CRISIS du JOUR
It’s been an interesting week in Washington. I wanted to write something profound about the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. But all of the newspapers, broadcast networks, and social media platforms seem to have covered every last detail ad nauseam, including each day’s new revelation. So I will just offer these thoughts:
As sensational as this is, this is just the latest crisis du jour. Every week during Mr. Trump’s infant presidency a new crisis or urgent situation has arisen, commanding the attention of the nation and the world. Consider, in less than four months:
- two judicial injunctions stopping the implementation of the President’s Executive Orders banning immigration of persons from certain Muslim-majority countries;
- the firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she determined that the President’s ban of immigrants was unlawful;
- the appointment of Gen. Mike Flynn as the National Security Advisor, followed three weeks later by his resignation due to his failure to completely disclose to the Vice-President his contacts with Russian officials — this appointment having been made by President Trump despite Gen. Flynn’s dismissal as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014;
- Mr. Trump’s repeated allegations, without any supporting evidence, that President Obama wiretapped his offices during the campaign;
- the inability of the House of Representatives to put together a health care bill within the unreasonable timeframe demanded by the President;
- the President’s convoluted explanation of how Mexico will pay for the border wall that he wants to build, now that Mexico has emphatically said that they will not pay for it as Mr. Trump promised they would;
- Congress’s reluctance to include any significant funding to even begin feasibility studies on how to build the wall;
- the President’s retraction of his suggestion that he would withdraw from the North American Trade Agreement the following day, after receiving phone calls from the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico that evening — announcing instead that he would renegotiate the agreement;
- the Syrian bombing, quickly forgotten;
- dropping the “Mother of all Bombs” in Afghanistan;
- the President’s flip-flop on his pledge to pronounce that China is manipulating their currency;
- the North Korean nuclear crisis and the botched reporting of the whereabouts of the US aircraft carrier fleet supposedly steaming toward the Korean peninsula — now also seemingly forgotten;
- the unprecedented, jubilant Rose Garden celebration when the House finally passed a very controversial, partisan health care bill, which has no chance of clearing the Senate in its current form;
- the near government “shut-down,” prevented at the very last minute when Congress passed a continuing budget resolution;
- the President’s suggestion that South Korea pay for the THAAD antimissile system that the US installed in their country, contrary to our agreement with South Korea;
- the on-going investigation of the possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russians who may have interfered with our election — a problem for Mr. Trump that just won’t go away;
- the President’s continual insistence that the election was fraught with voter fraud, apparently needing to prove that he won the popular vote;
- and now this week, the sudden firing of the FBI director while the FBI is conducting an investigation into the possible Russian interference in our election.
Weaving its way through all of these incidents is the President’s obvious need for adulation, and his habit of blaming anybody else for anything that does not portray him in the best light possible, manifested in part by his accusations that the media is making up “fake news,” even though he himself proclaims inaccurate and conflicting information to support his fragile ego — also manifested by “throwing” his press corps and the Vice-President “under the bus” this week as they tried to explain Mr. Comey’s firing while Mr. Trump changed his stated reason for doing so on a daily basis.
I wanted to conclude these thoughts by saying that we should not impart too much importance to this latest crisis in Washington. The firing of Mr. Comey will only dominate the news until the next crisis arises, either bona fide or of the President’s own making.
I wanted to say that the news media should spare us the excruciating details of each new crisis and tone down their sensational rhetoric, leaving us room to respond in a thoughtful and informed way. I wanted to say that instead they should focus on the underlying problem which exacerbates each of these crises. That’s what I wanted to say.
Then yesterday I read an editorial by John Moody, the Executive Editor of Fox News, wondering if Mr. Trump really wants to be President, citing “his random tweets, his crude public use of insults and threats and his blatant disregard for decorum and the integrity of the office of president,” going so far as to suggest that the President should announce a date that he will resign. Yes, that Fox News, the only media outlet that Mr. Trump seems to believe is credible!
Then I noted the President’s tweet yesterday threatening Mr. Comey, now a private citizen, stating, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
I also took notice of the President having Henry Kissinger sit in the Oval Office with him while he defended his firing of Mr. Comey. I found myself wondering why he would do that and then allude to the possibility that he may have secretly taped his meetings with Mr. Comey — distinctly drawing parallels between himself and President Nixon’s Watergate scandal and the “Saturday night massacre.”
Then this morning I noted that James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, told MSNBC that there “could be evidence” of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign — this following Mr. Trump’s tweet yesterday morning stating, “When James Clapper himself…says there is no collusion, when does it end?”
I recall that President Reagan was referred to as the “Teflon President,” because problems arising from his handling of matters of state just didn’t seem to stick to him. Given the long list of problems attributed to President Trump that are forgotten as soon as a new crisis occurs, I began to think that he might have Teflon skin also. But a friend suggested to me that each of these problems may be like a barnacle that attaches itself to the hull of a boat. Taken alone, they are not noticed. But when enough barnacles collect they can no longer be ignored, for they will ultimately destroy the vessel. Now I’m not so sure that this week’s crisis will go away as easily as the many others that preceded it did. Mr. Trump is collecting a lot of barnacles.
Finally I concluded that the reporting of the excruciating details as they unfold does in fact allow us to focus on the underlying problem which exacerbates each of these crises, if we can see the forest for the trees. Such reporting does give us the information that we need in order to respond in a thoughtful and informed way. We simply need to exercise our ability and our obligation to do so.
After all, crises effecting the US occur constantly. When they do, how our leaders handle the crisis makes all the difference in the world — literally.