In a normal week, many of last week’s major news events would not have made the headlines because they would not have happened. But normalcy is hard to find in the Trump administration.
While on his trip to Japan, President Trump made headlines for two unrelated events. Why on earth would a commissioned United States Navy ship be hidden, have its name shrouded and its crew ordered not to appear anywhere the president might see them? The ship is the USS John McCain. The White House ordered this cover-up. Trump said he had nothing to do with it. “I was not a big fan of John McCain in any shape or form. Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, OK? And they were well-meaning.” What does it say about the president that his staff feared he wouldn’t behave like an adult and would throw a temper tantrum at the mere sight of a dead political opponent’s name?
Trump’s response to North Korean provocations while he was visiting Japan was more disturbing. A normal president might have supported his host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He might have warned Kim Jong Un that North Korea would come under pressure for violating international treaty by launching two short-range missiles. A patriotic president would have told Kim, “Don’t you ever dare to insult an American” in response to Kim’s blatant, offensive remark about Joe Biden’s intelligence. But Trump tweeted that Kim “smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse.” Press Secretary Sanders doubled down on this egregious breach of diplomatic etiquette, saying she thinks Trump and Kim “agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden.”
Mr. Trump overweighed in on the United Kingdom’s upcoming election, endorsing controversial, broadly-criticized Boris Johnson for British prime minister. The Brits were not at all happy about foreign intervention in their elections. Would that Trump felt the same way about the Russians! Trump also decided to help the UK negotiate its exit from the EU. He announced his choice, anti-European-Unionist — we come to bury the European Alliance, not to praise it — Nigel Farage, to represent the UK in Brexit talks. And as if he hadn’t offended the British quite enough, he called Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle “a nasty woman” for opposing his candidacy in 2016. The Brits won’t shroud their feelings this week, as the 75th anniversary of D-Day approaches. As of this writing, he will not be privileged to address Parliament, and protests are expected to be loud and rude.
May was a bad month for the stock market. The Dow suffered four consecutive down weeks. The day after Trump announced $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, it lost almost 2%. This past Friday, the day after his threat to place tariffs on all Mexican products, it lost another 1.4%. Those tariffs would inflict economic havoc on both sides of the border. Newsweek’s financial analysts said the tariff would cost the average American family close to $1,000 this year, wiping out Trump’s meager middle class tax cuts. Moreover, Mexico is already doing what Trump wants, to slow the flow of Central American asylum seekers, and with far fewer resources than the United States.
More than a few past presidents were known for bearing grudges — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and, especially, Richard Nixon were known for having tempers and not being shy about their feelings toward political opponents. But all of these men, even Nixon, stoutly, steadfastly, defended America and Americans. All of them knew the Constitution. All of them, even Nixon, until his role in the Watergate coverup became known, were respected by both our allies and enemies. And had Nixon not been consumed by distrust and an urge to punish his enemies, he would have been remembered as an effective president. The same cannot be said of Donald Trump.