EDITORIAL: New year, same old Trump tweets
A massive storm emanating from the East Coast sent shock waves in all directions last week in an unprecedented display of eruptive force.
No, not the destructive “bomb cyclone.” We’re referring to President Trump’s just as destructive beginning-of-the-year tweet storm.
Two weeks away from Washington evidently did little to reset the president’s attitude heading into the new year. He went on a 16-tweet tear last Tuesday.
From the juvenile “my-button’s-bigger-than-your-button” taunting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to blaming former President Obama for recent developments in Iran and Pakistan, to suggesting the Justice Department must “finally act” against Hillary Clinton and her former top aide Huma Abedin, it was, sadly, more of the same from the tweeter in chief.
He took credit — by being “strict on Commercial Aviation,” whatever that means — for the fact that there were zero air travel-related fatalities of U.S. passengers last year. (It was the ninth straight year of zero such fatalities.)
Oh, and get this: He said he will hold his own awards show, of a sort. “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock,” the president tweet-shouted. Yes, this is what preoccupies the leader of the free world.
But it was the tweet aimed at Kim — despite Trump’s protestations he doesn’t watch TV, he posted it less than 15 minutes after a Fox News report on the North Korean leader’s declaration that he had a “nuclear button” at the ready on his desk — that was especially childish:
"North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'" Trump wrote. "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"
Get it? The president has a bigger button! Again, this is what preoccupies the leader of the free world.
Not laughing at this lowbrow braggadocio were blindsided national security advisors, who fretted that the ill-conceived post would ratchet up nuclear tensions with the unpredictable Kim.
One saving grace: As CNN pointed out, “The only button on Trump's Oval Office desk summons a valet who most often comes bearing a Diet Coke.”
What’s perplexing is that, after a largely unproductive — indeed, in many ways, counterproductive — year in office, Trump and his fellow Republicans finally seemed to be gaining a little momentum. A slim Senate majority and deft parliamentary maneuvering allowed Republicans to muscle through their long-sought tax cuts, a pre-Christmas short-term deal to continue funding the government gave lawmakers breathing room to deal with fiscal challenges, and the holiday break saw Trump stay largely out of the headlines.
In short, the president and majority Republicans in Congress were poised for something like a fresh start after a tumultuous year. Trump, apparently, was having none of that.
Things only got worse Wednesday with release of excerpts of a new book purporting to detail behind-the-scenes machinations of the early days in the Trump White House. One of the book’s chief sources: former Trump campaign and administration senior advisor Steve Bannon, who characterized the infamous June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Russian operatives as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
It didn’t take long for Trump to return fire. And if there were any doubt he was particularly livid, the president responded in a forum he seldom uses: An actual statement from the White House. Foregoing his usual Twitter platform, the president claimed Bannon had “lost his mind.”
So begins 2018, reflecting if not magnifying 2017: The president is sparring with enemies, puffing himself up, revisiting political grudges, irresponsibly and childishly provoking nuclear powers, and dodging increasingly credible assertions that his campaign played footsie with Russian operative seeking to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.
The year may be new, but the issues and concerns are all too familiar.