After President Trump seemed to be righting the ship of state three weeks ago, the wheels have come off of late. This week began with Jared Kushner offering a convincing explanation for his minor connections with Russian figures, but ended with a resounding legislative defeat on Obamacare repeal and replacement, open questions about the durability of Attorney General Jeff Session, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
So, everything is going swimmingly.
Rhetoric: Trump’s rhetoric this week was egregious in its own right – he spent the week wildly tweeting about Jeff Sessions’ supposed disloyalty and unwillingness to target Hillary Clinton, then told the Wall Street Journal the same thing, then sent out surrogates to do the same. Yet Sessions remains. Meanwhile, the Senate attempted to pass something, anything – but Trump’s closing argument was that his attorney general was a poophead. So that wasn’t great. Trump also spent some time this week attacking the “Amazon Washington Post” and fulminating over the election in front of Boy Scouts. This was his worst week of rhetoric – and his wasn’t even the worst rhetoric from the administration. That title went to Scaramucci, who first called reporter Ryan Lizza to suggest that Reince Priebus was a paranoid schizophrenic and that Bannon wanted to “suck his own c***,” then went on national television to deny that he had ever implied that Reince was a leaker. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer must be on a beach in Zihuatenejo somewhere sipping a beer and thinking how lucky he is not to be working with Scaramucci, who seems to be a refugee from a local theater production of American Psycho.
Policy: The only good policy move this week – refusal to force the military to accommodate transgenderism – was done in the most clumsy possible way, through tweetstorm. That led to a predictable backlash that could have been avoided simply by allowing Defense Secretary Mattis to lead the way with a rational and well-modulated critique of Obama’s social engineering. Instead, Trump took a good cause and dirtied it in a Michael Scott-level awkward attempt to distract from his Sessions-fight; the Pentagon still has not articulated an actual policy on the issue. Meanwhile, Trump offered nothing beyond vague platitudes about the Senate health care efforts.
The In-Between: We’ve heard from Bannon this week that he wants to raise taxes, even as Republicans try to put together a tax restructuring package. We’ve heard from the White House that Trump might attempt to veto a veto-proof set of Russian sanctions. We’ve heard that Bannon wants to treat Google and Facebook as public utilities. Ugh.
There were no brights spots this week. Were there a grade lower than F, Trump would have earned it. Do better, Mr. President.
This Week’s Grade: F
Four Week Running Average: D (1.1)
Total Average: C- (1.88)