Media (386)

 

Home from Abroad

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump flew back to the US the day before I flew to Holland for a family visit.  Before the president left for the G7 he slapped more tariffs on imports from China, called both Fed chairman Jerome Powell and China’s paramount leader Xi Jinping  ‘enemies of the people,’ and ‘ordered’ US companies to get out of the latter’s country.  In Biarritz, France, where the G7 was held, Trump said that he had second thoughts about the tariffs, raising some experts’ hopes that the president understood the damage they were doing to American farmers and consumers, but his remarks were followed by a statement from the White House that Trump meant the tariffs might be too low.  Apparently understanding, however, that his actions were hurting his chances at getting re-elected, Trump continued his bizarre flip-flopping by suggesting that a deal with China was very close because the Chinese had already called him, something China denied.  In Biarritz the president did not attend the session on the environment, in light of the fires in the Amazon rainforest probably the most important part of the event in the eyes of the other leaders.

From France Trump sent a number of ludicrous tweets, among others that the question he was being asked most by the other participants of the G7 was why the US media hate America so much.   The president announced that he was strongly considering his struggling Doral Golf Course in Florida, a loss leader in the Trump Organization, as the site for the next G7, apparently because Doral has the biggest ballrooms in the state and no bed-bugs.  Trump added that he didn’t want and was not going to make any money from the event, something that is even less believable than his tweet about the US media.  Since France had surprised Trump by having the Iranian Foreign Secretary pay a visit to the G7 it is almost inevitable that the president will invite Putin to the next one, even though Putin’s presence in the US a couple of months before the elections may not help Trump, especially if there already are signs that Russia is again trying to interfere.  When the president was on his way back to the US the news broke that on numerous occasions he had suggested to bomb, even to nuke, hurricanes that are on their way to the US, ‘to prevent damage.’

In Biarritz it became obvious that the G7 is now the G6+1. The other participants treated Trump like an irritable child and tried to take care of business on the side.  At his closing press conference the president was good for a few more shockers.  He lied that he had missed the environmental session because he had meetings with Angela Merkel and India’s Prime Minister Modi, who each were shown attending the session.

Another beauty was his declaration that Melania liked Kim Jong-un, although she never met the Korean dictator, and his re-branding of Xi Jinping as a ‘great leader,’ in an attempt to flatter Xi into a trade deal.  The president called himself an environmentalist because he ‘likes clean air and water,’ and said that Obama could have prevented Russia’s annexation of Crimea by doing ‘whatever.’

In Amsterdam I decided to pay no attention to Trump for the rest of the week, which meant staying off Twitter, a welcome relief.  Still, almost everybody I spoke with wanted to talk about Trump, and the two most common questions were: ‘how much crazier will he get?’ and ‘can he be beaten?’  My answer: we’ll see what happens.


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The King of Kings

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

This week Donald Trump’s manic grandiosity reached a new pinnacle when he called himself ‘the King of Israel.’ That was after some majestic flip-flopping by the president.  Scared that a recession next year would sink his chances of getting re-elected he and his advisors were musing about cutting the payroll tax, after the Fed – in Trump’s eyes the culprit of all problems – would have implemented more rate cuts, and for the heck of it he also talked about reducing the capital gains tax, something that would do nothing for the economy but enrich Trump and the likes of him a bit more.  In the end, however, the president declared that the economy is incredibly strong and would even be stronger if the Fed had not raised interest rates in the recent past, and that no action was necessary.  After this pirouette Trump turned to gun control and came to a similar conclusion.  Initially he had shown some interest in expanded background checks, but after a 30 minute phone call with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Trump said that we already have very strong background checks, and that a new policy would lead to a ‘slippery slope,’ where ‘everything would be taken away.’

Having thus taken care of the home front the president turned his attention to the rest of the world.  Since Denmark was not excited about selling Greenland and its Prime Minister called the idea ‘absurd’ Trump called her ‘nasty’ and cancelled his upcoming state visit, for which the Danish Queen had invited him.  Next he proclaimed that the G7 should become the G8 again by re-admitting Russia, which according to him had been expelled because ‘Putin outsmarted Obama,’ apparently by seizing Crimea and starting a war in Ukraine while Obama was president.  Reflecting on the situation in Kashmir Trump called it ‘very complex,’ because ‘you have your Hindus and you have your Muslims and there you have it.’  Playing into the anti-Semitic trope that Jews are always more loyal to Israel than to the country where they live the president accused Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats of disloyalty to Israel.  With Israel still on his mind Trump called himself ‘the Chosen One’ who had to take on China, and declared that ISIS has been decimated. Secretary of State Pompeo disagreed, and said that ISIS is now stronger in some places than it has ever been before.

To deter asylum seekers and other transients of coming to the southern border the administration announced its intention to hold families with children indefinitely in detention, challenging the ‘Flores rule’ that says such detentions can only last 20 days.  The new policy won’t go into effect in the next 60 days and will undoubtedly face many challenges in court, but the purpose of the announcement was to send the message that ‘we’ll lock you and your children up if you dare coming here.’  To top it off the president gave notice of his plan to end birthright citizenship.

