100 Days. That’s Like . . . a Lot of Days, Right? (The Trump/Nixon Tapes Part 4)

Trump Button

[What follows is a transcript of President Donald Trump speaking into the Oval Office recording device originally used by President Richard Nixon. This series of recordings encompasses the president’s communication to his inner circle.]

To: The Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee
Steve Mnuchin, secretary of Treasury

Shiela? Make a note to tell whoever is bringing me a Coke every time I press this red button on my desk to ease up on the ice. The red button means “Coke” not “ice with some Coke splashed over it, okay?”

Okay, people, this “100 days thing” is starting to wear on my nerves. I don’t know who decided that this was going to be a big deal, but all I’m seeing on TV is how unproductive Trump’s first 100 days will be. Where did anyone get the idea that I was going to get a lot of things accomplished in the first 100? Not that we haven’t. I mean look at all the executive orders I signed. I even read some of them. Well, I skimmed them. Or I had Shiela give me the bullet points. I’m the president. I don’t have a lot of time for reading. The point is that 100 days isn’t a lot of time when you’re dealing with a Republican congress. I don’t know what Ron thinks he’s doing over there, but it’s a disaster.

That’s okay though. I know how to fix it.

It will turn around for us when those coal mining companies start hiring again. Somebody has to dump all that sludge into the rivers, right? It doesn’t dump itself.

Anyway, I knew that tax reform was going to be a beautiful thing, right? How about that Tax Reform Plan, huh? That was a huge weight off my mind, getting that done, let me tell you. People kept saying it was going to be too hard. The Commerce Secretary, what’s his name, Munchkin? He said it would be August before we’d have it. But I stepped up and said we’d have it by Wednesday and there it was. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m looking forward to my huge tax cut. Does anyone think the base is going to remember any of the promises I made on taxes? I don’t see how they will. I can’t. I’m sure I must have said something about cutting taxes on the wealthy, getting rid of the alternative minimum tax (that’s gonna save me about $23 million a year), not allowing deductions on 401(k) contributions, and paying for it all with deficit spending. Does that sound familiar to anybody? I am one thousand percent certain that’s what I promised. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in my tax plan, right? Nailed it. There’s another 100-day accomplishment for the list. Is someone keeping a list? Jared?

You know what I miss most about my life before the presidency? I mean besides getting my Cokes served to me with the right amount of ice? Driving. No one told me the president doesn’t get to drive anymore. Half the reason I go golfing every weekend is so I can drive the cart around. Trump likes to be in the driver’s seat. This job is so much harder than I thought. I thought my life was going to be easier after the election. It looked so easy on “The West Wing.” Television wouldn’t lie to me, would it? Do these reporters know how hard this job is? If they did, I bet they’d be nicer to me. I should probably remind them I won the election.

Shiela? Have someone print me up some more electoral maps to hand out to reporters. I gave my last bunch to that group from Reuters. They seemed impressed. I made sure to tell them that the red states went for Trump. I don’t know why I’m not seeing more stories about how I won the election.

And what’s with all the nerds marching in protest against me? I don’t have anything against science? I went to Wharton. They have science classes there, I imagine. Don’t these people know that the election is over? Hold on.

That should do it. Speaking of the election being over, how are the crowds looking for my campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Day 100? Huge, right? Nobody gets crowds like us. Should I bring copies of the electoral map to hand out?

Jared? How are we coming along with dismantling the 9th Circuit? I’m pretty sure I put you in charge of that, right? Did you call them yet? If we could get that done by the 29th, I can count it as a 100-day accomplishment. Can you believe they halted my executive order on sanctuary cities? Even after my lawyers argued that the order didn’t actually do anything? Can I fire that judge? Someone ask Jeff Sessions if he can fire that judge. He’s already in Dutch with the Hawaiians and with New York, so he probably won’t mind going after San Fransisco too. You know how he is. Jared? Send Sessions a basket of pineapples and Rice-a-Roni. He’ll know what it means.

I’ll admit I haven’t been paying close attention, but did we lose eleven states while I was out playing golf? Why does the American flag on the birthday card I tweeted to Melania only have 39 stars on it? Did we exclude some of the blue states or something? Do you know how much that’s going to cost me at the Tiffany store in the lobby of my building where she lives?

I will say this. I’m getting pretty sick of everyone scrutinizing every word I say. It’s getting so I can’t josh around with people and bullshit a little without everyone making a big, fat, international disaster out of it. Take North Korea, some reporter asked me if we’re going to have a conflict with North Korea. Now, what am I supposed to say? No? That would be tipping my hand. So I said there’s “a chance” remember that. I said there was “absolutely” “a chance” we might be headed for a major, major conflict with North Korea. Then the dishonest media plays it up like I said we might be going to war with North Korea or something. Now I’ve got to smooth it all over with some Trump diplomacy.

Why are we still talking about Mike Flynn? Chaffetz? I thought you were on my side. I thought we were cool! Now all of a sudden you’re wanting paperwork on this guy? I don’t do paperwork, I’m a businessman. We make deals with a handshake. Flynn was helpful during the campaign, so I gave him the most important job I could think of that didn’t require senate confirmation. How was I supposed to know he was working for the Russians? I was working on my extreme vetting program for those Syrian refugees. I mean what the hell, Jason? You call a press conference to complain to the crooked media about paperwork? Look, I appreciate you trying to clean it up, but seriously. You just need to shut up and go away.

Maybe we need a distraction. Is there a Nazi around here we can spare?

Viva El Presidente

tumblr_loi4tyf9nh1qf5do9o1_400Our president has what can most generously be described as an authoritarian streak. It is becoming clear that he had little knowledge of the scope of the job or the limits of presidential power. This wouldn’t be so much of a worry, except that so many of his inner circle have bought into this idea and are running with it.

