To say that the nascent days of the Trump Administration have been marked by chaos and ineptitude would be a major understatement. In the more than two months between his election and inauguration, no significant work on policy priorities took place – or, if it did, it was completely incompetent. Thus, we had a hastily conceived policy on banning Muslims, and no leadership – unless you count bluster – on a health care bill.
Then there are the idiotic tweets. Anyone who was capable of thinking even one step ahead – let alone several steps – would have known that alleging wiretapping by your predecessor could not possibly survive even the first day of scrutiny. But this week brought two more instances that are simply staggering.
The first was the traditional Easter egg roll at the White House. Now I acknowledge that no President’s biography will ever mention this event, but it has been going on since the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes. Last year, 37,000 attended Barack Obama’s last one. It is an event with no down side. It is a feel-good, if meaningless, event that allows citizens to attend an event at the White House and walk away with good feelings and a souvenir wooden egg.
I could organize it, but the Trump Administration was in over its head on even this. The maker of the wooden eggs could not find anyone at the White House to order them, and had to resort to Twitter – what else? – to get attention. The event drew about half the crowd as the one last year.
There are some who suspect that one of Trump’s biggest concerns – after adoration – is size. Facing another debacle in which something he did was compared to Obama, Trump did what he always does in the face of possible embarrassment – find someone to blame. This time he nobly picked out his wife, Melania. While he ostensibly praised her for her work on the event, that was merely a hedge against the anticipated negative comparison with Obama.
As truly trivial as this matter is, the other event is on the opposite end of the spectrum – i.e., the risk of nuclear war. For days we read and heard about the Carl Vinson carrier group “steaming” toward the Korean peninsula in advance of an anticipated nuclear test by North Korea to mark the anniversary of the birth its founder. As the President of the United States said, “We are sending an armada, very powerful.” This occurred in the context of increasingly bellicose rhetoric and the United States’ bombing Syria and Afghanistan.
Tension was high. We are, after all, dealing with an unstable and unpredictable autocrat – and also there is Kim Jong-un.
It turns out that the much-hyped carrier fleet was actually sailing away from the Korean peninsula and was meeting up with the Australian Royal Navy to conduct exercises. As Charlie Pierce wrote in his blog, “Who among us has not misplaced an aircraft carrier?”
It was not until news reports surfaced – you know, what the President calls “fake news” – that officials at the White House acknowledged that, indeed, the Carl Vinson had not been deployed as a deterrent to North Korea.
Just what is going on here? Is there not a single person in the Trump Administration who might think it is not a good idea to ratchet up tensions in a volatile region over something that did not happen?