Also this week the news broke that Trump had violated the law when filling out his financial disclosure forms.  In the US he estimated the value of his Scottish golf courses at $165 million and reported that they had generated a profit of $23 million, but in Britain, where he has to pay taxes on these properties, he stated that they carried more debt than their value and earned him only $6.3 million.  Probably none of these numbers is correct and in the US the penalty for this duplicity is five years.

Finally, it became clear that the budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in 2020, even without the purchase of Greenland and much faster than expected.  Republicans supporting Trump who have always had their mouth full of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets will have a hard time convincingly falling back on their old positions after Trump has moved from the White House to the Big House.

 
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Trump Yells at the Data

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

With the images still fresh of Donald and Melania Trump triumphantly holding a baby that had been shot, the way Don Jr. and Eric Trump hold a baby elephant they have just murdered, the expectation was that the president might be willing to make a gesture, however minimal, on gun control.  Initially he said ‘I want something done,’ but a couple of days later that had deflated to ‘I think Mitch McConnell wants to do something.’  Meanwhile Jeffrey Epstein hung himself in a New York federal penitentiary, or so it seems, and Trump re-tweeted the conspiracy theory that Bill Clinton had a hand in Epstein’s death.  A president accusing a predecessor of murder is so unheard of that under normal circumstances it would be considered shocking, but in the Trump era it is just one more thing.  More than by last week’s mass shootings Trump was upset that he had been branded a racist for inciting the violence in El Paso and wasn’t able to shake that label.  Although ‘white supremacist’ is more accurate it would be smart for the Democratic candidates to keep the ‘Racist Trump’ tag alive, because it drives him nuts and causes him to make mistakes.

Trump’s vision of a predominantly white America was verbalized by Ken Cuccinelli, Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, who rewrote Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,’ so that it now reads ‘give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.’  Just to prevent any misunderstandings Cuccinelli clarified that the poem had been written in a time when all immigrants were coming from Europe.  ‘Means-testing’ aspiring immigrants and admitting only self-reliant people will exclude the primarily colored transients who want to come to America to make a better life for themselves and are indispensable in many sectors of the US economy, and it will immediately face legal challenges.  Trump would have felt good about himself for driving more fear into the hearts of poor economic migrants and asylum seekers if the stock market had not lost 800 points, possibly foreboding a recession that would sink his re-election chances.

In spite of his often proclaimed business acumen the president knows nothing about economics and he doesn’t get much help in the White House.  His chief economic advisor only played an economist on TV, and his tariffs expert is considered a halfwit by real economists.  Parroting some words he just learned Trump tweeted ‘CRAZY inverted yield curve,’ as if he was yelling at the data, and blamed the Fed chairman, but he also finally acknowledged that his tariffs are hurting US consumers by putting new tariffs on Chinese imports off until after the holiday shopping season.

A normal president would have called China out on its threatening democracy in Hong Kong, according to pundits to honor the US tradition as guardian of freedom around the world, but  Trump didn’t get beyond a statement that the situation is ‘very tough’ and that he hopes ‘it works out for everybody, including China.’  In a tweet he later expressed his opinion that if Xi Jinping would only meet with the demonstrators a ‘beautiful solution’ would emerge almost immediately.

In an effort to distract attention from the economy and his tanking poll numbers Trump, in an unprecedented move, urged Israel not to admit two congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who happen to be dark-skinned Muslimas.  Netanyahu complied, but the president will get payback if New York City honors a petition signed by 290 thousand residents to rename the Trump Tower block on 5th Avenue to ‘Barack Obama Avenue.’

 

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A Rock Star in El Paso

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last Friday Trump tweeted sarcastically about a burglary at the home of Congressman Elijah Cummings in Baltimore.  “Really bad news,” and “too bad,” were his words, and pundits thought that the president couldn’t go any lower but during the course of this week he proved them wrong.  In an eight-month period Trump had mentioned an ‘invasion’ of illegal immigrants on the southern border at least 21 times during public appearances, no less than 7 times at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, in May.  “What to do about it?” he asked the crowd, and someone yelled ‘shoot them,’ which made Trump smile and crack a joke.  Saturday night a white supremacist took a cue from the president’s rhetoric and drove 10 hours to El Paso to kill Mexicans, after posting a ‘manifesto’ on an extremist website parroting Trump’s words.  In a Walmart store he killed 22 people and injured 24 others before being arrested.  That massacre was followed by another shooting early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, where 9 mostly black people lost their lives.  There was no clear political motive for the second shooting, but the country was in shock so the president had to act.

