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Another Bad Day on Twitter for Trump

When it comes to Twitter, President Donald Trump rarely has anything but a bad day, as he steadfastly refuses to realize that the social media platform that served him very well as a candidate is not his friend as president. So it was on Saturday, when a small number of "free speech" protesters (aka white supremacists), a large number of police, and an even larger number of counter-protesters descended on Boston. Trump's immediate response on Twitter:

Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

Great job by all law enforcement officers and Boston Mayor @Marty_Walsh.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

Nothing terribly surprising here, given that Trump is among the more authoritarian presidents the country has had. Of course he is pro-police and anti-protester. But then, starting about 25 minutes later, came this pair:

Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

The reason for describing these tweets as "starting about 25 minutes later" is that it actually took the President three tries to get the first of the two right, as he twice misspelled 'heal' as 'heel.' This naturally occasioned quite a few jokes on Twitter, like "Spelling is the President's Achilles Heal" and "At least it's 'heel' and not 'heil'."

Snark about spelling aside, however, what was really noteworthy was the 180-degree turn between the first two tweets and the second two. The counter-protesters went from being "anti-police agitators" to being some sort of American heroes in not much more than the blink of an eye. One can fairly well imagine the scene at Bedminster, where The Donald is spending the weekend. He sends the first two tweets, in which he appears—once again—to be criticizing those who would presume to stand up against racism. Chief of Staff John Kelly, perhaps only half-shaven, maybe with a shirttail untucked, sees the messages and goes racing through the golf club, looking for his boss to tell him he's gotta fix the latest mess. After checking the breakfast nook, the bedroom, and the lounge, he finds Trump—phone still in hand—out on the veranda, perhaps. The General promptly dictates the messages the President needs to send to "smooth" things over; Trump complies, but fumbles a bit as he tries to punch Kelly's words into his phone. Eventually, the two tweets—with spelling corrected—get posted to Twitter, and Kelly goes back to getting dressed. Aaaand...scene.

But, of course, the two latter tweets—at this point—don't actually change anything, no matter how much Trump's allies might hope otherwise. Surely there isn't a single person in the country who was aggravated by the first two tweets, but then mollified by the next two. Given how badly the Charlottesville situation was botched, everyone in the country has decided where Donald Trump stands when it comes to white supremacists vs. counter-protesters. All the President really did on Saturday, in this post-Bannon world, is confirm that what he said last week represented his own thoughts and his own authoritarian instincts, and not those of his former senior adviser. (Z)

Trump to Skip Kennedy Center Honors

December's Kennedy Center Honors are typically a highlight of the president's social calendar. POTUS can relax and see a few A-list performers in an environment that is non-political, and where he doesn't have to be the center of attention for once. Then, the White House reciprocates with a pleasant little reception for the honorees. The Obamas were regulars at the event, and normally chief executives bend over backwards to fit it into their schedule, with only a small handful of misses over the years.

But Donald Trump, of course, is no normal president. He may not admit it publicly, but he knows that he's an unusually unpopular president, and that any public appearance where he's not surrounded by acolytes is risky. So, he has declined to be at the Kennedy Center this year, with the easy-to-read-between-the-lines explanation that he doesn't want to be "a distraction." It was not even necessary for Trump to guess that he would not be terribly welcome. Already honorees Carmen de Lavallade and Norman Lear have announced that they will skip the White House reception, and musicians LL Cool J and Lionel Richie might join them in boycotting as well. The only honoree to definitively RSVP "yes" is Gloria Estefan, and even she is only going so she can tell the President he's wrong about immigrants. If Trump were to appear at the actual event, his best case scenario would be lukewarm applause when he is announced, which is mildly embarrassing. His worst case scenario would be a chorus of boos, which would be mortifying. That would be played over and over, particularly on Twitter. He'd literally never escape it; every tweet he sent from that point forward would generate replies that linked to footage of the booing. So, while the President is more than a little tone deaf, he's obviously not completely oblivious. (Z)

Trump Still Making Nice with Bannon

Before he decided to weigh in on Boston (see above), Donald Trump's first tweets of the day were about Steve Bannon, as he tried to let everyone know how very much he admires the guy he just sacked:

I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton - it was great! Thanks S

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews...maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

If we're organizing news sources into "fake" and "not fake," well, let's just say that the site most responsible for the Seth Rich story probably doesn't belong in the latter.

In any event, all the hugs and kisses and kumbayah stuff are nice, but not remotely believable. Neither Trump nor Bannon is the type to let bygones be bygones. Further, Breitbart made its name by spewing vitriol and throwing firebombs all day, every day. They hate globalists, don't much care for institutions, and regard cooperation and compromise as signs of weakness. They don't "pick" their battles; they fight every one that presents itself. There is zero chance that the site, which already has its crosshairs on the White House staff, does not eventually target the President. And let's just see if the fawning tweets continue once that happens. (Z)

Pence Compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt

Speaking of fawning, Vice President Mike Pence—who fawns as well as anyone, which is how he got his current job—came up with quite the line in a speech he delivered this week:

And in President Donald Trump, I think the United States once again has a President whose vision, energy, and can-do spirit is reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt. Think about it. Then, as now, we have a builder of boundless optimism, who seeks to usher in a new era of shared prosperity all across this new world. Then, as now, we have a leader who sees things not just as they are, but for what they could be. And then, as now, we have a President who understands, in his words, 'A nation is only living as long as it is striving.'

That's right, Donald Trump = Teddy Roosevelt.

