    Ah, if only that were true! Then all we'd have to do to close the gap would be to massively invest in schools and motivation centers. If Republicants really believed that, I think they'd be taking public education more seriously (we can't all go to private schools, despite Betsy DeVos's earnest desire that we do so). Similarly, a respect for science in conservative circles would help us build a more educated citizenry. How do you expect the situation as you've defined it to improve, when proper education is beyond the grasp, geographically or financially, of the poor? You can't accuse the poor of not bettering themselves on one hand, while simultaneously yanking away opportunities to do so with the other. Just sayin'..

  23. [23] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthy [22]

    It would be wonderful if education had the power to fully remediate all the defficiencies inherent in the inequalities people are born with, but that's simply not the case.

    Education can help, and gawdonlyknows, we spend immense amounts on education, big multiples of what other nations spend, meaning proper education NOT "beyond the grasp of the poor".

    Neither I not most Reps/Cons oppose public education, but the scariest statistic concerning education is that the relation between money spent on public education and successful outcomes appears to be inverse!!

    Check it out, the highest per-pupil educational expenditures in our country are in the very places where successful outcomes are the lowest.

  24. [24] 
    neilm wrote:

    CRS:

    They completely ignore the simple fact of life that people are born highly unequal in the things that cause inequality of income. We're terribly unequal in talent, unequal in skills, unequal in ambition, unequal in strength and agility.

    Yes, they are, but that does not mean we need to kick the poor when they are down.

    A more important observation would have been about mobility from birth - if all you say is true and people are born differently then we should see mobility between the quintiles (i.e. 0-20%, 20-40%, etc.). This mobility is declining, not improving.

    This decline is due to many factors, but a good summary comes from Charles Murray's (yes, that Charles Murray) "Coming Apart".

    The rich are pulling the ladder up behind them. This isn't some evil policy, but policies recently have aided them do this, rather than tried to leave the ladders in place.

    I suspect your worldview was formed decades ago when the ladders were still there, particularly for white men. Try reading the above book.

  25. [25] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    neilm

    OK, let me say that I am on the record as being against Kicking the Poor, whether they be up OR down!

  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    20

    You may be right about people "bemoaning the obvious inequality of my intelect", but nowhere did they ever attempt to tie that to the level of my income,

    Well, that's no doubt due to the indisputable fact that the article at the link Paula posted wasn't about you, Stucki; everything is NOT about you. Also, perhaps in your perpetual heightened state of ignorance and laziness, you simply failed to notice you've been referred to as "poor dumb expletive" on multiple occasions on this very blog. I guess the old man has reading comprehension problems, right?

    which points out that you're dodging the question and/or too stupid to grasp the point of my post, which was, why do Dem/Lib idiots perpetually bemoan the existence of income inequality without ever tieing it to inequality of talent, inequality of skill, inequality of ambition, and yes, inequality of intellect??

    If you'll reread your asinine comment which we're discussing, you poor dumb expletive, you will find no actual question contained therein that required answering. Rather, you'll find a comment wherein you flail in your attempts to put words in a poster's mouth and the same standard operational smug, erudite, and preachy bullshit that you spew here often, simply followed by the word "right" and a question mark. You're therefore not actually asking questions, you're spewing your repetitive bullshit ad nauseam and asking others to agree with you, right? <--- That's not really a question, right?

    I pointed out that income inequality is the direct result of all those other inequalities, and that it only gets worse every year in the modern hi-tech world, and you instantly fall back on the tired nonsense argument that income inequality really results from the more productive being too greedy to share to the extent your warped bullshit-laden mind considers fair.

    In your perpetual state of confusion and undisputed inequality of intellect, I'm sure you've convinced yourself that the above bullshit your wrote is true, but if you'll reread my post, nowhere in my comment will you find a discussion regarding "the more productive" or "sharing," and I discuss the concept of "greed" exactly zero times.

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    21

    BTW, SFB, my {12} was not addressing any "article", it was clearly as stated, in response to Impaulasible's [8].

    And since you admit your comment at [12] was in response to Paula's [8], which was in fact a comment that was in its entirety the discussion of an "article" regarding a "new report just released about income inequality around the world"... complete with a provided link to said "article" which was the subject matter of her entire comment at [8]… let us all know how you weren't discussing an "article."

    If you don't like that, you can shove it "where the sun don't shine".

    Sorry, old man, I live in Texas where the sun always shines in one way or another. :)

    A better idea would be for you to get down off your antiquated soapbox and either make relevant comments or STFU. Paula posted a comment which in its entirety discussed an article regarding a report on income inequality, and then you proceeded to hit "play" on your standard operational bullshit rhetoric which missed entirely the point of the "article" that Paula posted. My point was that you missed the entire point. Focus, old man.

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