But let’s back up for a second. During the Bush 43 administration, President GWB governed under what’s called the “Unitary Executive Theory” of government. Basically, the idea is that the president’s power should be universal and unchecked (at least with respect to the executive branch of government). This manifested itself in several ways, but most obvious being the series of “signing statements” that President Bush wrote when he signed legislation. The statements would lay out rights he reserved for himself as president to bypass the very law he was enacting. For example, in 2006 President Bush signed a law restricting the use of torture. He also issued a signing statement saying as president, he could order the use of torture if he felt it was in the interest of national security. As a Republican, he bought into the Jack Bauer scenario: “What if there’s a bomb and you’ve got a guy who knows where it is? You *have* to torture him to get the information or Americans will die.”

President Trump’s authoritarian streak goes well beyond the unitary executive theory of governance. I first noticed something weird during the campaign. Back in September before the election, Omarosa Manigault joined the campaign as director of African-American Outreach. One of her first public statements sent a chill down my spine.

“Donald Trump is running for president because he really, truly believes he can turn the country around,” she said. “More importantly, every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.”

We don’t bend the knee in America. Our leaders work for us, we’re not ruled by them, we’re governed by them. Later, she spoke of enemies lists and making critics pay for their anti-Trump views. That’s really not how it is supposed to work in this country.

Trump himself displayed his authoritarianism when Judge Robart issued a temporary stay on his Muslim travel ban, angrily tweeting:

Robart is a President Bush appointee who was approved by the senate on a 99-0 vote. He is most definitely a judge. Now, presidents have criticized judicial decisions in the past. Franklin Roosevelt was so mad at Oliver Wendell Holmes, his first appointee to the Supreme Court, after a decision that didn’t go the president’s way that he famously complained, “I could carve out of a banana a judge with more backbone than that.” But at no point did FDR suggest the judge himself was illegitimate or that the judicial branch of government wasn’t within it’s power to review his decisions.

That’s a big red flag for Trump’s authoritarianism. His critics aren’t only bad people, but they have no right to criticize.

Recently, Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s product lines from their stores, citing flagging sales figures. They weren’t the only ones: Home Shopping Network, Target, Marshall’s, and Nieman Marcus also dropped the line. So have Sears and Walmart. But Nordstrom hurt, I guess because Trump lashed out in his favorite manner.

Forget for a second that the president wrote that he has to be pushed to do the right thing. Trump attacked an American company because they made a business decision that affected his daughter negatively. He also used the official POTUS twitter to retweet his anger at Nordstrom.

Now, you can make the argument that the lagging sales could have been due to a boycott of her products by critics of President Trump and Ivanka’s complicity in her father’s administration. That’s valid. But it also reinforces the idea that Nordstrom is acting in its own financial interests, rather than attacking Ivanka as a proxy for her father.

That was the official White House line on the incident: Nordstrom was trying to attack Trump personally by dropping his daughter’s product line. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans were skeptical about the government picking individual companies for favor or rebuke, calling it “picking winners and losers.” One wonders how long Nordstrom is required to keep an underperforming product line belonging to the president’s daughter on their shelves? Are they ever allowed to make their own business decisions, or should everything get run across Trump’s desk first? Or how can any company disengage with the Trump clan without being called out nationally for a “direct attack” on the president?

The authoritarian streak affects policy as well as ego at the White House. When Robart issued the stay on Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the administration appealed to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The government’s lawyers argued that Trump has “unreviewable authority” to make decisions about who can enter the country. The 9th didn’t see it that way and he lost the appeal in a 3-0 decision. Word is, he’s going to punt and try again with a different EO.

It was this decision by the 9th Circuit that brought out the president’s chief policy advisor to the Sunday shows for a series of bizarre interviews. Stephen Miller, a Jeff Sessions acolyte, appeared to read from a teleprompter as he repeated the administration’s false claims about voter fraud. Then he said something chilling.

“We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many cases a supreme branch of government. Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

First of all, he’s everyone’s president. So using language like “our opponents” is problematic. Secondly, we do not bow down to presidents. We question the power of our leaders. We have a system of checks and balances to ensure no branch of government is “supreme.” Every indication I’ve seen leads me to believe that President Trump has no idea how our government is supposed to work. He doesn’t understand the limits of his power. That’s why we get such nonsense as presidential executive orders telling law enforcement to enforce federal laws.

Meanwhile, three weeks into his presidency and Trump has taken two golf vacations to Mar-a-Lago. Each one costs us money. Each one is a potential conflict-of-interest. Each one is a potential national security risk. This last weekend, for example, Trump hosted the Japanese Prime Minister and his wife for the weekend. Trump’s table in the dining room at Mar-a-Lago is in the center of the floor so everyone can see him.

He was there when he got the call that North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile. No one had expected this test and it was the first time North Korea had violated its agreements since Trump took office. He took the call at his table, which included Prime Minister Abe, his wife, Trump, Melania, and the owner of the New England Patriots. He conducted an international security strategy session over a cell phone from his table at Mar-a-Lago in front of a room full of people with no security clearance. Many of these people were very excited to tell CNN all about it. Frightening. No wonder the initiation fees for Mar-a-Lago have doubled since President Trump took office. You get dinner and a show. By the way, one of the reasons Camp David exists is so the president can entertain foreign dignitaries and conduct work securely.

As Americans, we’re not usually big fans of authoritarian strong men. We tend to resist. Last night, I attended my first meeting of a local group planning that resistance. In a red county in a red state, it becomes all the more important to find those blue dots and connect them. Because we’re not going to bow down to any president.