Any parent who has had children in middle school is familiar with their teenage excuses. First, they complain that the teachers are mean and assign too much homework, then that the reading is boring, and then when all else fails, they give you that aggrieved look and whine, “It’s tooooo haaaaard.”
The point is that whatever happens, it’s someone else’s fault.
It’s annoying when it comes from a 13-year-old. When it comes from the president of the United States and his team, it’s downright terrifying.
In a chilling article in The Times this week, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman described President Trump’s Keystone Kops White House where aides meet in the dark because they can’t figure out how to use the light switches (setting them to “on” might be worth trying), and Trump wanders around his living quarters in his bathrobe watching CNN and obsessing about how mean everyone is to him.
When his executive order putting Steve Bannon into the top circle of the National Security Council drew howls of protest, Trump got mad — because, Thrush and Haberman reported, he had not been fully briefed on the order before he signed it.
Not fully briefed? Didn’t Trump think he should at least have a conversation about the ramifications of setting aside a seat in the Situation Room for a purely political aide with no known national security credentials? (And no, Bannon’s seven years as a junior Navy officer do not amount to national security expertise.) Did Bannon just write the order himself without telling Trump what was in it?
Apparently there was not sufficient discussion of the anti-Muslim refugee and visa ban, either. Maybe the White House got overloaded with math homework or finding the light switches and couldn’t get to it. Nor was there time to discuss an order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to go back into the “black site” prison business, or one that rolled back protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. (The first was revised and the second, apparently, scrapped.)
Now, we learn from the Times article, Reince Priebus has had the brilliant idea of actually looping the president in on the creation of executive orders and not just leaving the job to Bannon and to the White House policy director, Stephen Miller. There will be a 10-stage process for vetting such orders that will include thinking about how to communicate them to the public. It’s quite an innovation, except that it was standard procedure in previous administrations.
But it may make it harder for Trump to blame other people for his own problems, as he did when he attacked the federal judiciary over his visa ban, which presumably sets the stage for blaming the judges if there is a terrorist attack in the future. In the same spirit, Trump’s failure to win a majority in the national popular vote apparently was the fault of illegal immigrants and dead people.
The juvenile whining was in its glory during the one-hour argument this week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is considering whether to allow the visa and refugee ban to resume while legal challenges proceed.
At one point, a judge asked for evidence that the visa ban would actually make the government safer, and the government’s lawyer, August Flentje, responded with the “it’s too hard” dodge. He told the judges that the government had not had a chance to present evidence because “these proceedings have been moving quite fast, and we’re doing the best we can.”
Why hadn’t the administration gathered evidence to support its claim before issuing the visa ban?
Trump was back on Twitter on Wednesday morning attacking the appellate court judges — an astonishing attempt by a president to interfere in the judicial process. “If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled,” Trump said.
The logic of that eludes me. If Trump loses this case, he’ll pick up his marbles and go home and not try anything else to keep America safe? He’ll hold his breath until he turns blue? Or will he just pass notes around to all the other eighth graders about how mean the teachers are?