In his State of the Union address, an unchastened Donald Trump, awaiting acquittal tomorrow from the Republicans who call what he did “shameful and wrong,” took credit for things he didn’t do and deflected blame for those that he did. After declining to shake Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand before beginning his speech, he touted an historical “economic miracle”(a mild uptick in growth which is slowing), that the military has been completely rebuilt (it hasn’t), and that he’s protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions (he’s trying to kill it).
Separating fact from fiction in any Trump speech while enduring his reality-television bits (Rush Limbaugh being awarded, on the spot, the Medal of Freedom and a soldier returning from Afghanistan surprising his wife and kids in the gallery) is enough to sap the soul of those living through the worst presidency in modern times. It leaves us without the energy to block his executive actions, which don’t attract as much attention as the drama of impeachment or a set speech, but do cause great and lasting harm.
While the House laid out the damning case against Trump, and Republicans in the Senate struggled to sit still in their seats to hear it, the president extended his travel ban to Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation, along with two other African nations and two Asian ones.
He moved to poison the country’s water and pollute its air, allowing emissions even greater than the auto industry had asked for, and lifting the ban on toxic chemicals like PFAS. You might have missed the change to runoff rules that over time will turn every city into Flint, where the water is so toxic its residents had to bathe in Evian. The Environmental Protection Agency, so-called, has reopened negotiations with cities, including the nation’s capital, to allow them to dump raw sewage into its rivers until they can afford to upgrade their sewers.
Last Thursday, the same agency finalized a rule to strip protection for streams, wetlands and groundwater, to the pleasure of real estate developers and fossil-fuel producers. It’s all part of Trump’s crusade to remove all traces of Obama and to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining (the head of the EPA is a former coal-mining lobbyist), and oil drilling—soon to be happening in a national forest near you. His support for the Trillion Trees Initiative, proposed by the World Economic Forum in Davos, will hardly compensate.
Trump’s aiming for a lawless state of affairs that benefits the same 1% who reaped a windfall from “our massive Republican tax cuts” (massive, in the long run, for wealthier Americans) he boasted about Tuesday night. The connecting thread in all his efforts is that the moves benefit one CEO or industry at the cost of the many.
That barbecue you like? Beware. Pork inspections have been Boeing-ized. A new rule out of the FDA removes government inspectors from hog slaughterhouses in favor of “establishment personnel.” You’d think that insiders inspecting themselves would be banished forever when two crashes of new 737 Maxs in five months killed 346 people, after the Federal Aviation Administration let the aircraft maker certify its readiness to fly.
Some of Trump’s vision comes straight from the cranky old-man file. We flush once but, by his admission, he flushes ten or 15 times--and he’s made a federal case of it. Low-flow plumbing, which saves hundreds of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars on water bills, is now under a government-wide review. Less noticed has been the former builder’s love of asbestos--known to cause lung cancer—and his resistance to removing it from his buildings. He believes that if the World Trade Center had been allowed to use more of it, it wouldn’t have burnt to the ground. This summer, the EPA moved to allow evaluation of asbestos on a case-by-case basis while also changing the process so that it doesn’t include the potential effects of exposure to it. It’s devilishly circular and means the carcinogen, rather than being remediated, could be coming soon to an apartment near you.
No one dies from Trump keeping secret what other presidents have revealed but it still goes against previous norms. He continues to fight on multiple fronts to keep his tax returns private, along with his beach, as does his fellow man-of-the-people and Florida neighbor, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, father of former press secretary (and aspiring future governor) Sarah Huckabee. Just as Trump’s base seems to forgive him for bankrupting American soybean growers with tariffs that sent the trade to Brazil and Argentina never to be recouped, they seem to understand that only those able to pay $14,000 in monthly dues after a $200,000 initiation fee are welcome.
Only “the best” belong to the president’s private club, like the former owner of the massage parlor that hosted Patriots owner Bob Kraft, his dentist whose proposals for reforming the VA Trump imposed on his second administrator, and four would-be ambassadors, one of whom is Palm Beach handbag designer Lana Marks, whose appointment to South Africa in November was slowed by her having almost as many lawsuits against her as Trump does.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is currently working to delay until after the election a bill that would require the secret service to reveal what it’s spending on security while traveling, including guarding Trump’s adult children running around the world doing his business and joining him on visits to heads of state. As any father would for his family, Trump fostered Eric and Don Jr.’s hobby of big game hunting by forming an advisory group of hunters and riflemen to lift a ban on those who would kill Cecil the Lion and Dumbo, and would make it easier for them to return with proof in the form of trophy body parts. In that vein, Don Jr. is auctioning off a week-long “dream hunt” to shoot elephant, bears, and giraffes to benefit the Safari Club International, an advisory board member, at a fundraising event in Nevada this weekend.
As Trump kept to his inside voice and his script Tuesday night, Republicans showered him with roars and sustained applause (although the loudest was for Rush Limbaugh being awarded the Medal of Freedom), as if to compensate for failing to acquit him before the speech.
As a bookend, Speaker Pelosi tore the advance copy of Trump’s speech in half, in pique or as a metaphor for how much of it was true. A live mic picked up the encomiums as he left the chamber for an “unbelievable,” and “amazing” job, more of the slavish devotion that feeds Trump’s belief he’s a king who can do things “shameful and wrong” and get away with it. For now.