This was supposed to be a good week for Donald Trump. He was going to give a big speech, and he was all set to roll out the 2.0 version of his Muslim ban. As usual in the Trump administration, though, things didn't quite work out as planned.
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While much of Washington is currently atwitter (and a-Twitter, of course) over the growing possibility that in the near future, one or more top White House advisors may be shown the door (centering, so far, around Mike Flynn, Sean Spicer, and Reince Priebus), I personally think Trump should consider cutting his losses in a different way. Palace intrigue is always fun to speculate about, of course, but aside from personalities, President Donald Trump should really consider just cutting his losses on the whole idea of a "temporary ban" on immigration. He should, in short, declare victory and move on.
No, that's not a Donald Trump hair joke. It is nothing more than the end of a simile on lying. Rugs are the epitome of lying, since nothing lies more obviously than a rug. Of course, I could have gone with a different motif, but Al Franken had already used the title: "Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them," so I had to go with what was available, as it were.
I had fully intended to write another column postulating that our president and a few of his advisors are nothing short of blithering idiots (you know, the usual thing), but then I got hooked into the modern world of technology and instead sat through the entire hour-long oral arguments hearing in Washington v. Trump, which turned out to be fascinating. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals helpfully live-streamed the audio of a conference call where the lawyers from the Trump administration and the state of Washington made their case to a three-judge panel, on the merits of the temporary restraining order that a district judge in Washington issued that shut down President Trump's executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States. So any citizen could, in effect, sit in the courtroom and hear the cases made. I have to admit a certain level of wonky awe that this is the world we live in -- where such things are not just possible, but are now routine.
But we digress. Donald Trump's Muslim ban, signed into existence as we were writing last week's column, was certainly the biggest story of the week. Spontaneous protests sprang up at international airports across the country as the chaotic implementation made it plain that this executive order just wasn't thought through all that much. Nobody knew what the order did cover and didn't cover, all the way from White House officials down to the border guards who were expected to somehow implement this vague and badly-defined policy. Clarifications had to be issued on a daily basis. The draft of the order simply did not go through any of the normal vetting channels, with some cabinet-level officials only seeing it hours before it was signed. The Trump administration is now starting to resemble (take your pick) either the gang who couldn't shoot straight or the Keystone Kops.
If it weren't such a serious subject, the irony would be downright hilarious. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried his hand at being politically correct. Why he did so is a mystery known only to the inner workings of the Trump administration, but the eventual outcome was nothing short of utter failure -- undermined, in the end, by his own boss.
Last night, President Barack Obama bid the American public farewell. He gave a speech that was inspiring, and called upon Americans to get involved in the political process in a multitude of ways. Like many historic farewell addresses (even quoting from George Washington's), it also delivered a warning about what Obama perceives as current and future dangers which threaten America. Washington's farewell address, when read in full, contains a scathing denunciation of the mere concept of political parties (called "factions" at the time), and Obama's followed suit in denouncing the rabidly partisan era we now find ourselves in.
Tonight was (finally!) the last presidential debate of the 2016 election season. I thought it was a better debate (if less entertaining) than the first two, personally. A lot of actual policy positions were discussed, the candidates interacted with each other without so much of the "everyone's screaming at once" interludes, and the moderator kept the subjects moving along at a good clip. So my overall impression of the final debate was that it was a lot more like a normal presidential debate than the previous two.
In deciding how to describe the ongoing fratricide within the Republican Party, several metaphors and phrases sprang to mind. Rock, hard place. Rats, sinking ship. Petard-hoisting. There are several which are apt and appropriate, but I finally settled on the wise words of Pogo Possum. Because the Republican Party truly has fulfilled Pogo's reflective prediction: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
There has been relatively little speculation this election year about what could possibly be the "October surprise." In a normal presidential election year, this is a fun subject to speculate about when the actual news from the campaign trail gets dull and repetitive. This year, of course, that hasn't exactly happened -- the political news has been anything but dull and repetitive, in fact. Because of this, most political reporters haven't even bothered to wonder if an October surprise will happen, much less what it might consist of. The few articles I've seen have suggested two possibilities: Wikileaks releasing more of Hillary Clinton's emails, and Vladimir Putin launching some military adventurism somewhere in the world. Both, it's interesting to note, would aid Donald Trump's candidacy. Perhaps one or the other of these will happen, but I think there's a different October surprise out there, and one which (depending on the outcome) might help Clinton, not Trump.