Now, it's true that the two men have some things in common. They were both wealthy New Yorkers, and known for being brash, and braggadocious, and for telling anyone who would listen about the size of their stick. However, TR was an experienced politician, a military veteran, a progressive who looked forward rather than backward, and the youngest president in American history. Donald Trump is the opposite of all of these things.

That said, the purpose here is not to critique Mike Pence's less-than-stellar grasp of history, as fun as that might be. It's to note that, in the last week or two, he seems to have gone "all in" on Donald Trump. After months of lingering at the periphery of the administration, he has been forcefully defending his boss at every opportunity since August 1 or so.

Why the change? The answer to that question surely begins with the open secret that Pence has his eye on the presidency. There are really four ways in which that might happen:

  1. Pence succeeds Trump upon resignation, removal from office, or death
  2. Pence runs in 2020, with Trump having decided not to run for re-election
  3. Pence runs in 2020, against Trump
  4. Pence runs in 2024

An honest assessment, however, will suggest that some of these are nonstarters. Number 3 sounds interesting, but as William Howard Taft and, yes, Theodore Roosevelt taught us in 1912, 50% of one party's supporters are never enough to beat 100% of the other party's supporters. As to Number 4, the year 2024 is very far away, and there are too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns. That election could easily witness a horde of ambitious Republicans tearing each other to shreds for the honor of facing off against a popular Democratic incumbent, a la 2012. That leaves us, then, with Options 1 and 2. And if either comes to pass, Pence will need Trump's base squarely behind him, and soon. Assuming the Veep has done the same rundown and reached the same basic conclusions that we have, then it's not surprising that he's begun to hug Trump closer.

If Pence is indeed thinking that if his opportunity comes, it's going to be sooner rather than later, he's not the only one. As we noted yesterday, the Democrats are already preparing for Pence to be their opponent in 2020. Meanwhile, some business leaders are ignoring the President, and have begun to lobby the Veep directly, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. In short, then, the 2020 race is already getting underway, and the first serious candidate appears to be living at Number One Observatory Circle. (Z)

Big Business Turning Against the Businessman President

While the business community sets its sights on Mike Pence, it is quickly growing disenchanted with Businessman-in-chief Donald Trump. Just the last week, by itself, has been an utter train wreck. Dozens of Trump's advisers quit, thanks to Charlottesvillegate. Other prominent voices, including Apple's Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and Fox's James Murdoch, blasted the President. Charities fled Mar-a-Lago, Carl Icahn got caught with his hand partway in the cookie jar and threw in the towel (see below), and Steve Mnuchin is being pressured by friends and associates to resign. CNN has a comprehensive accounting of everything.

This is pretty bad news for Trump, for two reasons. The first is that the very foundation of his case for the presidency was that his business acumen would allow him to achieve things that mamby-pamby politicians cannot. But if America's CEOs can't or won't work with him, that argument, which was already dubious, goes down the drain. Meanwhile, these people have enormous influence over the state of the economy. If they decide that Trump isn't going to be good for business, they will turn bearish, and the stock market will suffer. As more skillful presidents than Trump have learned the hard way before him, "It's [always] the economy, stupid." Really, we're getting to the point that Donald Trump is going to have to make a schedule of what makes it hard for him to sleep each night: Mondays—Russiagate, Tuesdays—North Korea; Wednesdays—Mike Pence's machinations; Thursdays—The economy; Fridays—Congress; Saturdays—My golf game, and Sundays—Surprise me. (Z)

Advisory Councils Are Falling Like Flies

A pair of business-centered presidential councils fell apart this week, and now it turns out they weren't the only ones. Trump's evangelical council has had its first defector, as pastor A.R. Bernard realized that maybe The Donald isn't too much of a Christian. Or, to use the pastor's words, "it became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration."

Meanwhile, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has also gone the way of the dodo, as all 16 members have resigned. Their strongly-worded letter advising the President of their decision has gotten a lot of attention, as reporters noted the first word of each paragraph of the letter:


Read the first column vertically, if the message is not clear. The Arts council, as you might guess, predates Trump, which is part of the reason it was fully staffed. Odds are it doesn't get restaffed for a long time, maybe not until the next president takes office. Or, Trump could appoint Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, and Charlie Daniels, and call it a day. (Z)

Icahn Was About to Be Hit with Exposé

On Friday, billionaire Carl Icahn resigned as a special adviser to Donald Trump. He did not explain his reasoning, but the fact that he had been under attack for working within the White House while also running his businesses seemed likely to be a factor. Now we learn that behavior that makes both Icahn and the President look very shady was about to put under a very bright light by The New Yorker.

The magazine's story, which is scheduled to be published Monday, details the enormous amounts of money that Icahn made purchasing the refinery CVR Energy. However, profits have lagged recently, as it's gotten more and more expensive to comply with EPA rules that require refiners to mix ethanol with their gasoline. The billionaire twisted the arms of the Obama administration to get them to change the rules, but was refused. When Trump took office, the expectation was that he would be a much more receptive audience for Icahn's pleas, such that the stock of CVR Energy nearly doubled after he was appointed special advisor. There was even talk that an executive order, tailor-made to Icahn's needs, was imminent.

But now, these machinations have been exposed to the light of day. Everyone is scurrying for cover, and denying everything. The White House says there never was an executive order planned, Icahn says he has nothing to do with how CVR Energy is managed. Uh, huh. In any event, this is now a dead end for the billionaire investor, so it's understandable that he submitted his resignation. Sometimes, it would seem, the swamp drains itself. (Z)

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