In a teleprompter speech on Monday morning that he read like a zombie under anesthesia Trump addressed the situation.  The speech was written by Stephen Miller, who had an easy time with it because he only had to write down everything that’s opposite to his convictions.  The president said “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside, so destructive, and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.” As causes for the violence in El Paso he mentioned video games, the Internet, the media and mental illness.  Omitted were the availability of assault weapons and his own xenophobic rants.  Trump didn’t stay in that conciliatory mood for long, because first he criticized the New York Times for having changed a dubious headline about his speech, presenting himself once again as a victim, and then he angrily attacked Beto O’Rourke, who used to represent El Paso in Congress and blamed the president for the shooting, with a tweet mocking O’Rourke’s Hispanic nickname and telling him to ‘be quiet.’ Before he traveled to Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday morning Trump declared on the South Lawn “my words bring people together.”

The president was going to meet with victims, their families, first responders and caregivers, to offer his condolences and support, so what could possibly go wrong?  In Dayton apparently all went well, at least according to Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who told the press that Trump had ‘done the right things’ and that the victims were glad that he came.  Inexplicably though, during his flight from Dayton to El Paso Trump tweeted that Senator Brown and Mayor Whaley had ‘totally misrepresented what took place inside of the hospital.’

In El Paso a large group of residents voiced their opinion that Trump shouldn’t have come, and as a result the president only huddled with Republican politicians and stayed out of sight.  After his visit to a local hospital he told the press pool that was not allowed to accompany him “everybody loves me here,” and his Director of Social Media and former golf caddie tweeted that Trump had been treated like a rock star.  However, the Washington Post reported that none of the victims had agreed to meet him.

Soon after the president’s visits it became clear why press and photographers had not been allowed in the hospitals when the White House started circulating videos of Trump surrounded by first responders and elated supporters.  It was unclear if he had paid most of them to be there, like he did when he announced his candidacy, or if his staff had been able to corral every Trumper in El Paso into the hospital.


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Of Mice and Men

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

After his racist attacks on ‘the Squad’ Trump stayed on track by attacking House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, whose largely minority district in Baltimore the president called ‘disgusting’ and ‘a rat and rodent infested mess,’ suggesting that human beings cannot live there.  The attack was partly motivated by the fact that Cummings had subpoenaed the government related emails Ivanka and Jared sent from private accounts, and partly caused by the racism that is in Trump’s genes.  When Cummings responded and Al Sharpton supported him the president played ‘I know you are, but what am I,’ calling both men racists and himself ‘the least racist person anywhere in the world.’  Soon after Trump’s attack articles started circulating about New York City Health Inspectors who once found Trump Tower, in particular its restaurant ‘the Grille,’ infested with mice and roaches.  Simultaneously it became known that Jared Kushner is acting as a slumlord in Cummings’s district, where he owns thousands of apartments and town houses, many of which are almost uninhabitable because of mold, bedbugs, leaks and rodents.

On the foreign policy front Trump defended Mitch McConnell, who was very upset after having been called ‘Moscow Mitch’ for his refusal to bring election security measures to the senate floor.  ‘McConnell knows even less than I know about Russia,’ asserted the president, ‘and I know nothing.’  After thus reassuring the nation Trump created new panic by appointing Congressman John Ratcliffe as successor to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.  Other than half a year on the House Intelligence Committee Ratcliffe has no experience in national security policy, but he distinguished himself in Trump’s eyes with a shameless attack on Robert Mueller, whose report he claimed in an interview had really been written by Hillary Clinton.  The appointee tried to embellish his resumé by revealing that he had prosecuted terrorists, but that turned out to be a blatant lie.  The DNI is supposed to be the least partisan official in DC, because he or she has to give the president the best possible information available, and by appointing an ultra-partisan candidate Trump would have seriously undermined national security, but Friday afternoon Ratcliffe’s nomination was withdrawn.

On Wednesday the president called Putin to offer American assistance in fighting wildfires in Siberia, about which he apparently cares more than about California.  It’s unclear what other issues were discussed, but it’s always possible that Trump begged for the pee-pee tape.  In a brilliant move he put Lindsey Graham in charge of negotiations with Iran, while simultaneously sanctioning Iran’s Foreign Secretary so that Graham has nobody to talk to.  Dealing a heavy blow to America’s standing in the world the totally unqualified Kelly Craft was confirmed as US Ambassador to the UN.

Next to the report about rodents and roaches an impressive list was published of gangsters and crooks who once owned or still own condos in Trump Tower, the crimes they were sentenced or are prosecuted for, and the number of years they spent or might yet spend in the slammer.  And at a signing ceremony for the funding of health care for 9/11 first responders Trump, who has been spotted exactly once at Ground Zero, came awfully close to presenting himself as a first responder.

At a rally in Cincinnati last night  Trump didn’t mention the Squad, to avoid ‘Send her back’ chants, but instead blasted ‘inner cities,’ a dogwhistle for minority neigborhoods.  He singled out Baltimore,  where according to him there are more homicides than in Afghanistan.   Next to the fact that it’s in his blood Trump is running a racist campaign because with the economy slowing down he has nothing else to run on..

 
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